WHY STUDY LIFE SPAN DEVELOPMENT?
We frequently try to understand what influences in peoples' lives provokes them to behave in ways we do not
understand, particularly if we hope to prevent such behaviors from being repeated by others.
This is a reason
persons training to be psychologists or to work in criminal justice
take courses in life span development.
You may be taking this course because it is a requirement for such training, or because you are training to
work in an area where you will be responsible for children, such as in preschool, elementary, middle or high
A growing area of specialization which also benefits from studying life span development is
the area of gerontology, which prepares people for careers caring for elderly people. Some persons take a course
in life span development simply because they want more insight into their own development, or to better plan
for their future stages of life.
Whatever your reason for taking this course, I hope you will enjoy and benefit
from what you learn from it.
LIFE SPAN DEVELOPMENT STUDIES:
As your textbook defines it,
life span development
the field of study that examines patterns of growth,
change, and stability in behavior that occur throughout the entire life span.
This is a modern outlook toward
human development, because it has been noted that historically childhood was not acknowledged as an earlier
stage of human development.
Children were seen as miniature adults.
Physical developmental stages were
apparent, but children were assumed to think like adults, and were expected to work and interact socially the
same as adults.
When various philosophers and social scientists began acknowledging childhood as distinct
from adulthood, much study was done of infancy and early childhood as a highly eventful periods of life where
the foundations of adult personality are laid.
The study of adolescence is even more recent, since the concept of adolescence was created by
sociohistorical conditions, namely the passage of child labor laws and school attendance laws in the early
As societies have become more complex, children require more time for training for independence, so
must spend more time dependent on parents.
Through the mid-1900s, the traditional approach to the study of life span development emphasized extreme
change from birth to adolescence, little or no change in adulthood, and decline in old age.
However, as life
expectancy has increased by 30 years during the Twentieth Century due to improved sanitation, nutrition, and
medical knowledge, the life span approach to human development now emphasizes that developmental change
occurs during all stages (early, middle, and late) of adulthood as well.
APPROACHES TO LIFE SPAN DEVELOPMENT STUDY