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Life and Death Through the Developmental Stages

Updated on December 30, 2014

Question 1

How do people’s views about death differ across the lifespan?

At 18 years of age most people do not think about dying, but when they do think about they realize they are scared of dying. By early adulthood people express their feelings of not being scared of dying, but most express their belief that they will not be punished after death. During middle adulthood most express their views of not be afraid to die though when death gets closer they may fear death. By late adulthood express a lack of fear and acceptance of death, but they do fear what comes with getting older a loss of respect and ability to function.

Adolescents do not think about death much. They are afraid of their own death because they have not lived much of life yet. Young adults are not afraid of death. They note particular ideas about evolution, science, and religion related to living, dying, and life after death. Middle-aged adults are not afraid of death and seem ready to face their own death. They note that their children are very important. Older adults note no fear and much acceptance for death. They fear the declines of aging, but not death. They also note personal experiences with people who have died.

Question 2

How might these changes in views about death relate to Erikson’s theory?

Adolescents are working out their future and their personal identity so to them death is something to fear. Young adults have more of a sencse of self, with their own set ideas about life and death. Middle-aged adults have accomplished what they wanted to and are focused on their children and younger generations. Older adults have an integrity to accept death as a part of life.

Adolescents are working out their own identity and future plans, so their own death is scary. Young adults have a more complete sense of self, including ideas about the nature of life and death. Middle-aged adults note children as very important, especially helping them appreciate their outlook on life (generativity). They have done what they wanted to accomplish and are focused on younger generations. Older adults accept death as part of life (integrity).

Late Life to End of Life

In many ways, aging and later adulthood are considered unfavorably in our society. Misconceptions and stereotypes, such as those involved in ageism, negatively impact how we behave toward as well as think and feel about others in later adulthood and about ourselves as we age. In the most severe forms, aging and later adulthood is believed to be a process of increasing disability as well as lack of satisfaction, sense of purpose and possibility, belonging, and ability to contribute. However, as we will discuss, later adulthood is another stage of continual transformation and opportunities for growth. Remaining active and involved in later adulthood can foster greater satisfaction and happiness, physical and cognitive functioning, coping skills, social relationships and connection, and sense of purpose or meaning. Proper health care and social integration in later stages of life can even help promote a longer life span.

Although individuals in later adulthood tend to be more discerning about their relationships and have increased chance of a loved one dying, older adults have been found to feel less lonely and more satisfied with their close relationships in comparison to individuals in earlier stages of adulthood. This is likely a result of individuals seeking out relationships involving greater support and emotional connectedness as they get older. Quality social support and integration can help an individual cope more effectively with the aging process, attend to his or her own health- and self-care, reduce the likelihood and severity of illness or impairment, and increase his or her chances of feeling satisfied with and accepting of aging. In other words, the quality of our relationships and social network plays a considerable role in our well-being.

In our exploration in this module, we will also discuss the stages or reactions people have when thinking about dying and when grieving the death of a loved one. In so doing, we can glean valuable insight into the psychological aspects of dying and grieving. We will also then understand more about what can reduce potential complications to these already difficult processes.

Grief and loss is a complex, nonlinear, multifaceted process that involves both personal and sociocultural connotations. Culture can play a particularly salient role in the ways people think, feel, and make decisions about death and dying, including what happens to a person or his or her spirit after death. Though death and dying are typically thought about and experienced more predominantly in the context of late adulthood, it is unfortunately an aspect of life that can be experienced at any point in life. As a result, it is also helpful to consider the ways death and dying are experienced at various ages and stages of the human life span.

Given stages of cognitive development, how a child experiences and understands death and dying is different from how an adolescent or adult conceptualizes it. Not until age 9 and older are children able to grasp the finality and universality of death. Children of preschool age or younger tend to think about death in the same terms as sleeping and believe that a person who has died can be brought back to life. Infants likely do not even have a conception of death beyond awareness and fears about separations. On the other hand, adolescents are able to think abstractly about death, but they tend to believe death and dying happens to other people. This is a result of egocentrism and personal fable characteristic of adolescent development. It is not until adulthood (particularly middle adulthood) that a person is most likely to experience increased consciousness about death and one’s own mortality. However, some individuals avoid or deny mortality and death even through adulthood and/or when faced with their own impending death.


Sigelman, C. K., & Rider, E. A. (2012). Life-span human development (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Identify the three aspects of the course material (concepts, theories, etc.) that you found most important, and describe the reason you found these aspects particularly interesting or informative. You may even include how you plan to apply these aspects of the course to real-life experiences. Then, identify two aspects of the course material that seem unclear to you or that you would like to understand more. You may even consider posing a question or questions specific to what you would like to understand more, such as curiosity about implications or applications of a topic, concept, theory, approach, and so forth.

I have found this course to be interesting because I learned more about the developmental process than I ever knew before. One aspect I found important was my research about parenting styles and their effects on adolescents. I found this thought-provoking because I never knew how much parenting could affect adolescent development. I found the information helpful because I want to be a mother one day and now I know that I want to be an authoritative parent so as to help my future child develop into a healthy adolescent. A second aspect of this course that I found important was the substantial connection between high IQ scores, mental disorders, and psychological problems (Andromeda, 2010). Before we learned about IQ scores and intelligence in this course I was under the impression that having a high IQ score was always a good thing; I never knew that having a high IQ could mean that a person would probably suffer from a mental disorder or psychological problems. A third piece of information I found significant was that most of brain development occurs during infancy and that it is so important to protect babies’ heads from injuries so as to not harm their brain’s development of neural connections.

While most of the course information seemed clear and straight forward I did come across several questions I would like to have answered from my research for this class. One of these questions is do parenting styles effect the success rate of adults? Another questions was should parents transition through different parenting styles as their child develops through the various life stages in order to help their child develop into a healthy adult? For instance helicopter parenting is often described as a good parenting style for infants, but unhealthy for adolescents, consequently are there other parenting styles that are healthy for one age range, but not for others?


Andromeda, R. (2010, November 22). Challenges for Persons with a High IQ. Retrieved December 14, 2014, from


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