Lifespan Development and Personality
April 28, 2010
Developmental psychology seeks to address various aspects of human development, including physical, cognitive, social, moral, and personality development.
In developmental psychology the debate about nature versus nurture, continuity versus stages, and stability versus change are still ongoing. According to the nature position, human behavior and development are governed by automatic, genetically predetermined signals in a process known as maturation. Humans crawl before we walk and walk before we run. One of several critical periods during our lifetime is, when an organism is especially sensitive to certain experiences that shape the capacity for future development. On the other side of the debate, those who hold an extreme nuturist position argue that development occurs by learning through personal experience and observation of others. Continuity proponents believe that development is continuous, with new abilities, skills, and knowledge being gradually added at a relatively uniform pace. Therefore, the continuity model suggests that adult thinking and intelligence differ quantitatively from a child's. Stage theorists, on the other hand, believe that development occurs at different rates, alternating between periods of little change and periods of abrupt, rapid change. Psychologists who emphasize stability in development hold that measurements of personality taken during childhood are important predictors of adult personality. Of course, psychologists who emphasize change disagree. Like the nature versus nurture debate, the debates about continuity versus stages and stability versus change are not a matter of “either-or.” Physical development and motor skills, for example, are believed to be primarily continuous in nature, whereas cognitive skills usually develop in discrete stages. Similarly, some traits are stable, whereas others vary greatly across the life span.
The physical development in childhood is rapid, the brain and other parts of the nervous system grows faster than any other part of the body. By age 6, the child’s brain is 9/10 its full adult weight. Rapid brain growth during early childhood slows down in later childhood. Further brain development and learning occur primarily because neurons grow in size and because the number of axons and dendrites, as well as the extent of their connections, increases. Adolescence is the loosely defined psychological period of development between childhood and adulthood. We consider it to be the teenage years. The concept of adolescence and its meaning varies greatly across cultures. Cognitive development for childhood age 2 – 7 is known as preoperational and has the ability for significant language and thinks symbolically. Piaget labeled this period “preoperational” because the child lacks operations, or reversible mental processes. Children at this stage have difficulty understanding that there are points of view other than their own. Egocentrism refers to the preoperational child's limited ability to distinguish between his or her own perspective and someone else's. It does not mean “selfishness” in the ordinary sense of the word. The preschooler who moves in front of you to get a better view of the TV or repeatedly asks questions while you are talking on the telephone is demonstrating egocentrism. They assume that others see, hear, feel, and think exactly as they do. Children in the preoperational stage believe that objects such as the sun, trees, clouds, and bars of soap have motives, feelings, and intentions. From age 7 – 11 it is known as concrete operational and has the ability to perform operation on concrete objects and understands conservation. Because they understand the concept of reversibility, they recognize that certain physical attributes such as volume remain unchanged when the outward appearance of an object is altered, a process known as...
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