The study of behavior and development conceptualizes the orientation processes along the trajectory of a human lifespan. Development is a life-long process. It begins in conception, often denoted as pregnancy and ends at death (Honzik, 1984). Many psychologists have however differed with this assumption; first they have disputed the process and defined life span development psychology as an orientation to the study of behavior and psychological-physical development (Honszik, 1984). Age periods of somatic growth draws out physical-psychological development as the implicit developmental stages of human lifespan development.
Here somatic growth is segmented in age period where prenatal, infancy, childhood, and adolescence are the core medians of the somatic domain. Psychologists have dwelled on aging as key area of research hence causing paucity of research around somatic development. As such, exploring the development process can be evaluated from ontogenesis throughout other core stages of life (Magnusson, 1996, p. 21). The main issue discusses within that context is the relative influence of factors around the developing humans on this human. This paper discusses the relative influence of environment, genes, and social interactions. We onset from the ontogenesis whish draws out prenatal and prenatal stages. Subsequent stages are discussed conversely.
Lifespan Development Theories
The purpose of this section is to analyze the different lifespan development theories. These theories have been discussed by researchers and scholars with hope to link them to life skills and social cognitive abilities. Importantly, the construction of morality during development is a vital ingredient of cognitive abilities. There are different theories that explain about life development; Kohlberg theory, Piaget, Vygotsky’s and Erikson’s theories (Yahaya, 2008).
Yahaya argues that Kohlberg’s theory of moral development summarizes the principal facts about moral development (Yahaya, 2008). The theory also provides these tenets with an empirical evaluation to support their application and relevance (Yahaya, 2008). The relevance of morality is unattainable unless a societal concept that provides insight about the social set up is used as the platform to conceptualize it.
As human beings develops from birth so does their minds. The Piaget theory focuses mainly on the intellectual development of kids, the theory states that a child’s mind is not constant and as the child grows so does the mind, the child’s mind adapts to new changes and at the same time gets rid of the old childhood behaviors (Artherton, 2010). In addition to that Atherton (2010) adds that there are several key ideas that are the Piaget lifespan development theory focuses on and they are; assimilation, accommodation, classification, class inclusion, conservation, decentration, egocentrism, operation, schema and stage. The mention key points play a different role in the growth and they belong to one of the four cognitive development stages; sensor motor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operational.
Erickson’s Lifespan Stage
This theory of life development deals on the behavior and character of a people at different stages of life as they develop (Stanrock, 2005). Eight main stages are involved in this lifespan stage. The theory states that in the infancy there is the trust and mistrust aspect where the infant tends to like some people, it has a special bond with the maternal mother and he/she may not be willing to be taken care of others. This then gives way to the early childhood stage that involves autonomy; shame and doubt as the child grow. The middle and late childhood stages are when the kids feel energetic and “industrious.” The adolescence stage which in most cases defines how the person will grow up to become is characterized by identify crisis and confusion.
The teenager is always influenced by peer pressure and if not well guided they end up making wrong decisions. After the adolescence is the early adulthood stage where the individual is sexual active and they are experimental. For those whose body has developed “wrongly” during the adolescence stage they find themselves in isolation. There is then the early adulthood stage where a person exits the adolescence stage and he/she becomes more ambitious and has a burning desire to climb through the hierarchy of needs ladder. In the middle adulthood stage a person is at the peak of his/her maturity and they are characterized by generatively and stagnation. The last stage according to the Erickson’s Lifespan Stage is the late adulthood where the person strives to maintain integrity but at the same time they despair.
Vygotsky’s Socio Cultural Cognitive Theory
During the human development process, culture plans a very critical role. This theory focuses on how culture and social interaction guide cognitive development. Different geographical locations have different cultures and cultural beliefs, therefore the behavior of a child as they grow will greatly be influenced by the cultural activities and practices of the location. The theory also explains how social interaction with more skilled adults and peers helps in the advancement cognitive development (Stanrock, 2005). This means that the quality of education that a person accesses as they grow is most likely to determine the job that they will get and the types of lifestyle they will lead. The individual’s role model and advisors can drive this.
There are different process that are involved in the development process
The Biological Process
This deals with the different stages / periods that the human being undergoes from conception until death. These steps will be discussed later on in the paper.
Socio – economic Process
The environment in which the person resides in determines the type of lifestyle that they will lead. The children born in the up market areas will adapt to the lifestyles of the residents in those areas whereas those born and raises in the inner cities will take on the life of the area.
