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PSY 375 Life Span Perspective Paper.

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Running Head: LIFE SPAN PERSPECTIVE PAPER 
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Life Span Perspective Paper
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PSY 375
January 10, 2011
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Life Span Perspective
Development begins at birth and continues throughout one’s entire life. According to
Smith (1999, para.4), “The first and obvious element is change - that development involves
movement from one state to another.” Whether it’s physically, mentally, or both, all individuals
experience transitions as they move through the different life spans. The typical stages of
development that humans go through include: childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, middle
adulthood, and late adulthood. As individuals progress from one stage of life to the next there
are a variety of factors that influence the unique development from one person to the next.
Factors such as culture, genetics, and environmental influences all play significant roles in life
span development.
Each span of an individual’s life is characterized by differing stages of development. The
life span perspective of development is not limited to any one specific age or stage of life, which
is one of the primary aspects of the life span perspective. This perspective is also diverse in the
fact that changes can occur on a social, cognitive, or physical level (Smith, 1999). According to
Berger (2008) there are five primary principles that can be applied when examining the various
stages of an individual’s life span. These principles include: multidirectional, multicontextual,
multicultural, multidisciplinary, and plasticity.
Five Principles of Development
The first principle, multidirectional, takes into account the variations that exist in
reference to developmental changes throughout one’s life span. The main facet of the
multidirectional principle is that change is ultimately unpredictable; therefore these
developmental changes can go in any direction at any point in time as the individual progresses

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through the stages of life. The multicontextual principle focuses primarily on the effects of one’s
surrounding environment and how these factors influence one’s development. This can include
one’s physical environment as well as familial influences. Multicultural principles are based on
the cultural influences that can impact one’s individual development. Culture is a significant
factor in majority of people’s lives, which means that it ultimately influences how they develop
throughout their lifetime. The multidisciplinary principle encompasses the biosocial, cognitive,
and psychosocial domains that influence an individual’s life span development. According to
the last principle, plasticity, an individual’s development can be shaped or modified, to an extent,
by life experiences (Berger, 2008).
Theories of Life Span Development
The theories that have been developed regarding human life span development typically
derive from fields of psychology such as psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and cognitive approaches.
Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of human development focuses on the unconscious driving factors
that influence development as well as behavior. Freud’s theory is also referred to as the theory of
psychosexual development. Freud believed that early childhood experiences played a significant
role in personality development. He also theorized that these experiences had a lasting influence
on an individual’s behavior later in life. The psychosexual theory was based on the idea that all
children went through different stages in which they became fixated on a sexually based
behavior (Stevenson, 1996).
Erik Erikson is another theorist who developed his own theory about life span
development. The basis of Erikson’s theory was the effect of socialization on one’s
development. Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development is comprised of eight stages.

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