Many people currently hold the opinion that human development happens step by step. Although many researchers produced their theories based on stage like development, some scientists do not agree. Undoubtedly, all kinds of people worldwide change constantly during their lives. Every particular person experiences alterations in their way, being influenced by various circumstances, events, surroundings, and other life factors. The study of human development aims at observing the process of people’s changes during the life span to help individuals to develop well by discovering some universal patterns of human development and growth. The purpose of this paper is to observe and analyze the information about the life span perspective of development for gaining more in-depth insight into the issue.
The definition of the notion
To start with, it is essential to see into the central notions. According to Berger (2011), the life span perspective is “an approach study of human development that takes into account all phases of life, not just childhood or adulthood” (p. 25). In other words, the life span perspective perceives and understands personal development as a constant process that may vary among individuals depending on different life factors. Examples of these factors are surroundings (e.g., changing school, going to college), events (e.g., getting married, death of a relative), and various circumstances (e.g., moving out). For instance, when a partner dies, another partner’s life changes drastically in social, physical, and intellectual aspects (Berger, 2011). However, as the life span perspective observes variations, in case of death of a partner, a possible pattern of behavior is when another partner expands their social activity.
There are five characteristics of human development taken into account by the life span perspective: multidirectional, multidisciplinary, multicontextual, multicultural, and plasticity. The first one deals with all the possible directions of development (e.g., unexpected transformations and unpredictable growth). The second trait collects useful for studies insights from various scientific fields (e.g., psychology, history, medicine). Multicontextual characteristic takes into account different circumstances in which human development takes place (e.g., family patterns, historical and economic conditions). The multicultural trait is similar to the previous one – it considers the influence of different nations on human development. Last but not least, plasticity deals with a constant nature of changes proving that each individual, along with their characteristics, can undergo alterations at any point in the life span.
Scientific Theories of Lifespan Development
There are three grand theories of human development pioneered by renowned psychologists and scientists: psychoanalytic theory (Freud and Erikson) that focuses on emotions, behaviorism that concentrates on actions, and cognitive theory that focuses on thoughts. In seems especially interesting to focus on the last two theories, since they are opposites by their nature. A person’s actions and thoughts can contradict, although most often, one is provoked by the other.
Behaviorism is a systematic approach of studying people’s and animals’ behavior that assumes that behavior consists of reflexes that are, in their turn, various reactions to some certain stimuli from the surrounding (Watson, 2017). Although behaviorists understand and accept the importance of other factors, such as heredity, they focus mostly on these stimuli and claim that they are the key to people’s behavior. Among the experiments within this study, there are reinforcements and punishments. Therefore, it is possible to note that behaviorism deals more with recent past experiences and associations.
In contrast to that, the cognitive theory is based on an individual’s way of thinking. Scientists who stick to this theory claim that the key to understanding people and their behavior is their thoughts since their mind is believed to be a cause for everything people do (Resnick, 2017). In other words, brain conditions have the most influence on behavior. Therefore, to comprehend a person, it is essential to learn how this person thinks.
Heredity and Environment
Firstly, human genes are the base for every future development, since it is the genes that program the first living cell to form the body and brain. Later, genes, consequently, also affect a person’s behavior and thoughts. Besides, every cell of every living being has a distinctive genetic code, which makes every forming unique from the very beginning. Secondly, later on, when the environment takes part in influencing human development, it makes forming even more exclusive, since every person responds and reacts individually to any change or event in the surrounding. In other words, human development is a result of heredity and the environment mixed and their mutual marks and consequences. What is more, there are no completely identical living beings.
To sum everything up, it is impossible to deny that human development is a constant process that continues during the life span. Not only is every particular person born having a unique genetic code, but a person also reacts distinctively to various conditions, surroundings, and events. The same event cannot be perceived equally by two and more different people. Therefore, people are utterly diverse, and human development also varies greatly.
Berger, K. S. (2011). The Developing person through the life span. New York, N.Y: Worth Publishers.
Resnick, L. B. (2017). Toward a cognitive theory of instruction. In Learning and motivation in the classroom (pp. 5-38). London, England: Routledge.
Watson, J. B. (2017). Behaviorism. New York, NY: Routledge.