The financial status of the guardians / parents of the baby define how the future life of the kid will be. for those who survive on less than $1 a day, chances are most likely that their children will lead a poor life (survival), on the contrary, the children raised by parents who are financially stable will definitely enjoy most of the niceties of life.
As human being grow and mature, they have different personal needs that wish to satisfy. This can be found under the Marslow hierarchy of needs. For instance, there is a need for someone to be academically empowered before they can enter the job market among others. The above three process are intertwined and for successful lifespan development, one cannot be detached from the other.
Periods of Human Development
As indicated in the introductory part of the paper, there are eight stages involved in the human development stages; prenatal development, infancy, early childhood, middle childhood/early adolescence, adolescence, early adulthood, middle adulthood and late adulthood. Each of these stages contributes positively to one way or the other to the human growth and development.
The prenatal Stage
Prenatal stage is the period from conception, pregnancy until birth. Cherry has observed that the prenatal stage is divided into two distinct parts; the embryonic and fetus stages (Cherry, 2010). Cherry explains that, during this period of development, the embryo needs the support required biologically to develop in the mother’s womb. She points out to key requirements as principal in the embryonic development. The placenta and the umbilical cord are these two requirements. Some of the visible features during this early stage of human development are of both internal and external body organs as well as the human nervous system.
The end of the embryonic stage gives “birth” to the fetus stage. In the early stages, various organs of the body begin developing. This stage is also referred to as the fetus stage. This stage is observed in the initial 3 months of a pregnancy with the sex organs starting developing at the end of this stage throughout the second stage of the pregnancy. During the next development stages, the fetus develops in size with height and weight being the main areas of development. This becomes gradual and continuous until the child is born.
As the fetus develops, there are some natural and artificial harmful environmental factors that can affect t development of the fetus and in the end, the baby may be born with either physical or mental disability.
Problems during Prenatal Growth
Down syndrome: This biological disease is mainly caused by an increase in the maternal age of the parent. The older the parent is the higher the chances of the child being born with such a condition. The effects of such a disease to the life of the baby is heart related diseases and mental retardation. The cause of the disease is the formation of an extra copy of the 21 chromosomes during the fetus development stage meaning there are three instead of the required two chromosomes in the body. Other biological related problems that can be witnessed during the prenatal growth are; inherited diseases and sex chromosome problems.
Maternal Drugs: These are harmful environmental factors and they are referred to as teratogens. There are different drugs that if used by the mother during or before pregnancy can have great negative effects on the life of the fetus. For excessive consumption of alcohol and other illicit liquors causes a condition known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and it is the root cause of heart ailments and mental retardation. Cigarette smoking is equally dangerous to the life of the unborn since it will make the fetus be born with a weak immune system as well as a poor respiratory system. Other drugs that have negative effects on the unborn if taken in excess before conception are cocaine, marijuana and the emergency birth control pills.
Maternal Diseases: Some women get pregnant by “accident” and in some cases they might be carriers of different sexual transmitted infections, for example HIV/AIDS, herpes among others. A pregnant woman who has herpes virus can pass the virus to the baby during birth and this might make the either go deaf or develop mental retardation as they develop.
The above discussed biological or teratogens can greatly affect the future of the new born. While most of the kids will be enjoying their childhood play, the parents of these kids with “special” needs will be forced to take care of them and look for special institutions for them. This therefore means that the kids will probably miss the chance of growing up like their age-mates.
The postnatal stage is after the mother gives birth until the end of the lactation period. This period the mother has to take constant care of the baby and ensure that the baby gets the needed medical care and vaccinations as it grow.
The infancy stage of child development starts from birth until the child is two weeks old (Varadharajan , 2010). Here, as argued by Kohlberg and Piaget, the infant develops his own moral construct through observation and emulation. Varadharajan further adds that during the stage the infant reach is first plateau of development. This means that the rapid growth and development that it was experiencing during the prenatal development comes to a stop as it tries to adjust to the new environment. The infant will for some time undergo some physical and emotional constraints as it tries to adjust but after some time it will resume normal growth and development. Some of the visible symptoms during this stage will be loose of weight and slight deterioration of health as compared to the way it was during birth.
Emotional and Environmental Adjustments
There are no visible emotional adjustments of the infant during the infancy stage but it is the environmental adjustments that visible. It is believed that when the baby is the womb, the temperatures are about 100 F. This however changes when it is born and it has to adjust to 70 F rapidly, this might take it a few minutes to adjust. In addition to that, the baby has to start breathing and feed (sucking) by it.
