The life span perspective of human development


Thelife span perspective of human development

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October10, 2014.

Thelife span perspective of human development

Thelife of a person goes through series of physical, psychological andbiological changes throughout one’s lifespan. Immediately afterconception, the human body begins to develop and constantly change astime passes. Although there are many changes in the process of humangrowth and development, the main focus of human growth lies in thedevelopment of motor and the physiological processes. These involvethe cognitive development which is the development of a person’scapacity to have moral understanding, problem-solving and haveconceptual understanding. Cognitive development of a person can,therefore, be assessed on the level of language acquisitionpersonality, social and emotional development identity formation andself-concept. Human growth and development take place throughdistinct stages in one’s life span (Johnson-Pynn,Fragaszy &amp Cummins-Sebree, 2003).For instance, adults are socially and cognitively recognized fortheir exhibition of maturity through their deeds and words.

Variousresearches and theoretical perspectives have been formulated in anattempt to explain human growth and development. However, majority ofthese studies and theoretical perspectives agree that human growthand development takes place through physical, social and cognitivedomains. The physiological or biological development entails thebodily changes in size, height and shape as one age. The cognitivedevelopment of the human body is associated with mental andpsychological intellectual growth on such aspects as memory, decisionmaking, language development and ability to evaluate issueslogically. Social development on the hand refers to individuals’development on social skills where one can relate, interact andrelate with others on the realms of morality(Bjorklund &amp Pellegrini, 2000).

Theoriesof human growth and development

PsychosexualDevelopment theory

Thepsychosexual development theory was advanced by Sigmund Freud whobelieved that human growth and development occurred in three distinctstages the unconscious, pre-conscious and the conscious levels.According to Sigmund Freud, at the stage of consciousness individualsare aware of the mental processes, in the preconscious stageindividuals can process information even when they have less mentalawareness. Lastly, at the unconscious stage, individuals are notaware of the mental process in their brains. Sigmund furtherdeveloped three personality categories to explains human growth theid, the ego and the superego.

Sigmundobserved that the id represent a primitive mind that relies on thepleasure principle. The super-ego provides the moral compass whilethe ego is the realistic and organized mind which mediates thedesires of the id and the superego. Based on these aspects, Sigmundobserved that, human growth falls in five development stages. Theseare the oral stage- which is the period after birth to the age of 12months an individual at this stage revolves around the idprinciples. The second stage was the anal stage-occurring between oneto three years of age. In the third stage-Phallic stage (three tofive years) an individual’s personality begins to form. The fourthstage was referred to as the latency stage occurring between the agesof five years to puberty. The last stage was called the genital stagewhich progressed from puberty to adulthood.

Thecognitive theory of development

Cognitivetheory was advanced by Jean Piaget whose studies focused on childrengrowth and their ability to construct knowledge from hands-onexperience. In his argument, Piaget stated that young children learnnew knowledge when given supportive materials to construct knowledge.According to Piaget, individuals’ intellectual growth takes placein distinct stages that he referred to as the cognitive developmentstage. In the cognitive development stages, children must mastercertain knowledge before progressing to the next stage. According toPiaget, the cognitive stage builds on each other in the process oflearning. Therefore, he proposed four cognitive stages of humangrowth sensorimotor, the pre-occupational, concrete operational andthe formal operational stage. Piaget did not adequately specify atwhich stage these cognitive development stages took place. However,other cognitive development theorists such as Michael Commons usedPaget’s cognitive stages to build more on cognitive developmentfrom a young age to adulthood.

Psychosocialhuman growth and development theory

ErikErikson was influenced by Sigmund Freud’s psychosexual stages ofhuman developments and developed the psychosocial stages of humandevelopment on a social perspective. According to Erikson, humangrowth and development occurs in stages that have positive andnegative crisis. At infancy stage, the child is influenced by trustversus mistrust. In stage, two the child is influenced by autonomyversus doubt. Stage three occurs at play stage where the child isinfluenced by initiative versus guilt elements. In the fourth stage,an individual is influenced by industry versus inferiority during theschool age. At adolescence, a person develops identity versusidentity diffusion crisis. Stage six is characterized by intimacyversus isolation at early adulthood. During adulthood, individualsexperience generality versus self-absorption. In later stages ofadulthood individuals experience integrity versus despair. Erikssonargued that, the early stages of human development had a significantimpact on later stages of human growth. As such, he observed that, itwas important to complete each stage successfully as particularproblems skipped in early stages would reappear in subsequent stages.However, the mastery of these stages was not important (Johnson-Pynn,Fragaszy &amp Cummins-Sebree, 2003).

Aspectsof life span perspective

Thehuman life growth and development takes place through distinctaspects. These aspects are physical development, cognitivedevelopment, psychological development and social development.

Theinfluence of heredity and the environment in human development

Thegenetic heredity factors, as well as the environment, have asignificant influence on one’s growth and development. Inparticular, certain aspects of human growth are genetically embeddedin one’s physiological development and influence how one’s bodysize, shape or cognitively develops (Johnson-Pynn,Fragaszy &amp Cummins-Sebree, 2003).For instance, individuals who are born with physiological orcognitive defects are bound to live and grow in that naturethroughout their lives. However, the environment has great influenceon certain aspects of human growth. For instance, it is throughsocial interactions with others that an infant get socialized intolearning language. The environment has great influence in anindividual’s social and cognitive development. Therefore, humangrowth and development is highly influenced nature and nurture(heredity and the environment)(Johnson-Pynn, Fragaszy &amp Cummins-Sebree, 2003).


Humangrowth and development take place in various domains that are relatedand influence each other. These development domains are thecognitive, social, psychological and biological. Human growth entailsall development aspects in the life of a person from birth to death.There are various theories proposed by development psychologist in anattempt to explain human growth and development. However, thesetheories cover the cognitive, social and the physiological changes inhuman beings after conception to death. Heredity and the environmentalso play significant role in determining the growth and developmentof an in individual.


Bjorklund,D.F. Pellegrini, A.D. (2000). ChildDevelopment and Evolutionary Psychology.ChildDevelopment71(6): 1687–1708. Retrieved from

Johnson-Pynn,J. Fragaszy, D.M. &amp Cummins-Sebree, S. (2003). Commonterritories in comparative and developmental psychology: The questfor shared means and meaning in behavioral investigations. InternationalJournal of Comparative Psychology16:1–27. Retrieved from