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Developmental psychology is concerned with the course and causes of developmental changes over a person’s entire lifetime.

What does “genetic influence” mean?

A0. Historical Perspective

10. British empiricist philosopher John Locke in the 1690s argued that childhood experiences (nurture) permanently affect people. Empiricists saw the newborn as a blank slate or tabula rasa on which experience writes.

20. French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the 1760s argued the opposite, that nature alone gives children all they need to grow and learn, without adult guidance.

30. American psychologist Arnold Gesell in the early 1900s said that motor skills develop in a fixed sequence of stages in all children due to maturation, natural growth or change, which unfolds in a fixed sequence relatively independent of the environment. The term development encompasses not only maturation but also the behavioral and mental processes that are influenced by learning.

40. Behaviorist John B. Watson in the 1910s claimed that all development is due to learning.

50. Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget saw nature and nurture as inseparable and interactive in cognitive development.

B0. Understanding Genetic Influence

10. Behavioral genetics is the study of how genes affect behavior. This research demonstrated that nature and nurture jointly contribute to development in two ways.

a0) Nature and nurture operate together to make all people similar in some respects.

Example: Motor skill milestones occur at similar times for most children due to common genes for the nervous system’s motor control and common basic care and nutrition patterns.

b0) Nature and nurture also operate together to make each person unique. Different inherited genes and environments underlie variations in personality, intelligence, speech patterns, and so on.

20. Behavioral geneticists are concerned with the differences between individuals or groups of individuals, not with characteristics of a single individual.

a0) A finding that a certain trait is 50 percent heritable would mean that approximately half of the differences between people on that trait could be explained by genetic factors. No claims could be made about any particular person.

b0) Many traits are influenced by the interactions of a number of genes, as well as by many environmental factors.

C0. Genes and The Environment

The relative contributions of nature and nurture differ for specific aspects of development, but their influences on all human characteristics are forever intertwined and are mutually influential.


Why should pregnant women stay away from tobacco and alcohol?

A0. Prenatal Development

Prenatal development begins when a sperm fertilizes an egg and forms a brand-new cell. Most human cells contain 46 chromosomes, each made up of thousands of genes, which are made of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).

New cells are constantly being produced through the process of mitosis; the cell’s chromosomes duplicate themselves so that each new cell contains copies of the 23 pairs of chromosomes in the original.

But for male sperm cells and female ova (egg cells), meiosis occurs when the chromosome pairs are randomly split and rearranged, leaving each new sperm and egg cell with unique arrangements of 23 single different chromosomes. Conception results in a fertilized cell, the zygote, which carries the usual 23 pairs of chromosomes, but half of each pair comes from the mother and half from the father. The zygote divides first into copies of itself; then it divides and redivides into the billions of specialized cells that form a complete new human being.

10. 0Stages of prenatal development.

a0) The first two weeks after conception are called the germinal stage. By the end of this stage the cells of the dividing zygote have formed an embryo.

b0) The embryonic stage begins next, during which time the basic body plan and organs are created.

c0) The fetal stage begins after two months. The embryo becomes a fetus, and its various organ systems grow and begin to function.

20. 0Prenatal risks

a0) During prenatal development, a placenta forms and attaches itself to the uterus through an umbilical cord. The placenta acts as a filter through which the embryo or fetus can take in nutrients from the mother and send away waste. The placenta is an imperfect filter, allowing many substances to reach the embryo.

b0) Teratogens are harmful substances that invade the womb and cause birth defects. Teratogens are of concern in the embryonic stage because it is a critical period, a time during which certain kinds of growth must occur if development is to proceed normally.

c0) Damage can occur if the baby’s mother takes certain drugs, is exposed to certain toxins or stress, or has certain illnesses during pregnancy.

(1)0 Cocaine use can result in premature, underweight, tense, and fussy babies who may suffer delayed physical growth and motor development.

(20) Nearly half of babies born to women who abuse alcohol develop fetal alcohol syndrome, a pattern of defects that includes mental retardation and malformation of the face. Consumption of as little as a glass or two of wine a day by the mother can affect infants’ intellectual functioning.

(30) Smokers’ babies may be born prematurely and underweight; they often suffer from respiratory problems, irritability, and attention problems; and they are at greater risk for nicotine addiction later in life.

(40) Pregnant cocaine users may give birth to babies prematurely, and the babies are more often of low birth weight, tense, and fussy. They may suffer delayed physical growth and motor development, and malformed kidneys, genitals, or other organs. They are also more likely to develop cognitive, behavioral, and learning problems, though these may be reversible if the environments are supportive.

(5)0 Less than 10 percent of all babies born in the United States will have mental or physical problems resulting from harmful prenatal factors.

B0. The Newborn

To study newborns’ abilities, researchers show stimuli and note where infants look and for how long. Researchers also note changes in heart rates, sucking rates, brain waves, movement, and skin conductance (a measure of perspiration that accompanies emotion).0

10. Vision and Other Senses

a0) Vision is very poor; newborns can see only large objects close up. Brain areas that process visual information are not fully developed. Researchers estimate that newborns’ vision is 20/300.