A new thing that the newborn has to adapt quickly to is passing of stool. The help that the infant will get during this initial stage will help it grow in the right manner without or with less health complications. It is important to note also that during this stage, the child establishes a strong bond with its mother and it can be able to identify her (the mother) by the sense of smell. The paternal parent is not easily identifiable by the infant during the infant stage although constantly staying with the infant may make it grow fond of the paternal parent.
Early childhood is another crucial stage of child growth and development. This is when the child is referred to as the toddler. This stage is deemed sensitive for it plays a major role in our future social-cognitive ability. In fact, early childhood is tat important early life stage so potent that it is the determinant of our personality development (Holmes & Mich, 1964). Early childhood follows a pattern of reactivity to family and social influences, which are expressed as aspects of intrinsic behavioral construct. If the child is subscribes to broken family and social norms, he develops decadent morals, while if in a conducive family and social set-up, the child develops good morals (Arnett, 1999).
Middle Childhood / Early Adolescence Stages
In this age bracket, the development stage is in elementary and middle school environment. The child is between 5-13 years. The child has become largely mature and intuitive. This makes a parent less attentive to the child. However, long-term behaviors are developed during this stage. In this stage, children advance becoming resilient, masters of knowledge and become reasonable. This is indicative of maturity and independence. Brain grows rapidly during this stage hence an increased control over behavior, building skills and avoiding poor morals becomes observed. The moral construct becomes apparent with attitude, aggressiveness, and resilience becoming major strengths of this child.
Since the child is most of her time with parents and partly with educators and peers, the children gradually develop a pattern of behavior and way of thinking. In addition to the above mentioned points, Erickson states that it is during this stage that the child sexual orientation is confirmed, the kid will be able to partially tell if they are straight (by having attraction to opposite partners) or if they will be gays / lesbians (having attraction and affection for members of the same sex). It is therefore important for them to be guided and advised on sex related matters and on positive morals and ethics. This responsibility can be delegated still to the parents and peer educators.
The adolescence stage, which is the fifth stage of development, is the most crucial in a person’s life. This is between the ages of 14 years to 18/20 years (Puberty and adolescence). During this stage, the teenagers have an identity crisis and an enormous ego. In addition to the two mentioned points, Kerfoot states some of the features that can be used to tell an adolescent from the rest of the group are his / her rebellious nature. Most of them always believe they know what is “right” to them and they believe they have a right of way and access to anything that they want.
They go contrarily to the advice from their parents, teachers and peer educators despite the dangers they might land into.(Kerfoot, 2010). Most adolescents also take a lot of attention on their physical appearance both hygienically and their dress codes. Most of them go with the latest fashion trends in the market (clothing, hairstyle, and jewelers). As for women (girls) since they are still “new” to having the menstrual cycle, they take a lot of precaution when it comes to body hygiene. It is at this stage also that most young people contract either unwanted pregnancies, sexual transmitted infections (STI) or the HIV/AIDS.
The reason for this according to Kerfoot is that they have a high sex drive and they tend to be experimental in that area. Most youths become addicts to negative vices like pornography and masturbation, which they find had hard to abandon as they grow up (Kerfoot, 2010). Another feature of adolescents is the physical aggressiveness for the boys, you will find most of them engaging in physical confrontation without care of the consequences, as for the women most of them develop weird mood swings and for those who think they are not pretty enough always go in isolation. Most adolescents who make it out this stage “safe” always grow to be responsible adults.
The ages between 18 and 30 are considered early adulthood. Intimacy, career ambitions, knowledge empowerment, and wealth are jus but a few things that drive most people in this age group. As one grows, so does his/her social status, they became choosy and selective on where and who to hand out with, who to date and in most cases their lifestyles completely change. Most of the needs in the Marslaw hierarchy of needs are fulfilled during this stage.
As most people in these age group approach the end of the stage, some of them (especially women) become stressed if they would have not have gotten someone to marry them or a biological child of their own, loneliness starts to creep in since they feel time is not on their side. The end of the early adulthood stage ushers in another equally challenging stage, the middle adult hood stage.
The Middle Adulthood Stage
This is the seventh and second last stage of human development. The main focus for most persons in this stage which starts in the late 30’s to late 50’s is parenting and preparing for life after retirement (the sunset days). Most persons in this stage have had their share of fun and adventure and it is time to focus on the legacy they will leave behind and the well being of the children and in some cases grand children.
