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Alicia Chen

Chapter 4: Developing Through the Lifespan

• developmental psychologists – study physical, cognitive, and social changes throughout the
lifespan; discern commonalities
• developmental psychology focuses on 3 issues:
o Nature/nurture: how do genetic inheritance and experience influence development?
o Continuity/stages: is development a gradual, continuous process, or a sequence of
separate stages
o Stability/change: do our early personality traits persist through life, or do we become
different persons as we age?
Prenatal Development and the Newborn
• Ovary releases an egg, and 200 million sperm come toward it; woman born with all immature
eggs ever needed, whereas men produce sperm starting at puberty, and slowing production as age
• Sperm that make it to the egg release digestive enzymes that eat away at egg’s protective coating,
allowing sperm to penetrate, which then causes the egg to block out all others
• In 12 hours, egg and sperm nucleus fuse
Prenatal development
• Less than half of all zygotes (fertilized eggs) survive past 2 weeks
• Within the first week (when zygote is 100 cells large), cells began to differentiate (specialize in
structure & function)
• After 10 days – zygote attaches to mother’s uterine wall - outer part attaches to wall, which forms
the placenta; inner cells become embryo (2 weeks through month 2)
• Next 6 weeks – organs begin to form and function; heart begins to beat
• By 9 weeks – is called a fetus; 6th month – organs (stomach) formed and functional to allow
premature fetus a chance of survival, responsive to sound, prefer mother’s voice to another
woman or father’s
• Placenta transfers nutrients and oxygen, screens harmful substances, though it can admit
teratogens: harmful agents (viruses, drugs) which cause mother-to-baby transfer of AIDS, heroin
addiction, nicotine; alcohol depresses activity in both nervous systems
• Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS): small, misproportioned head and lifelong brain abnormalities 
mental retardation; caused by common maternal drinking (40% of alcoholic mothers have FAS
• Stress leads to offspring w/ delayed motor development, increased emotionality, learning deficits,
and alterations in neurotransmitter systems associated w/ human psychological disorders
The competent newborn
• Rooting reflex: baby’s tendency, when touched on the cheek, to turn towards touch, open mouth,
and search for nipple
• Babies born preferring sights & sounds that facilitate social responsiveness – turn heads to human
voices, prefers drawings of human faces
• Baby brains stamped w/ smell of mothers’ body, familiar w/ voice
Infancy and Childhood
Physical development
Brain Development
• Brain development finishes in the womb, but nervous system development occurs after birth;
from ages 3-6 it occurs rapidly in the frontal lobe (rational planning)
• Association areas (thinking, memory, language) – last brain areas to develop
• Fiber pathways supporting language and agility proliferate into puberty, after which a pruning
process shuts down extra connections while strengthening others
• Human experience maturation – biological growth processes that enable orderly changes in
behavior, relatively uninfluenced by experience
Motor Development
• Babies roll over before they sit unsupported, crawl before walk – reflect a maturing nervous
• Most babies walk by age 15 months, though this may be influenced a bit by environmental
influences (back-to-crib associated w/ later crawling)
• Genes play a major role; biological maturation (development of cerebellum) creates readiness to
learn walking, bowel & bladder control
Maturation and Infant Memory
• “infantile amnesia” before age 3: average age of earliest conscious memory is 3.5 years
• Memories of preschool years are few because we organize memories differently after age 3 or 4
• As brain cortext matures, toddlers gain a sense of self and long-term storage increases; infants’
pre-verbal memories do not easily translate into later language
• Memories do exist during/beyond early years – association can remain for month(s) (baby
associates leg movement with propelling a mobile), and our nervous systems retain earlier
memories (physiological responses mirroring remembering faces in early years)
Cognitive development
• Jean Piaget – children reason differently than adults, and that child’s mind develops through
stages from
• Believed driving force behind intellectual progression is struggle to make sense of experiences –
“children are active thinkers, constantly trying to construct more advanced understandings of the
• Maturing brain builds schemas (concept/framework that organizes and interprets info)
• Use of schemas: assimilate experiences (interpret them in terms of current understanding) and
accommodate schemas to fit particulars of new experiences
Piaget’s Theory and Current Thinking
• Cognition: all mental activities associated with thinking, knowing, remembering, communicating
• Piaget: children experience spurts of change followed by greater stability, which form four stages
Typical age range Description of stage Developmental phenomena
Birth – 2 years Sensorimotor: experiencing the world through -Object permanence, stranger
senses & actions (looking, touching, mouthing, anxiety
