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Development can be defined as “systematic changes and

continuities in the individual that occur between

conception and death” (womb to tomb ).

The systematic changes and continuities of interest fall

under three categories/domains:
•Physical development: the growth of body and its organs,
the functioning of physiological systems, the appearance of
physical sig
ns of aging, changes in motor abilities etc.
•Cognitive development: changes and continuities in
perception, language, memory, problem solving and other
mental processes
 Psychosocial development: Change and carryover in personal
and interpersonal aspects of development such as motives,
emotions, personality traits, interpersonal skills, relationships
and roles played in the family and in the larger society.
 Simple model (But many scientists reject this model):
Growth in early life........stability in early and middle
adulthood and the declines associated with aging in later
 Recent view: Every stage is important. Because both
positive and negative changes-gains and losses-occur in
every phase of life span. Childhood doesn’t have only gains
and aging doesn’t always have losses.
 In each phase of life span: gains, losses, just plain
changes and sameness
 Developmental processes:
 Maturation: Biological unfolding of the individual
according to a plan contained in the genes.
 Learning: The process through which experience brings
about relatively permanent changes in thoughts, feelings or
 Environment: All the external physical and social
conditions and events that can affect us.

Developmental changes= product of a complex interplay

between “nature” and “nurture”.
An overview of periods of life span:
 Period of life: Age range
 Prenatal period Conception
to birth
 Infancy First 2 yrs of
 Preschool 2 to 5/6 yrs
 Middle childhood 6-12 (until
 Adolescence puberty-20
(when the individual is relatively independent of
 Early adulthood: 20-40 yrs
 Middle adulthood: 40-65 yrs
 Late adulthood/old age: Above65 yrs
Goals of studying life-span development:
 Description: normal development and individual
differences both are described. “Average trends” are
 Explanation (i) why human beings develop as they
typically do? (ii) why some individuals develop
differently than others.
 Nature-nurture/gene-environment debate
 Optimization: How can human beings be helped to
develop in positive directions? How can their
capacities be enhanced? How can developmental
difficulties be prevented? Developmental problems

Today’s life span perspective:
G. Stanley Hall (founder of scientific study of human
development) viewed all phases of life span as worthy of
Paul Baltes (1987) laid out seven key assumptions of the life
span perspective:
 Development is a life-long process: Earlier it was
believed that human development focuses only on how a
child develops and matures till adulthood. But today the
belief has changed. Developmental psychologists now
believe that development in all stages of life span is
important. One particular stage is studied better if the
context of whole life span is considered.
 Development is multi-directional: Development is a
universal process leading always toward more “mature”
functioning. In any particular ability may
develop...other may decline ...and yet there
 Development involves both gain and loss: Gaining a
capacity for logical thought as a school-age child may mean
losing some of the capacity for fanciful, imaginative
thinking. Being an adult makes you more independent but
puts more pressure.
 Development is characterized by life-long plasticity:
Plasticity refers to the capacity to change in response to
positive or negative experiences.
 Deprived environment in childhood: damage
 Enriched environment: optimizing
 Old age: training and practice elderly..may regain abilities
 Development is shaped by its historical/cultural
context: Eg. Great depression of early
1930s.....individuals who were in childhood at that time
suffered more in their adulthood: poor records in school,
erratic career, unstable marriages, ill-tempered
 Development is multiply influenced: multiple
influences like genetics, environment
Development is the product of many interacting causes:
both inside and outside the person: both biological and
environmental. Eg: firing at school....causes:.......
Development is a result of ongoing interaction between
changing person and his changing world.
Biochemical responses;
biology:genes:environment;historical events,culture

 Understanding Development requires multiple

disciplines: Anthropology, biologists, historians,
psychologists, sociologists/social workers and many others
In childhood: you have energy and time but no money
In adulthood: you have energy and money but no time
In old age you have time and money but no energy

In youth you have zeal but not wisdom about how to utilize
that zeal/energy
In old age you have wisdom but no zeal/energy left to apply
your wisdom.
Principles of growth and development:

 Cephalocaudal principle: growth occurring in head to

tail direction. The head is far ahead of the rest of the body
during the prenatal period and accounts for about 25 % of
the newborn’s length. Head accounts only 12 % of an adult’s
 During I year: trunk grows the fastest
 Dring second year: the legs
 Proximodistal principle: Development of muscles from
center outward to the extremities. The chest and internal
organs form before the arms, hands and fingers.
 I year: trunk is rapidly filling out while arms remain short
 Orthogenetic principle: Development starts out global
and undifferentiated and move toward increasing
differentiation and hierarchical integration.
 A human starts out as a single, undifferentiated
cell at conception....billions of highly specialized
cells.....cells become organized and integrated
into different functioning systems
 Overall..............growth is orderly obeying the
cephalocaudal, proximodistal and orthogenetic
 Motor development follows these principles.