I. STUDYING DEVELOPMENT - Developmental psychology is the study of age-related changes in behavior and mental processes from conception to death (Table 9.1). The chapter takes a topical approach including physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development..
A. Theoretical Issues – The three most important issues guiding research in human development are: nature versus nurture, continuity versus stages, and stability versus change. This issue has been an on-going debate that dates back to the ancient Greeks. Psychologists today prefer the biopsychosocial model.
B. Research Methods – To study development researchers use the cross-sectional and longitudinal approaches. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages.(Table 9.2)
Gender and Cultural Diversity: Cultural Psychology’s Guidelines for Developmental Research - Cultural psychologists have suggested that developmental researchers should be guided by four points: 1) culture may be the most important determinant of development; 2) human development, like most areas of psychology, cannot be studied outside its sociocultural context; 3) culture is largely invisible to its participants; and 4) each culture's ethnotheories are important determinants of behavior.
A. Prenatal and Early Childhood- Physical development in prenatal and early childhood are a time of rapid change. The prenatal period of development consists of three major stages: the germinal period, the embryonic period, and the fetal period (Process Diagram 9.1). Physical development is often affected by environmental influences. Poor prenatal nutrition is a leading cause of birth defects, and most drugs (both prescription and over-the-counter) are potentially teratogenic (capable of producing birth defects). Doctors advise pregnant women to avoid all unnecessary drugs, especially nicotine and alcohol. During the prenatal period and the first year of life, the brain and nervous system grow faster than all other parts of the body. Early motor development (crawling, standing, and walking) is largely the result of maturation. Contrary to earlier beliefs, psychologists now know that the sensory and perceptual abilities of newborns are relatively well developed.
B. Adolescence and Adulthood - The rapid changes that occur during adolescence are discussed, including secondary sexual characteristics, physical changes, and psychological adjustments. At puberty, adolescents become capable of reproduction (the female menarche and the male spermarche). They also experience a sharp increase in height, weight, and skeletal growth as a result of the pubertal growth spurt. During middle age, both men and women experience significant body changes--menopause and the male climacteric. After middle age, most physical changes are gradual and occur in the heart, arteries, brain, and sensory receptors. Although many of these changes (such as decreases in cardiac output and visual acuity) are the result of primary aging, others are the result of abuse, disuse, and disease--secondary aging. Physical aging may be genetically built-in from the moment of conception (programmed theories), or it may result from the body's inability to repair damage (wear-and-tear) theories. Recent research shows that cognitive functioning in older adults can be greatly enhanced with simple aerobic training.
III. COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT - Jean Piaget, perhaps more than any other researcher, has demonstrated the unique cognitive processes of children. He believed that children are driven toward knowledge because of their biological need for adaptation to the environment. During adaptation, the child uses schemas (mental patterns or blueprints) to interpret the world. Sometimes new information can be assimilated into the existing schemas, but on other occasions the...