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Janet Belsky’s Experiencing the Lifespan, 1e
Chapter 1:
The People and The Field
What is Developmental Psychology?
Who does this research?
Child Psychologists
It is a multidisciplinary approach
Who, What & Why
What do we study?
Prenatal life, childhood, adolescence, emerging adulthood, and gerontology - in effect, the lifespan of humans - is the subject of developmental psychologists.
Aspects from conception to birth through living to dying
Changes in capabilities, both thinking & moving
Working and playing
Cultural, social and biological influences on behavior
What makes us healthy?
What diseases ravage us?
How do different cultures or other conditions affect change?
Who, What & Why
Why study development?
You, your friends and acquaintances, the people around you, your spouse, your children, your parents – everyone changes as they grow.
Can we predict what those changes will be and how those changes will occur?
Would it help you in your life to know how different people at different ages will react?
Would it help to know the variables that make change occur?
Context of Development
What factors influence development?
The impact of cohort
A cohort is our birth group
i.e. the baby boomers (1946 to 1964)
baby boomers can also be broken into separate cohorts

Context of Development
Changing conceptions of childhood through history
Children required for farm labor
Children working in the Industrial Revolution
Children as “blank slates” and “noble savages”
Mandatory education in high school (FDR)
Child welfare laws
Adolescents and the “Emerging Adulthood”
Context of Development
Changing ideas about adult life

Is there only one acceptable behavior that defines an “adult” life?

Woman at home - man working

Divorced and “never married” families

Childless couples and interracial couples
Context of Development
Changing conceptions of old age

Lifespan improvements – increasing lifespan
Improving the quality of foods and antibiotics

Chronic diseases of old age on the increase

The young-old and the old-old: new categories
Young-old: 60s and 70s, look and feel middle-aged
Old-old: 80s and older, more frail
Context of Development

Changes in life expectancy in the U.S.:
New England colonies – 30
In 1900 – 46
In 2000 – 76.7

A multitude of concerns center around the increasing number of older people in our society.

What Impacts Life
Socioeconomic Status (SES – education & income)

Within the United States
Lower income leads to decreasing health, education & longevity.

In the wider world
Dire conditions of poverty still exist.

What Impacts Life
Gender and economic castes
Attitudes towards divorce & arranged marriage
Collectivism vs. individualism
Collectivist cultures – value family and social harmony over individual achievement
Individualistic cultures – emphasize independence, competition, and success

Roles, stereotypes, health differences, life expectancy, etc.
Theories in Developmental Psychology
Broad theories
attempt to explain behavior for all ages, & have different views of the role of nature and nurture
Stage theories
attempt to explain behavior at various ages of life
Theories in Developmental Psychology
Broad Theories

Here are five broad theories we will explore:
Broad Theories
Behaviorism – it’s all Nurture
Watson and Skinner
Classical conditioning
Operant conditioning
Reinforcement and extinction
We should not study thinking
Only study what is observable
Find the rules of rewards
Broad Theories
Social Learning – more Nurture
Bobo Doll video
Learning by imitation

Broad Theories
Attachment - Nurture and Nature
Bowlby and Harlow
Parental treatment in early life
Caregiver comfort
Biologically programmed bond

Broad Theories
Evolutionary psychologists - Nature
Behavior is genetic
We behave in ways that kept our ancestors alive
Nature is more important than Nurture
Broad Theories
Behavioral Genetics - Nature
Studies of fraternal (dizygotic) and identical (monozygotic) twins
Adoption studies compare twins against both adoptive and birth parents
Looking for environmental and genetic factors of traits
IQ has a heritability index of +.8
Nature and Nurture Together
Evocative Forces
What behaviors do we evoke in others?
Reciprocal determinism
When a person’s thinking, behavior and environment mutually influence each other
Interactions between people are bidirectional
Active Forces
What activities do we actively seek out?
Our tendencies to seek out activities are shaped by our genetics. Seeking out those activities will increase our abilities in those areas, increasing the difference between us and “them” as we develop.
Nature and Nurture Together
Nurturing helps us express our Nature

A genius IQ - without proper nutrition and forced to work as a migrant worker with no chance of proper education - will be wasted.
We need the correct person-environment fit.
Stage Theories
Stage theories attempt to describe development in discrete stages that apply to everyone.

Two stage theories that we will study extensively:
Piaget’s cognitive development theory
Erikson’s psychosocial theory

Stage Theories
Piaget’s cognitive development theory
Qualitatively different stages exist in the way thinking develops
Sensorimotor stage – learning through senses and motor activity
Preoperational stage – beginnings of logic, but it is not realistic
Concrete operational stage – more realistic understanding of the world, able to reason about concrete objects
Formal operational stage – able to reason abstractly, hypothetically, scientifically
Stage Theories
Piaget’s cognitive development theory
Schemas: cognitive structures that organize what we know, believe, do
Schemas are developed through two processes:
Assimilation: fitting environmental input into existing organization
Accommodation: using environmental input to modify our schemas or add new schemas
Another Stage Theory
Erikson’s psychosocial tasks
Erikson believed that we continue to develop throughout our lifetimes
Eight stages each with its own bifurcating task
Trust, Autonomy, Initiative, Industry, Identity, Intimacy, Generativity and Integrity
Successful navigation of initial tasks is required to successfully navigate later tasks
Successful navigation means finding a balance between the two tasks
A visual time table of Erickson
Theories of Development
Putting it all together:
The developmental systems approach
We need all the theories to completely understand human development.
We need to understand that complex relationships exist between everything.
We must take everything into consideration when examining human life development.
Research Methods
Two strategies:
Correlational studies
Self-reports, surveys, case studies & naturalistic observations
Correlation does not mean causation

Experiments manipulating variables
The scientific method, independent and dependent variables, control groups, placebos, random assignments and “all things being equal”

Research Methods
Cross-sectional studies:
Getting a single snapshot of groups
Different age groups compared at the same time
Gives differences between age groups
Does not tell us the changes that occur with age

Longitudinal studies:
The gold standard developmental science design
Test at intervals - one group over many years
Requires lots of time and expense
The longer it continues the more biased the sample becomes

Emerging Research Trends
Quantitative research
Research scientists use a lot of statistical analysis
We must quantify the differences within groups
Qualitative research
Involves in-depth studies of individuals

Now that we have briefly reviewed the who, what, why and how, let’s start our journey through the human lifespan.