The study of lifespan development grew out of Darwin’s desire to understand evolution. The first study of children was published by G. Stanley Hall. Hall’s book introduced norms and adolescence to scientists (Boyd & Bee, 2006). Lifespan is the period of time from conception extending to death. This paper will define the development of humans throughout the lifespan and describe the characteristics of the lifespan perspective. Human development domains and periods will be identified and contemporary concerns as related to lifespan development will be identified.
Lifespan Development Defined
Lifespan development is a process beginning at conception that continues until death. The progression initiates with the emergence of a fetus from a one-celled organism. As the unborn child enters the world the environment in which the child exists begins to influence the child’s development (WGBH Educational Foundation, 2001). Lifespan development can be defined as a methodical, intra-individual change associated with progressions corresponding to age. The development progresses in a manner implicating the level of functioning. According to Levinson the life cycle consists of four 25 year eras. The main developmental periods are child and adolescence, early adulthood, middle adulthood and late adulthood. Each era’s transition involves a necessary change in the character of the individual’s life and sometimes takes up to six years to complete the change (Smith, 2009). The study of human development began with Darwin and other evolutionists. Darwin thought if he studied human development he could further prove his theory of evolution (Boyd & Bee, 2006).
Characteristics of the Lifespan Perspective
The lifespan perspective argues that significant modifications take place throughout development. The lifelong perspective consists of a development of humans that is multidimensional, multidirectional, plastic, multidisciplinary, and contextual. The development involves growth, maintenance and regulation. Changes that occur should be interpreted in a manner that considers the culture and context of the occurrences. Through the perspective comprehensions of the modifications of adulthood have gained as much importance as those occurring in childhood; an understanding from other disciplines in turn have increased importance in human development. According to Paul Baltes, humans have the capacity of plasticity or positive change to environmental difficulties throughout life. Baltes additionally contributed to the understanding of the positive characteristics of growing old such as learning ways to compensate and overcome (Boyd & Bee, 2006).
Human Development Domains
The domains of development are categories used by scientists. The categories include, physical, cognitive and social domains characterize human development. The physical domain is characterized by how humans grow and change physically, specifically during childhood and adolescence. This domain includes how humans view the world as development progresses as a result of developing vision. Adjustments in the way the world is viewed as the body develops are also included in this domain. The cognitive domain is concerned with how learning occurs and why memory deteriorates during old age. The social domain contains adjustment in variables within social situations such as personality research, social skills and developing relationships. All the domains operate together and are affected by each other (Boyd & Bee, 2006).
Human Development Periods
Human development periods span the lifetime from conception to the end of life. These periods are as follows, prenatal, early, middle and late childhood. As the child grows and approaches adulthood the periods are adolescence, early, middle and late adulthood.
Numerous theories about the periods of development and the movement from one period to the next exist. Various theories attempt to define how movement from one level to the next level of development occurs. The three major families include psychoanalytic, learning and cognitive theories (Boyd & Bee, 2006).
Contemporary Concerns in Lifespan Development
Nature versus nurture is one of the many contemporary concerns in lifespan development. Additional concerns in the area of development include continuity and discontinuity. Nature and nurture concerns surround the basis of development. The issue lies in determining the weather genetics or environment influence development. The concern of continuity and discontinuity’s impact on development lies in relationship development. “ The question is whether age-related change is primarily a matter of amount or degree (the continuity side of the debate) or more commonly involves changes in type or kind (the discontinuity side)” (Boyd & Bee, 2006, p. 8).
Development of the lifespan began with Darwin and continues to intrigue psychologists and scientists today. An understanding of how humans develop consists of the domains of physical, cognitive and social advances. The domains occur throughout prenatal, childhood and adult development. As the field expands the controversy of nature versus nurture and continuity and discontinuity continue to perplex those within the field.