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Chapter 1
An Introduction to Life Span Development
(Part two)

Theoretical Perspectives

Theories are explanations and predictions that provide a framework for understanding relationships

We will consider 5 major theoretical perspectives used in lifespan development:

psychodynamic behavioral cognitive humanistic evolutionary

Psychodynamic Perspective
(Freud, Erikson)

Based on the view that behavior is motivated by unconscious/inner forces, memories, and conflicts (over which a person has little control or awareness).

Most closely associated with Freud.

Freudís (1856-1839) Psychoanalytic Theory suggests that unconscious forces act to determine personality and behavior.

Psychodynamic Perspective, continued

According to Freud

Unconscious is the part of the personality about which a person is unaware; it is responsible for much of our everyday behavior

A personís personality has 3 components:

The ID, the EGO, and the SUPEREGO.

Psychoanalytic theory continued


Raw, unorganized, inborn part of personality present at birth.

Represents primitive drives related to hunger, sex, aggression, irrational impulses.


Rational and reasonable part of the personality.

Acts as a buffer between the world and the primitive id.

Operates on the reality principal

(instinctual energy is restrained to maintain individual safety and integration into society.

Psychoanalytic theory


The aspect of personality that represents a personís conscience.

Evaluates right from wrong.

Develops about age 5 or 6.

Learned from parents, teachers, other significant figures.

Freud also explored ways in which personality developed during childhood.

Psychosexual development theory

--series of stages that children pass through

--pleasure or gratification is focused particular biological function or body part on a

5 main stages

1) oral (birth to 12-18 months)

2) anal (12-18 months to 3 years)

3) Phallic (3 to 5-6 years)

4) Latency (5-6 years to adolescence)

5) Genital (adolescence to adulthood)

In Eriksonís Psychosocial theoryÖ

Each stage emerges as a fixed pattern that is similar for all people.

Each stage presents a crisis or conflict that each individual must address sufficiently at a particular stage.

No crisis is ever fully resolved, making life complicated.

UNLIKE FREUD, Erickson believed that development continued throughout the lifespan.

Assessing the psychodynamic perspective


Contemporary psychology research supports the idea that unconscious memories have an influence on our behavior.

Ericksonís view that development continues throughout the lifespan is highly important and supported by research.

Assessing the psychodynamic perspective, continued


Idea that people pass through stages in childhood that determine their adult personality has little research support.

Freudís research based on small sample of upper middle class Austrians.

Freudís theory male focused/sexist.

Both too vague to test, problems with operational definitions.


Behavioral Perspective
(Skinner, Watson, Bandura)

Based on the idea that the keys to understanding development are observable behavior and outside environmental stimuli.

Behaviorists reject the idea that people universally pass through a series of stages.

They view development as occurring because of continuous exposure to specific factors in the environment.


Behavioral Perspectives

Classical Conditioning (Watson)

Stimulus substitution; organism responds to a previously neutral stimulus in an atypical way

Pavlov (dog/bell), Watson/rabbit

Learning Perspectives

Operant Conditioning (Skinner)

Instrumental conditioning

A voluntary response is strengthened or weakened based on its association with positive or negative consequences; used in behavior modification).

Reinforcement, punishment.

Behavioral Perspectives

Social-Cognitive Learning Theory (Bandura)

Emphasizes learning by observation of another person (a model).

Social-cognitive theory DIFFERS from classical and operant conditioning by taking mental activity into consideration (thoughts, expectations).

Assessing the behavioral perspective

Classical & operant conditioning consider people and organisms as "black boxes" in which nothing is understood, cared about (pessimistic!)

Social-cognitive theory argues that people are different from rats and pigeons (mental activity occursóand favored view now)

Cognitive Perspective

Focuses on the processes that allow people to know, understand, and think about the world.

Piagetís Theory of Cognitive Development

People pass in a fixed sequence through a series of universal stages of cognitive development.

In each stage, the quantity of information increases; the quality of knowledge and understanding increases too.


Piagetís Theory of Cognitive Development

Human thinking is arranged into schemas

(organized mental patterns representing behavior and action).

The growth of childrenís understanding of the world can be explained by two principals:

Assimilation (new experience incorporated into current way of thinking).

Accommodation (existing ways of thinking change as a result of new stimuli).

Assessing Piagetís Theory

Thousands of studies provide support.

Some cognitive skills emerge earlier than Piaget suggested.

Some cognitive skills emerge according to a different timetable in non Western countries.

Some adults never reach his highest level of thought (formal, logical).

Vygotskyís Sociocultural Theory

Emphasizes how development proceeds as a result of social interactions between members of a culture

(culture: a societyís beliefs, values, customs and interests shapes development)

Vygotsky argued that children's understanding of the world is acquired through their problem-solving interactions with adults and other children.

He also argued that to understand the course of development we must consider what is meaningful to members of a given culture.

Cognitive NeuroscienceApproach

Seeks to identify actual locations in the brain related to different cognitive activity.

