What is Lifespan Development?

Updated November 30, 2022 · 1 Min Read

Learn more about lifespan development and explore the full process of human development from conception to death.

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Lifespan Development refers to the full process of human development from conception to death. It is a holistic approach to understanding all of the physiological, cognitive, emotional, and social changes that people go through. Since humans live according to the customs and values of a wide range of cultures, this is a rich and diverse area of study. This article will provide you with a comprehensive overview of the four facets of lifespan development and how they interconnect to shape the human existence.


Physiological Development

Physiological development encompasses the topics of genetics, body growth, hormonal changes, and the impact of physical deformities, diseases and illnesses. Genetics decides which traits are inherited from which biological parent. From birth to two years marks the stage of most significant motor change. Adolescence and middle adulthood are the periods of most significant hormonal changes. Some physical deformities and diseases that impact development are inherited genetically, others result from lifestyle and environment, and others arise from a genetic predisposition triggered by environmental factors.

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Psychological Development

Psychological development is an umbrella term for the cognitive and emotional changes people experience over the lifespan. Cognitive development involves changes and achieving milestones in the areas of language, memory, and intelligence. The most prominent period of cognitive growth is from birth to late childhood, and the majority of these changes are solidified by early adulthood and begin to deteriorate in late adulthood. However, current research is uncovering abilities to continue cognitive growth later in life. Emotional development involves changes in the way people learn to recognize and react to their own emotions, and identify and respond to those of others. Mental health disorders usually influence both cognitive and emotional development.

Social Development

Social development refers to changes humans go through and experiences they have in relationship to others. First social interactions are primarily with family, and every family is distinctly influenced by culture and demographics. As people grow, their social influences expand to include friends and communities. Social interactions are influenced at every stage by authority figures and technological evolution. Social media has a significant impact on social development, especially during adolescence. The Huffington Post provides an in depth understanding of this current social phenomena.

Each developmental arena influences the other in myriad ways. A neglected child suffers malnutrition, which impacts puberty. That child is at risk for delayed cognitive development, since a huge portion of language and intellectual development requires nurturance prior to beginning school. This child is at risk of teasing and frustration at school, which can lead to behavioral problems that stand in the way of forming positive relationships. This child has already learned not to trust, so he or she will encounter obstacles to social development. When grown, this person will experience difficulty maintaining a career.

The good news is that people are capable of growing and changing at any stage. Just one positive influence in that child's life can be the catalyst to help him or her reverse the cycle completely. Lifespan development is a dynamic journey. Even when people have no control over certain changes, they most often have control over how they respond to them. The never-ending cycles of influence make lifespan development a fascinating topic to study.

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