2 – 6/7 years Preoperational: representing things with words & Pretend play, egocentrism,
images; use intuitive rather than logical reasoning language development
~7-11 years Concrete operational: thinking logically about Conservation, mathematical
concrete events; grasping concrete analogies & transformations
performing arithmetical operations
~12-adulthood Formal operational: abstract reasoning Abstract logic, potential for
mature moral reasoning
Sensorimotor Stage
• Sensorimotor stage: babies take in world through sensory & motor interactions w/ objects –
looking, hearing, touching, mouthing, grasping
• Have no object permanence – awareness that objects still exist when not seen; 8 mo – babies
remember things not seen (gradual change)
• Infants look longer at unexpected scenes, and can differentiate between numbers
Preoperational Stage
• Preoperational stage: too young to perform mental operations; lacks conservation (quantity
remains the same despite changes in shape)
• Deloach: symbolic thinking appears at age 3, develops fast after 2½
• Piaget: 4-year-olds are egocentric: have difficulty perceiving things from another’s POV
(cognitive limitation, not inconsiderate)

Theory of Mind
• Theory of mind: people’s ideas about their own and others’ mental states – about their feelings,
perceptions, thoughts, and behaviors these might predict
• 4-5 year olds seek to understand motivations behind emotions because of lessening of
• Enables inferring of others’ feelings, understand thoughts can cause feelings, ages 5-8:
spontaneous self-produced thoughts can also create feelings
• Autistic children have harder time understanding other peoples’ minds differ from their own state
of mind and difficulty reflecting on own mental states (so do deaf children w/ hearing parents)
• Age 7: children capable of thinking in words and using words to work out solutions through inner
speech; talking to themselves helps them control behavior & emotions and master new skills
Concrete operational state
• concrete operational state: (6/7-11 yrs) – gain mental operations that enable logical thinking
about concrete events
• Grasp conservation, comprehend math transformations
Formal Operational State
• ~12 yrs – reasoning expands from concrete to abstract (imagined realities, symbols) – can solve
hypothetical propositions and deducing consequences (if… then)
• Formal operational thinking – stage which people think logically about abstract concepts.
Reflecting on Piaget’s Theory
• today’s researchers see development as more continuous than did Piaget; revealed conceptual
abilities Piaget missed and see formal logic as smaller part of cognition
• Piaget contended children construct understandings from interactions w/ world, which implies
children are not passive receptacles waiting to be filled with teacher’s knowledge: better to build
on prior knowledge & engage in demonstrations
Social development
• Babies develop stranger anxiety (the fear of strangers infants display beginning at about 8
months and peaks at 13 months); when they cannot assimilate new faces into schemas for familiar
faces they become distressed
Origins of Attachment
• attachment – an emotional tie w/ another person, shown in young children by seeking closeness
to caregiver and showing distress on separation (survival impulse)
Body Contact
• Harlow & Harlow: bred monkeys w/o mothers that became attached to blankets they had been
given – contradicted idea that attachment derives from association w/ nourishment
• Created two artificial mothers: one made of terry cloth, one with wooden head, both with food
(for nourishment) – monkey still preferred terry cloth mother, cling to it when anxious, use her as
a secure base from which to venture into environment; rocking, warmth, & feeding made terry
cloth mother more appealing
• Human attachment:
o Parent-infant-emotional communication occurs via touch – soothing or arousing
o Parent provides child w/ safe haven when distressed and secure base from which to
o During maturation, secure base/safe haven shifts from parents to peers/partners
• Attachments built on familiarity form during critical period (an optimal period shortly after birth
when organism’s exposure to certain stimuli or experiences produces proper development)
• Imprinting – process by which certain animals for attachments during the critical period
• Humans: mere exposure fosters fondness; familiarity is a safety signal
Attachment Differences
• Placed in a strange situation, 60% of infants display secure attachment (absence of mother =
distress; presence = comfortable play & exploration)
• Insecure attachment: very attached to mother (absence of mother – are upset or indifferent)
• Source: mother’s behavior – baby rats picked up mother’s tendencies of being relaxed, attentive,
• Ainsworth – sensitive responsive mothers had infants who displayed secure attachment;
insensitive, unresponsive mothers had insecurely attached infants
• Van den Boom – randomly assigned temperamentally difficult 6-9 month olds’ mothers either to
sensitive responding training or control condition – in the end, 68% of the infants were securely
attached; intervention programs can increase parental sensitivity, and to a lesser extent, infant
attachment security
• Fathers are important in parenting too: those whose fathers were most involved in parenting
tended to achieve more in school