Utilizes sophisticated brain scanning techniques.

Cognitive neuroscientists engage in cutting edge research identifies specific genes associated with disorders that, in turn, can lead to genetic therapies, even prevention.


The Humanistic Perspective

--contends that people have a natural capacity to make decisions about their lives and control their behavior (free will).

--says that our self-worth is reflection of what we think others think of us.

--believes that people are striving for "self actualization."


Assessing the Humanistic Perspective

-The humanistic perspective has not had a major impact on the field of lifespan development.

-It has not identified any sort of broad developmental change that is the result of age or experience.

- Some of its concepts, such as self-actualization, help describe important aspects of human behavior and are widely applied in health care and business.


Seeks to identify behavior in today's humans that is the result of our genetic inheritance from our ancestors.

Grew out of the work of Charles Darwin who argued in The Origin of the Species that a process of natural selection creates traits in a species that are adaptive to their environment.

Argues that our genetic inheritance determines not only such physical traits as skin and eye color, but certain personality traits and social behaviors (for instance, shyness and jealousy).



The evolutionary perspective draws on the field of ethnology (Konrad Lorenz 1903 - 1989), which examines the ways in which our biological makeup influences our behavior.

The evolutionary perspective encompasses one of the fastest growing areas within the field of lifespan development: behavioral genetics, which studies the effects of heredity on behavior.

Assessing the evolutionary perspective

- Accurate description of genetic processes and increasingly visible in lifespan development.

- Generates significant research into biological influences on behavior.

- Criticism:

- Pays too little attention to environment and social factors.

- No way to test the theories.


Which Approach is Right?

Each emphasizes different aspects of development.

-Psychodynamic approach emphasizes emotions, motivational conflicts, and unconscious determinants of behavior.

-Behavioral approaches emphasize overt behavior.

-Cognitive and humanist approaches look more at what people think than what they do.

-The evolutionary perspective focuses on how inherited biological factors underlie development.


Research Methods

The SCIENTIFIC METHOD is the process of posing and answering questions using careful, controlled techniques that include systematic, orderly observation and the collection of data.

The scientific method involves the formulation of theories, broad explanations, and predictions about phenomena.

Research methods, continued

Theories allow developmentalists to summarize and organize prior observations and allow them to go beyond existing observations to draw deductions.

Theories are used to develop HYPOTHESES, predictions stated in a way that permits testing.

Research Strategies

Correlational Research

Seeks to identify whether an association or relationship between two factors exists.

The strength and direction of a relationship between two factors is represented by a mathematical score, called a correlational coefficient, that ranges from +1.0 (positive) to - 1.0 (negative).


A negative correlation informs us that as the value of one factor increases, the value of the other factor declines.

IMPORTANT: Finding that two variables are correlated with one another does NOT prove that one variable causes the other.



Types of Correlational Studies

Naturalistic Observation - Observing naturally occurring behavior without intervention in the situation.

Case Studies - Intensive in-depth interviews with particular individual or small groups.

Survey Research - Ask questions of a group of people chosen to represent a larger population.

Research Strategies, continued

Experimental Research

research designed to discover causal relationships between various factors.

An EXPERIMENT is a process in which an investigator, called an experimenter, devises two different experiences for subjects or participants.

These two different experiences are called TREATMENTS.

The group receiving the treatment is known as the TREATMENT GROUP.

The CONTROL GROUP is the group that receives either no treatment or alternative treatment.

-The formation of treatment and control groups represents the INDEPENDENT VARIABLE, the variable that researchers manipulate in an experiment.

-In contrast, the DEPENDENT VARIABLE is the variable that researchers measure in an experiment and expect to change as a result of the experimental manipulation.

Experimental Research Settings

FIELD STUDY is a research investigation carried out in a naturally occurring setting.

LABORATORY STUDY is a research investigation conducted in a controlled setting explicitly designed to hold events constant.

Theoretical and Applied Research

THEORETICAL RESEARCH is research designed specifically to test some developmental explanation and expand scientific knowledge.

APPLIED RESEARCH is research meant to provide practical solutions to immediate problems.

Measuring developmental change

In LONGITUDINAL RESEARCH, the behavior of one or more individuals is measured as the subjects age.

-requires a tremendous investment of time

-there is the possibility of participant attrition, or loss

-participants may become "test-wise"

Measuring developmental change, continued

In CROSS-SECTIONAL RESEARCH, people of different ages are compared at the same point in time.

Differences may be due to cohort effects

Selective dropout, where participants in some age groups are more likely to quit participating in the study than others.

Unable to explain changes in individuals or groups.

Measuring developmental change, continued

In SEQUENTIAL STUDIES, researchers examine a number of different ages groups over several points in time.

-Combines longitudinal and cross-sectional methods.



Ethics and Research

Society for Research in Child Development and the American Psychological Association have developed ethical guidelines for researchers.

Freedom from physical and psychological harm.

Informed consent from participants.

Use of deception must be justified and cause no harm.

Maintenance of participantsí privacy.