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The Study of Human Development


Guidepost 1: What is human development, and how has its study evolved?

  • Human development is the scientific study of processes of change and stability.
  • The scientific study of human development began with studies of childhood during the nineteenth century. Adolescence was not considered a separate phase of development until the twentieth century, when scientific interest in aging also began.
  • As researchers became interested in following development through adulthood, life-span development became a field of study.

Guidepost 2: What are the four goals of the scientific study of human development, and what do developmental scientists study?

  • The study of human development seeks to describe, explain, predict, and modify development.
  • Ways of studying human development are still evolving, making use of advanced technologies.
  • Developmental research has important applications.
  • Developmental scientists study developmental change, both quantitative and qualitative, as well as with stability of personality and behavior.

Guidepost 3: What are three major domains and eight periods of human development?

  • The three major domains of development are physical, cognitive, and psychosocial. Each affects the others.
  • The concept of periods of development is a social construction. In this book, the life span is divided into eight periods: the prenatal period, infancy and toddlerhood, early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood, and late adulthood. In each period, people have characteristic developmental needs and tasks.

Guidepost 4: What kinds of influences make one person different from another?

  • Influences on development come from both heredity and environment. Many typical changes during childhood are related to maturation. Individual differences increase with age.
  • In some societies, the nuclear family predominates; in others, the extended family.
  • Socioeconomic status (SES) affects developmental processes and outcomes through the quality of home and neighborhood environments, of nutrition, medical care, supervision, and schooling. The most powerful neighborhood influences seem to be neighborhood income and human capital. Multiple risk factors increase the likelihood of poor outcomes.
  • Other important environmental influences stem from ethnicity, culture, and historical context. In large, multiethnic societies, immigrant groups may adapt to the dominant culture while preserving aspects of their own.
  • Influences may be normative (age-graded or history-graded) or nonnormative.
  • There is evidence of critical or sensitive periods for certain kinds of early development.

Guidepost 5: What are the six principles of the life-span developmental approach?

  • The six principles of Baltes's life-span developmental approach include the assumptions that (1) development is lifelong, (2) development involves both gain and loss, (3) the relative influences of biology and culture shift over the life span, (4) development involves a changing allocation of resources, (5) development is modifiable; and (6) development is influenced by the historical and cultural context.

Papalia: Human Development 9Online Learning Center

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