• Erikson & Erikson: securely attached children approach life with a sense of basic trust (the
world is predictable and trustworthy, attributed to appropriate experiences with responsive
Deprivation of Attachment\
• Abused babies or babies with no caregiver are withdrawn, frightened, speechless; bore lasting
emotional scars if institutionalized for over 8 months
• Harlow’s monkeys: as adults, they were frightened or aggressive to other monkeys, incapable of
mating, and neglectful & abusive towards first-borns
• Most abusive parents and condemned murderers report having been neglected/battered as
• Most abused children become normal adults; delinquency as a result of early childhood abuse
waned by late adolescence, but 30% of those who had no sharp break from abusive past abuse
their children
• Young children experiencing physical abuse or wartime atrocities often have nightmares,
depression, & substance abuse, binge eating, or aggression during adolescence
• Child sexual abuse creates risks for health problems, psychological disorders, substance abuse,
• Extreme childhood trauma has effects on brain – baby rats deprived of caregiver have fewer new
brain neurons later in life, placid hamsters repeatedly threatened/attacked when young grow up
cowards or bullies w/ weaker hamsters
o Changes in serotonin (calms aggressive impulses); sluggish serotonin = abused children
who become aggressive adults
o Stress can set off hormonal changes that permanently wire a child’s brain to cope with a
malevolent world
• Abuse victims’ problems do result directly from abuse; given the same genes & same
environment, abused twin lives with aftereffects of abuse
Disruption of Attachment
• When attachment is disrupted, infants become upset, withdrawn, despairing
• If placed in more positive environment, most infants recover from separation distress
o Children less than 2 years removed from foster mothers, had difficulties w/ daily
activities of living, but little lasting effect
o Orphans adopted into loving home progressed rapidly (esp. in cognitive development)
• If adopted after age 2 – attachment problems; foster care or removals from mother can be
• Adult attachment distress: agitated preoccupation w/ lost partner, deep sadness, and beginnings of
emotional detachment & return to normal living
Does Day Care Affect Attachment?
• Scarr: maternal employment had no major impact on children’s development
• Day-care quality matters; family poverty consigns children to lower-quality daycare
• Children w/ most time in day care had slightly advanced thinking & language skills, increased
rate of aggressiveness and defiance
• Efe of Zaire – multiple strong attachment as a result of being constantly held & fed by other
• Childhood’s major social achievement: a positive sense of self
• Self-concept: a sense of one’s identity and personal worth, usually developed at about age 12
• Self-recognition emerges in month 6 and is completed at about 15-18 months (has schema of how
face should look)
• About age 5 – children describe themselves by gender, group memberships, psychological traits,
comparisons w/ other children; stabilize @ age 8-10
• Kids w/ positive self-concept are more confident, independent, optimistic, assertive, sociable
Child-Rearing Practices
• Three parenting styles:
o Authoritarian parents: impose rules, expect obedience
o Permissive parents: submit to kid’s desires, make few demands, use little punishment
o Authoritative parents: demanding & responsive – control through enforcing of rules,
explain reasons, encourage open discussion & allowing exceptions
• Kids have highest self-esteem, self-relaince, social competence w/ authoritative parents;
authoritarian parents’ kids have less social skill & self-esteem; permissive parents’ kids are more
aggressive & immature
• Causations of this link: children’s traits influence parenting
• Maybe competent parents & competent children share genes that predispose social competence
• Adolescence: life between childhood and adulthood – from puberty to independence
• G. Stanley Hall: “Storm and stress” view of adolescence
Physical development
• Adolescence begins with puberty: period of sexual maturation, during which a person becomes
capable of reproducing; follows a surge of hormones – intensify moods & trigger two-year period
of rapid physical development (11 in girls, 13 in boys)
• Primary sex characteristics: reproductive organs and external genitalia – develop dramatically
• Secondary sex characteristics: non-reproductive traits (breasts, hips, facial hair)
• 1-2 years before puberty – children begin to become attracted to one another
• Girls: puberty starts w/ breast development (age 10), menarche: first period (age 12)
• Boys: first ejaculation – spermarche (age 14)
• Timing of physical changes affect teens psychologically: early developing boys are stronger &
more athletic = more popular, self-assured, independent, more at risk for alcohol use and
premature sex; early developing for girls can be stressful – may associate with older teens, be
teased or sexually harassed
• Frontal lobe development: myelin growth (fatty tissue around axons that speeds
neurotransmission), which lags emotional limbic system
• Pubertal hormonal surge and limbic system development = teens’ occasional impulsiveness, risky
behaviors, emotional storms