For most women, this is the most trying moment of their lives since they experience menopause that is emotionally and physically drains most women. As the some women tackle the menopause, some start experiencing middle life crisis. For those who would have not achieved what they wanted in life they will become stressed and in most scenarios fall into depression since there is no turning back. According to Arnett guiding and counseling is highly recommended both male and female to help them overcome the “fear” that is slowly building within (Arnett, 1999).
In a human life, this stage is the least celebrated unless the person lived a good, clean and healthy life. After the age of 60 of people always try to build respect and integrity with the community and family members as they prepare for the final journey. Deaths of childhood friends are reported here and there, strange diseases and ailments are diagnoses during this period, for example gout, prostate cancer and heart complications. To pass through this stage, most old people are advised to eat healthy, engage in light physical exercises and avoid scenarios that may cause them to develop stress.
Review of the Paper
The process of human growth and development is one issue that has been discussed for ages. There have been forums and debates to discuss the origin of man and the evolution process. There are those scholars who have argued out from the scientific point of view, from the big bang theory to many others. Church leaders and other spiritual leaders have also come up with different versions of the same. One debate will never conclude no matter how long it takes.
There are different social, economical, environmental and environmental factors that affect the lifespan development cycle. In the ancient days, most of our ancestors used to live longer because they practiced and stuck to the positive virtues of life, they ate a healthy diet and avoided other “bad” habits, however with the rapid growth of the internet and globalization, all this has changed.
Most people do not consider healthy eating and they feed on junk food most of the time, there is also an increase of genetically modifies foods in most grocery stores and it is believed that they are less nutritious as compared to naturally grown foods. This exposes them to diseases since most of these foods do not have any nutritional value and therefore make their immune systems weaker and more vulnerable. It is therefore upon the human population and especially the nutritionist to advocate for healthy eating and regular exercises.
There are those habits that directly expose the human body to diseases and negatively affect normal growth and development. People (young people) should be advised to shun bad habits like smoking and over consumption of alcohol.
The Role of Religion
The men of the flock and other religious leaders too have an important role to play – spiritual nourishment. Immorality is the norm of the day in most part of the globe, this has exposed most of the youths (who form a larger population of the world’s population) to diseases and other crime related activities. The virtues of life should be instilled in these people from a tender age until past their adolescent stages, by so doing most of them will be in a position to choose right from wrong, good from evil.
The Role of the Governments and the International Community
The AIDS pandemic is the main topic of discussion in nearly all seminars and conferences; however as the world tries to combat this vice, attention should also be focused on other terminal diseases that are whipping out millions of ignorant people on a daily, cancer is one of such diseases.
Most people are dying of the disease because of ignorance and in some nations (mostly Africa) they blame it on witchcraft. For the newly born babies and babies under the age of five years, malaria is the killer disease. The United Nations with the help of governments in nations that are prone to malaria infections should team up and provide free medical care and advice to the millions of families that may be in the dark on how to tackle the disease once it strikes.
As indicated in the paper, some teratogens can affect the future of the unborn. The overuse of emergency pills should be discouraged at all costs and other prevention measure adapted that will ensure that the next generation that will come after us will be of sane individuals, not zombies, and the insane. In the recent past, there has been an increase in natural disasters due to environmental degradation across the world. Global warming is one factor that is threatening the existence of the current population, it will therefore be wise for the governments of different nations (especially the super powers) to come up with a viable plan that will ensure there is reduction in the emission of toxic gases into the environment and the forest cover is restored.
Special attention should be given to the third world and developing nations of the world, they should be assisted in the implementation of the projects that will help in the restoration of the water catchment areas and the forest cover in general. It is by having a pollution free environment that the current population will manage to enjoy their late adult hood stage of life.
The Role of Internet
In the recent past, there has been internet euphoria and rapid growth of the telecommunication sector all over the world, the internet if used positively can help change the world of millions of people around the world.
This research paper has covered all areas that are related to the human lifespan development cycle. The paper has discussed all the eight major steps involved in the human development as well as the different theories that have been discussed pertaining human development. A detailed review has also been given on role government and private sectors can play to ensure that the world is safe place to live in, a place where global warming and pollution will be a thin of the past. The human populations should therefore strive to ensure that the world is a global village where there will be socio economic and political stability and equality in all quarters.
Theories of moral development play a significant role in explaining how we can mould our lives and those of children. The objective of such a projection is to provide insight about managing children and bringing them up responsibly. However, it is important to consider how we have come through the moral development to become significant to children. While moral development requires more than parental roles to make it a success, parents, largely have a major role to play.
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