A person’s life span is much longer today than it was at the start of the 20th century, when a person lived an average of 49 years. Today the average length of life is approximately 76 years in the United States, worldwide the age is closer to 65 years. Life span perspective has also changed with the progress of medical and social sciences. Every person has a life span, which is the time from a person’s birth, until his or her death. During a person’s life span, many changes are inevitable. All people will undergo important changes as he or she grows, learns, and experiences the necessary developments, which emphasize many key life elements. This paper will attempt to explain what they are and why they are important to know.
The seven characteristics of life span perspectives
There are seven characteristics of life span as per Baltes, Reese, & Lipsit, (1980). Life span perspectives begin during prenatal development and continue through to death. Once the child is born, the infant will go through multidimensional changes. An infant grows physically and cognitively rapidly. This is a time in the child’s life when a mother, fathers, and other support figures in the infant’s life will shape his or her mannerisms, interests, habits, and many other skills.
Sometimes as individuals make gains or strides forward, a back sliding or losing of previous ground is experienced. Boyd and Bee (2006) mention that these changes are not always a linear progression, but rather, life’s changes and accommodations, can be likened to a dance, with many complicated steps.
According to Boyd & Bee (2009, p. 4) Plasticity explains the elastic or adaptive qualities within thought processes, and the fluidity with which human beings account for and respond to changes throughout a person’s entire life span problems he or she will face. Multidisciplinary development is important to the life span perspective for this is when a child is growing and changing physically. Old boundaries begin to blur especially environmentally. Woolf (1998) recounts Baltes, Reese, & Lipsit, by explaining that problems become a combination of biological, chemical, and genetic part of a child’s life. Contextual development is how a person changes within his or her environment, changes in the environment produce changes in the person, and interchange is continuous in every person’s life. Therefore, a person’s psychological development works from the point of view of the examination and interaction of psychology, biological, social, and historic dynamic during a person’s development. The change is both quantitative and qualitative. Finally, external forces play an important role in his or her development, nonetheless not meant as his or her final psychological goal (Baltes, Reese, & Lipsit, 1980).
The development of each characteristic involves the health and well-being of an individual, both physically and mentally. Continuing to understand one’s self by learning to adjust to his or her environment and sustaining a healthy mindset will keep a person’s life on a healthy track to experience a lifespan of happiness and comfort. That is not to say a person will not meet with challenges throughout his or her life. However, understanding, and taking the proper steps to ensure happiness and an enjoyable disposition throughout his or her life.
Three important developmental domains are biological, cognitive, and socioemotional conveying the psychological and intellectual process of a child’s developmental growth from birth through full maturity, which allows the child to interact and socialize with others outside the family dynamic. Freud, Piaget, and Erikson have varying theories of a child’s development into adolescents. However, all the theories are clinical and never tested on large groups of children. The theories each man put forth are accepted and considered an acceptable as a universal tool in which to gauge the cognitive, biological (or physical) and emotional health in a child’s growth.
During the prenatal stage of development, the stages of pregnancy referred to as first, second, and third trimesters for the mother to be. For the developing fetus, the three main periods are germinal, embryonic, and fetal. The germinal stage begins within the first two weeks of conception. This is when the fertilized egg creates the zygote. This is when cells begin to divide and the zygote attaches to the wall of the uterus and begin the journey into a new life. The next stage is the embryonic period this occurs 2-8 weeks after conception the division of cells start to divide rapidly during this stage and cells begin to form visible organs. Securely attached to the uterine wall two layers form, which is the embryo. During the last seven months of pregnancy, is the fetal period the fetus is growing and developing into a new born child who after 38-40 weeks every stage, and finally complete the newborn baby is welcomed into the world.
Every baby is different in his or her development. However, certain guidelines and information accumulated over time so doctors and parents can gauge how the child is developing. During early childhood, a few of the motor skills most children should be able to accomplish are as follows. By three months motor skills are developing a child should be able to lift the head when held and while lying on the stomach, turning from side to side, grasping objects handed to the child and follow objects with his or her eyes. The sensory and thinking skills are when the child recognizes a bottle, notices, and looks at colors and the sound of voices. Social and language skills at this age are gurgling and cooing sounds, will smile when smiled at, cry or make facial express to indicate hunger, fear, or if he or she is hurting.
By six months, the baby’s head is steady, can sit with help, notices toes, and other body parts, can hold a bottle, and puts everything in his or her mouth and with the help of another person enjoys standing and jumping. The child’s sensory and thinking skills are expanding the child will open his or her mouth for a spoon, and will imitate actions of others. At this point the child is beginning to develop social skills, enjoys smiling at his or herself at the mirror, the dreaded temper tantrums start about this time (Powell, 1994). When a toddler or young child starts an ongoing social situation for example, starting preschool, music classes, and other areas in which he or she will be with other people or children outside the family, this is the introduction into middle childhood. During middle childhood more social skills are developing, the child becomes a little more independent, and begins to form relationships with his or her peers.
Adolescents or puberty (ages 12-18) is the most awkward time in a preteen, teenager, or young adult’s life. Physical changes begin to take over his or her body. No longer, is the opposite sex icky, girls and boys begin to form more mature relationships with one another. During this time, the adolescent is self-conscious about the changes happening to his or her body, and confused over the new thoughts. Puberty is at the very least hard, especially if a child is different, shy, or new to an area. Early adulthood (ages 17-21) is a society-based; during this period, the young adult can do certain tasks like be in the military, yet cannot consume or buy alcohol. Middle adulthood (ages 18-40) occurs in society as the time that a person’s career begins, and develops, and during this period many individuals marry, and have children. Finally, the life span (from 60 until death) is late adulthood (Boyd, 2009, p. 6).
Stability and Change
The perception supports that realism of creating a stable environment during a child’s development is essential. Security during the rearing of a child is extremely important. On the other hand, change is a function or sign that represents the effects in the course of development of a child. Research and reason suggests a key inference of determining the influence of the two stability and change involves the continuity-discontinuity concern, the issue of development and the explanation of new experiences. Stability can remain intact as long as change is a positive experience, and if necessary taking the change slowly to ensure the comfort level of the child (Boyd, 2009, pp. 158-162).
Nature versus Nurture
The Nature versus Nurture debate has always been a point of contention within the psychological, social, and medical communities. The debate centers on the cognitive developmental change in a person some believe are biological, meaning to come from nature. Yet, others suggest how a child learns, grows, and the environment surrounding the child creates the mature person meaning to come from nurture. As science matures, so does the understanding of the brain, genes and other biological information is available, along with the perceptive of how a person’s surroundings affect a child’s growth, the Nature versus Nurture debate is taking on a different persona. Currently, many recognize both nature and nurture play a part in the development of every child.
The life span perspective begins in the prenatal stage of life and continues through all stages of an individual’s growth until death. All life span perspectives, developmental domains, and periods allow physical, intellectual, and socioemotional growth. Along with recognizable genetic inborn influences and well-rounded nurturing, a child will encounter each stage of his or her life span equipped with information and tools needed to enjoy a full, stable, and happy life.
Boyd, D. &. (2009). Lifespan Development 5th ed. Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.
Powell, J. (1994). Developmental Milestones. Retrieved from The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, from http://www.nichcy.org/Disabilities/Milestones/Pages/Default.aspx
Woolf, L. M. (1998). Theoretical Perspectives Relevant to Developmental Psychology, Linda M. Woolf, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology, Webster University, from http://www.webster.edu/~woolflm/theories.html