Eriksons Stages of Life Span

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© 2007
Laura E. Berk, Illinois State University

ISBN: 0-205-49125-1

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his photo essay chronicles the life course and family legacy of Sofie Lentschner. It begins in 1908 with Sofie’s infancy and concludes in 2005, 35 years after Sofie’s death, with her young adult grandsons, Peter and David. For a description of each photo, see the legend on page 000.



History, Theory, and Research Strategies


Human Development as a Scientific, Applied, and Interdisciplinary Field Basic Issues Continuous or Discontinuous Development? • One Course of Development or Many? • Relative Influence of Nature and Nurture? COURTESY OF LAURA E. BERK

ofie Lentschner was born in 1908, the second child of Jewish parents who made their home in Leipzig, Germany, a city of thriving commerce and cultural vitality. Her father was a successful businessman and community leader. Her mother was a socialite well known for her charm, beauty, and hospitality. As a baby, Sofie displayed the determination and persistence that would be sustained throughout her life. She sat for long periods inspecting small objects with her eyes and hands. The single event that consistently broke her gaze was the sound of the piano in the parlor. As soon as Sofie could crawl, she steadfastly pulled herself up to finger its keys and marveled at the tinkling sound. By the time Sofie entered elementary school, she was an introspective child, often ill at ease at the festive parties that girls of her family’s social standing were expected to attend. She immersed herself in her schoolwork, especially in mastering the foreign languages that were a regular part of German elementary and secondary education. Twice a week, she took piano lessons from the finest teacher in Leipzig. By the time Sofie graduated from high school, she spoke English and French fluently and had become an accomplished pianist. Whereas most German girls of her time married by age 20, Sofie postponed serious courtship in favor of entering the university. Her parents began to wonder whether their intense, studious daughter would ever settle into family life. Sofie wanted marriage as well as education, but her plans were thwarted by the political turbulence of her times. When Hitler rose to power in the early 1930s, Sofie’s father, fearing for the safety of his wife and children, moved the family to Belgium. Conditions for Jews in Europe quickly worsened. The Nazis plundered Sofie’s family home and confiscated her father’s business. By the end of the 1930s, Sofie had lost contact with all but a handful of her aunts, uncles, cousins, and childhood friends, many of whom (she later learned) were herded into cattle cars and transported to the slave labor and death camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. In 1939, as anti-Jewish laws and atrocities intensified, Sofie’s family fled to the United States.


The Lifespan Perspective: A Balanced Point of View Development Is Lifelong • Development Is Multidimensional and Multidirectional • Development Is Plastic • Development Is Influenced by Multiple, Interacting Forces

• Biology and Environment: Resilience
Historical Foundations Philosophies of Childhood • Philosophies of Adulthood and Aging • Scientific Beginnings Mid-Twentieth-Century Theories The Psychoanalytic Perspective • Behaviorism and Social Learning Theory • Piaget’s CognitiveDevelopmental Theory Recent Theoretical Perspectives Information Processing • Ethology and Evolutionary Developmental Psychology • Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory • Ecological...
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