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Chapter 9: Life Span Development I

developmental psychology – The study of age-related changes in behavior and

mental processes from conception to death.

maturation – Development governed by automatic, genetically predetermined


critical period – A period of special sensitivity to specific types of learning that

shapes the capacity for future development.

interactionist perspective – Belief that development emerges from each individual’s

unique genetic predisposition and from individual experiences in the environment.

cross-sectional method – Research design that measures individuals of various ages

at one point in time and gives information about age differences.

longitudinal method – Research design that measures a single individual or a group

of same-aged individuals over an extended period and gives information about age

cohort effects – Differences that result from specific histories of the age group

zygote – Cell formed by a female’s ovum and a male’s sperm that begins a nine
month process of rapid cell division to form an infant.

germinal period – The first stage of prenatal development, which begins with
conception and ends with implantation in the uterus (the first two weeks).

embryonic period – The second stage of prenatal development, which begins after
uterine implantation and lasts through the eighth week.

fetal period – The third, and final, stage of prenatal development (eight weeks to
birth), which is characterized by rapid weight gain in the fetus and the fine detailing
of bodily organs and systems.

proximadistal – The process of development of a baby's body inside the mother's

uterus.; the baby's central body is developed first, and then the outer parts are

placenta – The vascular organ that unites the fetus to the mother’s uterus.

teratogens – Environmental agents that cause damage during prenatal


fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) – Neurotoxic syndrome that occurs from alcohol
crossing the placenta, affecting fetal development.
puberty – The period of adolescence when a person becomes capable of

adolescence – The loosely defined psychological period of development between

childhood and adulthood.

growth spurt – The clearest and most dramatic physical sign of puberty;
characterized by rapid increases in height, weight, and skeletal growth, and by
significant changes in reproductive structures and sexual characteristics.

menarche – Rapid development of the ovaries, uterus, and vagina and the onset of
menstruation in the adolescent female that occurs from maturation and hormone

spermarche – In the adolescent male, the testes, scrotum, and penis develop, and
he experiences his first ejaculation.

menopause – the cessation of the menstrual cycle which occurs somewhere

between the ages of 45 and 55.

male climacteric – The gradual decline in the production of sperm and testosterone,
unexpected weight gain, decline in sexual responsiveness, loss of muscle strength,
and graying or loss of hair that occurs to men in middle adulthood.

ageism – Prejudice or discrimination based on physical age.

secondary aging – Changes resulting from disease, disuse, or neglect.

primary aging – Gradual, inevitable age-related changes in physical and mental


programmed theory – A belief that aging is genetically controlled.

damage theory – Proposes that an accumulation of damage to cells and organs over
the years ultimately causes death.

schemas – Cognitive structures or patterns consisting of a number of organized

ideas that grow and differentiate with experience.

assimilation – In Piaget’s theory, the process of absorbing new information in

existing schemas.

accommodation – In Piaget’s theory, the process of adjusting old schemas or

developing new ones to better fit with new information.

sensorimotor stage – Piaget’s first stage (birth to approximately age 2), in which
schemas are developed through sensory and motor activities.
object permanence – The understanding that objects continue to exist even when
they cannot be seen, heard, or touched.

preoperational stage – Piaget’s second stage (roughly ages 2 to 7 years), which is

characterized by the ability to employ significant language and to think
symbolically, though the child lacks operations (reversible mental processes), and
thinking is egocentric and animistic.

operations – Reversible mental processes.

egocentrism – Preoperational child’s limited ability to distinguish between his or her

own perspective and someone else’s.

animism – The belief that all things are living (or animated).

concrete operational stage – Piaget’s third stage (roughly ages 7 to 11), in which the
child can perform mental operations on concrete objects and understand
reversibility and conservation, though abstract thinking is not yet present.

conservation – To logically determine that a certain quantity will remain the same
despite adjustment of the container, shape, or apparent size.

formal operational stage – Piaget’s fourth stage (around age 11 and beyond), which
is characterized by abstract and hypothetical thinking.

personal fable – An intense investment in an adolescent’s own thoughts and

feelings and a belief that these thoughts are unique.

imaginary audience – State in which adolescents feel that all eyes are focused on
their behaviors.