• After frontal lobe development (~age 25): improved judgment, impulse control, and long-term
Cognitive development
• Adolescents’ developing ability to reason provides social awareness and moral judgment 
criticism and idealistic thinking
Developing Reasoning Power
• Early teen years: Reasoning is often self-focused, may think private experiences are unique
• Gradually reach formal operations – adolescent ponders moral philosophy, religious conceptions
and existence
Developing Morality
Moral Thinking
• Three basic levels of moral thinking
o Preconventional morality: (~age 9) morality of self-interest: obey to avoid punishment
or gain concrete rewards
o Conventional morality: (~age 12) morality that cares for others, upholds laws & social
rules because they are laws and rules
o Postconventional morality: affirms people’s agreed-upon rights or follows what one
personally perceives as basic ethical principles
• As thinking matures, behavior also matures
• Critics contend theory mostly papears in Westernized middle class (prizes individualism) and is
biased against moral reasoning of those in communal societies (China, India) and against Western
Moral Feeling
• Haidt’s social intuitionist account of morality: moral feelings precede moral reasoning – moral
judgment involves quick gut feelings that trigger moral reasoning
• Runaway trolley situation: pushing the fat man triggered brain’s emotional areas – engaged
emotions that altered moral judgments
Moral Action
• Moral action depends upon social influences
• Those who learn to delay gratification become more socially responsible, academically
successful, and productive
• When teens volunteer/community service, their sense of competence and desire to serve increases
and school absenteeism and drop-out rates decrease
• Moral action feeds moral attitudes
Social development
• Erikson – each stage of life has psychosocial task (crisis that needs resolution)
Stage (approximate age) Issue Description of task
Infancy (1 year) Trust vs. mistrust If needs are dependably met, infants develop a sense of
basic trust.
Toddlerhood (1-2yrs) Autonomy vs. Toddlers learn to exercise will & do things for themselves,
shame & doubt or they doubt their abilities
Preschooler (3-5yrs) Initiative vs. guilt Preschoolers learn to initiate tasks & carry out plans, or
they feel guilty about efforts to be independent.
Elementary school Competence vs. Children learn the pleasure of applying themselves to
(6yrs-puberty) inferiority tasks, or they feel inferior
Adolescence (teen-20s) Identity vs. role Teenagers work at refining a sense of self by testing roles
confusion and integrating them to form a single identity, or become
confused about who they are
Young adulthood (20s- Intimacy vs. Young adults struggle to form close relationships and gain
40s) isolation capacity for intimate love, or they may feel socially
Middle adulthood 40s- Generativity vs. Discover a sense of contributing to the world, usually
60s) stagnation through family & work, or they may feel a lack of purpose
Late adulthood (late 60s Integrity vs. When reflecting on life, older adult may feel a sense of
& up) despair satisfaction or failure
Forming an Identity
• Adolescents try out different “selves” in different situations; role confusion resolved through
forming identity – one’s sense of self, formed by testing and integrating various roles
• Some adolescents form identities early – take on parents’ values & expectations (traditional
cultures inform teens about who they are rather then letting them decide); others adopt negative
identity defined in opposition to parents/society but in conformity to peer group
• Most teens content with lives
• Key task of adolescence: achieve a purpose – desire to accomplish something meaningful that
makes a difference to the world beyond oneself
• Older adolescent identity incorporates more positive self-concept, self esteem rises with
adolescent age
• Identity becomes more personalized with age: less reliant on social group and more reliant on
thoughts & feelings
• Adolescent identity stage followed by capacity for intimacy (the ability to form close, loving
relationships, esp. in early adulthood); once one has a clear sense of who one is, one can have
close relationships
Parents and Peer Influence
• As adolescents form identities, they separate themselves from parents
• Positive relations w/ parents support positive peer relations and tend to be healthy, happy, and do
well in school – teen girls w/ affectionate relationships w/ mothers have intimate friendgirl
• Misbehaving teens – more likely to have tense parental relationships
• When rejected adolescents withdraw, they are vulnerable to loneliness, low self-esteem, and
• Parents shape religion, college & career thinking, political views
Emerging adulthood
• Earlier times: after sexual maturity, adult responsibilities bestowed on young person – worked,
married, had children
• With compulsory education, adult independence began occurring later
• Earlier sexual maturity caused by increased body fat (supports pregnancy & nursing) and
weakened parent-child bonds (absent fathers)
• Later independence & earlier sexual maturity have widened adolescence
• 18-mid 20s = emerging adulthood?
Physical development
Cognitive development
Social development
Reflections on Two Major Developmental Issues
Continuity and stages
Stability and change