Section 1 Chapter 2: The Science of Life-Span Development
THEORIES OF DEVELOPMENT:
1. Psychoanalytic theory: describes development as primarily
unconscious and heavily colored by emotion. Behavior is merely a
surface characteristic, and the symbolic workings of the mind
have to be analyzed to understand behavior. Early experiences
with parents are emphasized.
Freud’s Psychosexual Theory
o Oral Stage – birth to 1 ½ years; infant’s
pleasure centers on the mouth.
o Anal Stage – 1 ½ to 3 years; child’s pleasure
focuses on the anus.
o Phallic Stage – 3 to 6 years; child’s pleasure
focuses on the genitals.
o Latency Stage – 6 years to Puberty; child
represses sexual interest and develops
social and intellectual skills.
o Genital Stage – Puberty onward; a time of
sexual reawakening; source of sexual
pleasure becomes someone outside the
Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory: includes 8 stages of
human development. Each stage consists of a unique
developmental task that confronts individuals with a
crisis that must be resolved.
o Infancy (first year) – Trust vs. Mistrust
o Infancy (1 to 3 years) – Autonomy vs.
Shame and Doubt
o Early Childhood (preschool years, 3 to 5
years) – Initiative vs. Guilt
o Middle and Late Childhood (elementary
school years, 6 years to puberty) – Industry
o Adolescence (10 to 20 years) – Identity vs.
o Early Adulthood (20s, 30s) - Intimacy vs.
o Middle Adulthood (40s, 50s) – Generativity
o Late Adulthood (60s onward) – Integrity vs.
2. Cognitive theories: emphasize conscious thoughts.
Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory: states that
children actively construct their understanding of the
world and go through four stages of cognitive
o Sensorimotor Stage (birth to 2 years of age)
– the infant constructs an understanding of
the world by coordinating sensory
experiences with physical actions. An infant
progresses from reflexive, instinctual action
at birth to the beginning of symbolic
thought toward the end of the stage.
o Preoperational Stage (2 to 7 years) – the
child begins to represent the world with
words and images. These words and images
reflect increased symbolic thinking and go
beyond the connection of sensory
information and physical action.
o Concrete Operational Stage (7 to 11 years)
– the child can now reason logically about
concrete events and classify objects into
o Formal Operational Stage (11 years through
adulthood) – the adolescent reasons in
more abstract, idealistic, and logical ways.
ASSIMILATION: occurs when individuals incorporate new information into
their existing knowledge.
ACCOMMODATION: occurs when individuals adjust to new information.
Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Cognitive Theory: a
sociocultural cognitive theory that emphasizes how
culture and social interaction guide cognitive
The Information-Processing Theory: emphasizes that
individuals manipulate information, monitor it, and
strategize about it. Central to this theory are the
processes of memory and thinking.
3. Behavioral and Social Cognitive theories: the view of psychologists
who emphasize behavior, environment, and cognition as the key
factors in development.
a. Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning: a neutral stimulus
acquires the ability to produce a response originally
produced by another stimulus.
b. Skinner’s Operant Conditioning: the consequences of a
behavior produce changes in the probability of the
c. Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory: stress that people
acquire a wide range of such behaviors, thoughts, and
feelings through observing others’ behavior and that
these observations form an important part of life-span
4. Ethology: stresses that behavior is strongly influenced by biology,
is tied to evolution, and is characterized by critical or sensitive
a. Konrad Lorenz – a European zoologist, studied a
behavior pattern that was considered to be
programmed within the bird’s genes.
b. John Bowlby – theory of attachment: attachment to a
caregiver over the first year of life has important
consequences throughout the life span.
5. Ecological theory: Bronfenbrenner’s environmental systems
theory that focuses on five environmental systems: microsystem,
mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem.
Urie Bronfenbrenner – his theory emphasizes the
importance of both micro and macro dimensions of
the environment in which the child lives.
6. Eclectic theoretical orientation: an orientation that does not
follow any one theoretical approach, but rather selects from each
theory whatever is considered the best in it.
RESEARCH IN LIFE-SPAN DEVELOPMENT
Types of Research:
Descriptive Research – has the purpose of observing
and recording behavior.
Laboratory – a controlled setting
in which many of the complex
factors of the “real world” are
Naturalistic observation –
observing behavior in real-world
o Survey and Interview
o Standardized Test – a test with uniform
procedures for administration and scoring.
o Case Study – an in-depth look at a single
o Life-History Record – a record of
information about a lifetime chronology of
events and activities that often involve a
combination of data records on education,
work, family, and residence.
o Physiological Measures
Correlational Research – the goal is to describe the
strength of the relationship between two or more
events or characteristics.
o Experiment - a carefully regulated
procedure in which one or more of the
factors believed to influence the behavior
being studied are manipulated while all
other factors are held constant.
Time Span of Research:
Cross-Sectional Approach – a research strategy in which
individuals of different ages are compared at one time.
Longitudinal Approach – a research strategy in which the same
individuals are studied over a period of time, usually several years
Sequential Approach – a combined cross-sectional, longitudinal
Cohort Effects – effects due to a person’s time of birth, era, or
generation but not to actual age.
o Cohort – is a group of people who are born at a similar
point in history and share similar experiences.
Cultural and Ethnic Bias
o Ethnic Gloss – using an ethnic label such as African
American or Latino in a superficial way that portrays an
ethnic group as being more homogenous than it really
1. Which of the life-span theories do you think best explains your
own development? Why?
2. You have learned that correlation does not equal causation.
Develop an example of two variables (two sets of observation)
that are correlated but that you believe almost certainly have no
3. Imagine that you are conducting a research study on the sexual
attitudes and behaviors of adolescents. What ethical safeguards
should you use in conducting the study?
Santrock, J.W. (2006). Life-Span Perspective.10th Edition. McGraw-Hill. New York.
Mrs. Maria Angela L. Diopol