Lifespan Development and Personality By Denise Isaac Carroll Lytch Psych 103 April 28, 2010 Developmental psychology seeks to address various aspects of human development, including physical, cognitive, social, moral, and personality development. In developmental psychology the debate about nature versus nurture, continuity versus stages, and stability versus change are still ongoing. According to the nature position, human behavior and development are governed by automatic, genetically predetermined signals in a process known as maturation. Humans crawl before we walk and walk before we run.
One of several critical periods during our lifetime is, when an organism is especially sensitive to certain experiences that shape the capacity for future development. On the other side of the debate, those who hold an extreme nuturist position argue that development occurs by learning through personal experience and observation of others. Continuity proponents believe that development is continuous, with new abilities, skills, and knowledge being gradually added at a relatively uniform pace. Therefore, the continuity model suggests that adult thinking and intelligence differ quantitatively from a child’s.
Stage theorists, on the other hand, believe that development occurs at different rates, alternating between periods of little change and periods of abrupt, rapid change. Psychologists who emphasize stability in development hold that measurements of personality taken during childhood are important predictors of adult personality. Of course, psychologists who emphasize change disagree. Like the nature versus nurture debate, the debates about continuity versus stages and stability versus change are not a matter of “either-or. Physical development and motor skills, for example, are believed to be primarily continuous in nature, whereas cognitive skills usually develop in discrete stages. Similarly, some traits are stable, whereas others vary greatly across the life span. The physical development in childhood is rapid, the brain and other parts of the nervous system grows faster than any other part of the body. By age 6, the child’s brain is 9/10 its full adult weight. Rapid brain growth during early childhood slows down in later childhood.
Further brain development and learning occur primarily because neurons grow in size and because the number of axons and dendrites, as well as the extent of their connections, increases. Adolescence is the loosely defined psychological period of development between childhood and adulthood. We consider it to be the teenage years. The concept of adolescence and its meaning varies greatly across cultures. Cognitive development for childhood age 2 – 7 is known as preoperational and has the ability for significant language and thinks symbolically.
Piaget labeled this period “preoperational” because the child lacks operations, or reversible mental processes. Children at this stage have difficulty understanding that there are points of view other than their own. Egocentrism refers to the preoperational child’s limited ability to distinguish between his or her own perspective and someone else’s. It does not mean “selfishness” in the ordinary sense of the word. The preschooler who moves in front of you to get a better view of the TV or repeatedly asks questions while you are talking on the telephone is demonstrating egocentrism.
They assume that others see, hear, feel, and think exactly as they do. Children in the preoperational stage believe that objects such as the sun, trees, clouds, and bars of soap have motives, feelings, and intentions. From age 7 – 11 it is known as concrete operational and has the ability to perform operation on concrete objects and understands conservation. Because they understand the concept of reversibility, they recognize that certain physical attributes such as volume remain unchanged when the outward appearance of an object is altered, a process known as conservation.
The final stage in Piaget’s theory is the formal operational stage, which typically begins around age 11. In this stage, children begin to apply their operations to abstract concepts in addition to concrete objects. They also become capable of hypothetical thinking “What if? ” which allows systematic formulation and testing of concepts. Along with the benefits of this cognitive style come several problems. Adolescents in the early stages of the formal operational period demonstrate a type of egocentrism different from that of the preoperational child.
Although adolescents recognize that others have unique thoughts and perspectives, they often fail to differentiate between what they are thinking and what others are thinking. Social behavior becomes more evident in childhood, and research shows that children raised in impersonal surroundings such as in institutions that do not provide the stimulation and love of a regular caregiver or under abusive conditions suffer from a number of problems. They become rigid when picked up; and they have few language skills. They also tend to form shallow or anxious relationships.
Some appear forlorn, withdrawn, and uninterested in their caretakers, whereas others seem insatiable in their need for affection. They also tend to show intellectual, physical, and perceptual retardation; increased susceptibility to infection; and neurotic “rocking” and isolation behaviors. In some cases, they die from lack of attachment. Morals at the childhood stage are considered to be a focus on self-interest, obedience to authority and avoidance of punishment. Because they also have difficulty considering another’s point of view, they ignore people’s intentions in their moral judgments.
Children in their childhood also become aware of others’ perspectives, but their morality is based on reciprocity, an equal exchange of favors. Preschoolers learn to initiate activities and enjoy their accomplishments. Caregivers who are supportive and encouraging promote feelings of power and self-confidence versus guilt. Elementary school-aged children develop a sense of industry and learn productive skills that their culture requires, such as reading, writing, and counting; if not, they feel inferior.
Personality describes you as a person, how you are different from other people, and what patterns of behavior are typical of you. There are five basic personality traits. These five major dimensions of personality are often dubbed the Big Five. To remember the five factors is to note that the first letters of each of the five-factor model spell the word ocean. O | Openness. People who rate high in this factor are original, imaginative, curious, open to new ideas, artistic, and interested in cultural pursuits. Low scorers tend to be conventional, down-to-earth, narrower in their interests, and not artistic.
Interestingly, critical thinkers tend to score higher than others on this factor (Clifford, Boufal, & Kurtz, 12. 18). | | C | Conscientiousness. This factor ranges from responsible, self-disciplined, organized, and achieving at the high end to irresponsible, careless, impulsive, lazy, and undependable at the other. | | E | Extroversion. This factor contrasts people who are sociable, outgoing, talkative, fun loving, and affectionate at the high end with introverted individuals who tend to be withdrawn, quiet, passive, and reserved at the low end. | A | Agreeableness. Individuals who score high in this factor are good-natured, warm, gentle, cooperative, trusting, and helpful, whereas low scorers are irritable, argumentative, ruthless, suspicious, uncooperative, and vindictive. | | N | Neuroticism (or emotional stability). People who score high in neuroticism are emotionally unstable and prone to insecurity, anxiety, guilt, worry, and moodiness. People at the other end are emotionally stable, calm, even-tempered, easygoing, and relax. |
The five-factor model is the first to achieve the major goal of trait theory, to describe and organize personality characteristics using the fewest number of traits. Critics argue, however, that the great variation seen in personalities cannot be accounted for by only five traits and that the Big Five model fails to offer causal explanations for these traits. Finally, trait theorists have been criticized for ignoring the importance of situational and environmental effects on personality. Numerous methods have been used over the decades to assess personality.
Modern personality assessments are used by clinical and counseling psychologists, psychiatrists, and others for diagnosing psychotherapy patients and for assessing their progress in therapy. Personality assessment is also used for educational and vocational counseling and to aid businesses in making hiring decisions. Personality assessments can be grouped into a few broad categories: interviews, observations, objective tests, and projective tests. Objective personality tests, or inventories, are the most widely used method of assessing personality, for two reasons.
They can be administered to a large number of people relatively quickly and the tests can be evaluated in a standardized fashion. Unlike objective tests, projective tests use unstructured stimuli that can be perceived in many ways. As the name implies, projective tests supposedly allow each person to project his or her own unconscious conflicts, psychological defenses, motives, and personality traits onto the test materials. Because respondents are unable or unwilling to express their true feelings if asked directly, the ambiguous stimuli reportedly provide an indirect “psychological X-ray” of important unconscious processes.
As you can see, each of these methods has its limits. Psychologists typically combine the results from various methods to create a full picture of an individual’s personality. After all the tests and all the studies, are mind, body and soul will always be one step away from being a mystery.