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Chapter 1 reviews four key debates in lifespan development: Continuous vs. discontinuous change, the importance of critical and sensitive periods of development, lifespan approaches vs. a focus on particular periods, and the relative influence of nature and nurture on development. Discuss your initial reaction to these four issues and your view of their importance to our understanding of development.


My answer:

Development involves all the changes in the mind-body and behaviors of an individual take from their infantry to adulthood. The term continuous development gave me the idea of the changes that occur throughout one’s lifetime. Things like the changes in the body size fall into this category in my view whereas discontinuous changes include those changes that occur in stages such as sexual development. Despite the demarcation of the difference, I find the two are the same since the changes both occur in a consistent incremental pattern. However, what makes more sense is the classification of stages as critical and sensitive ones. The classification takes into account the stages where some stimuli are most impactful. For instance, peer influence is most effective during the puberty and the absence of a parent causes more damage or change when an individual is still young.  The lifespan theory looks at one’s life in entirety. It is able to outline the changes that have occurred throughout a life span. Focusing on particular stages of life makes the study more focused and aligns the attention to detail. Utilizing these two approaches enables one to be able to understand development as a whole. By factoring in the two, one can easily observe the impact of nature vs nurture, comparing the specific stages in different individuals may bring out the entire characteristics of development, the impacts of various nature and nurture components.


My classmates’ threads:

Classmate 1:

The fact that there are dichotomies in the field of the study of human development highlights the complex nature of humans and how we develop. Further, we learn that by looking at development through different lenses, or from different perspectives, we can get a clearer picture of that complexity. When studying development of a specific trait, skill or ability, an understanding of the nature of how humans arrive at that stage (continuous vs discontinuous) can give us insight on the cognitive and biological processes behind these changes. Clearly identifying critical and sensitive periods can help us to understand why development in one area may slow or halt in certain individuals and what interventions can be done to prevent delays as well as mitigate or possibly even eliminate them. While it may make sense for some researchers to specialize in particular periods of development, if the field ignored the lifespan perspective we would overlook how development changes over time and how resource investment affects growth. Finally, the complex relationship of genetics and environment in development requires that we view development as being a combination of nature and nurture.

Classmate 2:

When reading about continuous vs. discontinuous development my initial thought was that continuous development seems more likely than discontinuous. However, in my opinion, continuous development seems most prevalent in physiological development whereas discontinuous development appears to be more apparent in cognitive development. Similarly, I believe that “critical periods” are most likely to occur during physiological development such as the example given in the textbook regarding rubella. However, I would think that “sensitive periods” would be more prevalent in psychosocial development. In regards to lifespan approaches, I believe that the study of development is best spent on children and adolescences. While later stages of life should not be ignored, I believe the development during childhood influences development in later life. I am and have been for quite some time, a believer of nurture over nature. This is not to say that nature does not play a role in development but I truly support the notion that our environment shapes us, particularly in the early stages of life.

Classmate 3:

My initial reaction to continuous vs discontinuous change is that they are both just as valid. In some ways we develop gradually, and in others our development is characterized by distinct stages. I’m glad that they are giving both of these ideas a seat at the table, because we experience both of them equally. It’s important that we understand them, because it is how we change as people over time.

I was happy that the chapter discussed critical and sensitive periods in pregnancy. I grew up being taught that if you smoke or drink during your pregnancy, your baby is doomed for all eternity. It’s calming to hear that the babies of women who do such things are not forever doomed. They actually have a chance, which is so relieving to know. These ideas are crucial to development, because many things can have an effect on a baby during the prenatal period. I’m sure many women want to have an idea as to what those things are before they get pregnant themselves.

When reading about the lifespan development vs the focus on particular periods, I was initially confused. I couldn’t understand how we could choose just one. I believe that both of these are equally important, and that they should both be studied equally. It’s important to focus on how people develop over time, but it’s also important to take a closer look by studying those periods in depth. In understanding our development, we have to see how we change over time as a whole, but also how we develop throughout the different stages of life.

Nature vs nurture has been something I have known about long before I even took psychology. It’s an age old argument, and the truth is they are both equally important. It shouldn’t be nature vs nurture, it should be nature AND nurture. It is in my opinion one of the most important ideas when discussing development in psychology. It’s important that we understand them, because this is the idea that is at the basis of development.

Classmate 4:

I truly believe that the key to really knowing someone is to be able to understand them. The only way you can understand someone, is to know why they are the way they are – what made them the person that they are today? That being said, lifespan development plays a major role in why every person is the way they are.

Discontinuous change, to me, doesn’t make much sense. Our entire lives are built upon the skills we build, the knowledge we collect, our mannerisms and habits that we create, etc. The thought that our behavior takes a 180 flip and does not relate back to a previous stage in our lives doesn’t add up. Continuous change – a low steady growth, building upon our previous stage in life makes more sense. Overall, continuous change is so important because it is a way to measure your growth, faults and development. For example, if Jane has an issue when she is 40. Jane, or someone close to Jane, could go back and see which stage in Jane’s life carved the path for the issue she discovered about herself at age 40. Because that issue and whatever caused it, was built upon throughout her life.

Both critical and sensitive periods are important to the understanding of development and outlines why it is so critical to have a strong and stable household when in infancy. I look at critical as a period that could physically change someone forever; sensitive may not be forever damaging physically, but it is still life changing to a human’s personality or behavior (mentally). For example, if Jane’s mother does drugs with her in the womb (critical period), she is likely to sustain permanent physical damages. If Jane’s mother refrained from doing drugs while she was pregnant but was constantly doing them around Jane in her infancy years, Jane may grow up to do drugs (sensitive period).

Focus on particular periods are so critical because they can concentrate on infancy and adolescence – the two stages that play a key role in development. I completely agree that these are the two most detrimental years of a persons life. However, I can also see how a lifespan approach could be very impactful. The entire life span is important, because there are life events that happen that have the ability to change people. I don’t think that it is just as important as focus periods though, which allows you to narrow in on specific stages.

I look at the influence of nature and nurture to be the least impactful on the scale of importance in regard to development. Neither make extreme impacts, they simply have the power to influence a person’s development when paired with other lifespan development factors. I do think people are born with more intelligence and some with less; however, I also believe that people can build their intelligence through hard work (although that may sound cliché). Genetics and the environmental influences start as a starting point, not a determinant.

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