The factors that sparked the emergence of the lifelong perspective were of scientific matter. The researchers explored the biological, cognitive, and psychological changes throughout an individual’s life, which prompted them to develop a specific approach for explaining the nature of these changes. Namely, Paul Baltes, a German psychologist, decided to implement all the scientific evidence the psychology had into the concept of lifespan perspective. The lifespan perspective takes a conceptualized approach to the framework of human behavior, explaining it through biological, sociocultural, psychological, and historical context. Its emergence was largely prompted by the need to assess how social experiences influence human behavior and development throughout life.
Four key principles lie at the base of the lifelong perspective concept. First is the fact that the development is, as it is already had been stated, lifelong: it occurs from the prenatal period of human life up until death. It does not stop after infancy, or childhood, or any other significant period of human life but rather continues and evolves accordingly. The lifelong perspective explicitly states that development may happen later in life, without direct influence from the prenatal period or early childhood. It may also vary greatly as each individual experiences their own changes in life with regard to specific time, place, and conditions to these changes.
The next assumption is that lifelong development is multidimensional in nature. That is, a very wide variety of different factors have an impact on that development. Among these factors are socioemotional, biological, and cognitive aspects of change. The development of a human psyche and behavior is not tied to only one dimension; rather, there is a lot of interconnections that affect each other in an individual way. For example, the changes one experienced during puberty are affected by hormones, rapid cognitive changes, growth spurt, as well as emotional development. Subsequently, the development of the human psyche is also multidirectional – it goes in multiple ways simultaneously. There a no strict lines of changes; instead, they are occurring in many variations. There might be improvements or declines in the behavior or qualities of the psyche: moreover, they may occur at the same time in the same domain. Continuing the example with puberty, it can be easily noted that, in adolescence, teenagers undergo great changes in their emotion regulation mechanisms. These changes may make them extremely sensitive to some matters while simultaneously decreasing their ability to empathize with others.
Development has also proved to be highly plastic, as it can vary greatly between different individuals. The concept of high plasticity refers to the potentials and limits of the changes a human organism can take, stating that there might be many different outcomes due to the pluralism of human nature. There is no standard guideline for human development, as it may take many forms in the actual process. Moreover, the idea of plasticity implies that the development can be influenced from the outside: for example, deviant or criminal behavior can be corrected or even evaded.
The last assumption is that human development is contextual. This means that the biological imperatives and the environment are cross-influencing the process of an individual’s behavior. Contextuality states that development varies from one individual to another depending on biological means such as genes and hormones, as well as influence from the environment. The person’s surroundings, such as family, neighborhood, school, and other external factors, have a great impact on the process of development, just like their biology.