(10) Infants younger than 2 months focus on edges. Later they are able to scan whole objects. Newborns enjoy looking at faces.

b0) A few days after birth, newborns can hear soft voices, locate sounds, and discriminate tones. They prefer rising tones spoken by women and children, and high-pitched, exaggerated, expressive speech—baby talk.

(10) Hearing is not developed completely until later in childhood.

c0) Newborns have smell and taste preferences. They prefer sweet tastes, and breast-fed babies prefer the odor of their own mother to that of another mother.

20. Reflexes and Motor Skills

a0) Movements during the first few months are dominated by involuntary, unlearned reactions, called reflexes.

b0) Over twenty reflexes have been observed in newborns, including the grasping, rooting (turn mouth toward a finger or nipple that touches the cheek), and sucking (suck on anything that touches the mouth) reflexes.

c0) An absence of reflexes in a newborn signals problems in brain development, as does failure of reflexes to disappear after a few months.

30. Voluntarily controlled movement develops in time, partly from a genetic unfolding of increased muscle strength and coordination, and also partly due to trial-and-error experiences with moving about the world. Motor development results from a combination of maturation and experience.


How do babies think?0

A0. The Development of Knowledge: Piaget’s Theory0

Piaget saw the ability to think as growing in a fixed sequence of stages. Children are not miniature adults, with smaller quantity of adult cognitive skills; children’s thinking is qualitatively different.

10. Building Blocks of Development

Schemas, the basic units of knowledge that are the basis of intellectual development, are mental images or generalizations that form as people experience the world. They organize past experiences and provide a framework for understanding future experiences.0

a0) In assimilation, the individual fits a new experience into an existing schema.

Example: A toddler may call a butterfly a bird the first time he sees one.

b0) In accommodation, the individual modifies an existing schema to better fit a new experience.

Example: After seeing more butterflies, a toddler may realize that they are not the same as birds, though both have some of the same features. She may then broaden her “things that fly” schema to include a new category called “butterflies.”

20. Sensorimotor Development

The sensorimotor period covers the first two years of life, with mental activity limited to schemas about sensory and motor functions.0

a0) Sensorimotor infants cannot form schemas about objects and actions that are not present—they can only think about objects in the “here and now,” directly sensing or acting on them.

b0) This period ends as a child begins to form mental representations—thinking about objects in their absence. Knowing that objects exist even if you cannot directly sense them is object permanence.

Example: If a toy rolls behind the curtains, a child without object permanence can no longer think about the toy, as if the toy no longer exists. A child with object permanence pursues the toy, looking behind the curtains.

30. New Views of Infants’ Cognitive Development

Modern researchers have shown that infants know more, and sooner, than Piaget hypothesized. Infants are not just sensing and moving—they are thinking, too. Developmental psychologists generally agree that infants develop some mental representations and a sense of object permanence earlier than Piaget suggested. They disagree about whether the knowledge is programmed in infants, develops quickly through interactions with the outside world, or is constructed through the combination of old schemas and new ones.

40. Preoperational Development

The preoperational period (about ages two to seven) begins as children understand, create, and use symbols (e.g., language) to represent absent things; they can pretend, draw, and talk. During the second half of the preoperational stage children begin to make intuitive guesses about the world, but they cannot tell the difference between imagination and reality.

a0) Preoperational thought is dominated by what a child sees and touches Preoperational children are egocentric in that they assume that everyone sees what they see.

b0) Children lack conservation, knowing that certain properties of substances (e.g., volume) stay the same even as appearances change. Children also do not understand reversibility or complementarity. They focus on only one dimension at a time.

50. Concrete and Formal Operational Thought

a0) By the concrete operational period (usually age seven to adolescence), children develop conservation and the ability to use simple logic and mental operations, including counting, measuring, adding, subtracting, ordering, and sorting. They apply logic only to concrete objects (e.g., trees, books), but not to abstract concepts (e.g., liberty).

b0) Piaget’s formal operational period of cognitive development, which typically occurs in adolescence, marks the ability to think hypothetically and to think logically and systematically about abstract ideas, symbols, and propositions.

(1)0 People who have not gone to school are less likely to exhibit formal operations. Even people with formal operations tend to use such reasoning only in their own domains and not in others.

B0. Modifying Piaget’s Theory

10. Developmental psychologists believe that cognitive abilities develop at different ages in different areas, and in “pockets” rather than in large all-or-none steps or stages. In addition to their general level of development, children’s reasoning depends on:

a0) how easy the task is,

b0) how familiar they are with the objects involved,

c0) how well they understand the language being used, and

d0) what experiences they have had in similar situations.

C0. Information Processing During Childhood

The information-processing approach examines how information is taken in, used, and remembered. This approach focuses on gradual, quantitative changes in children’s mental capacities.

10. As children get older, their information-processing skills gradually get better. They have longer attention spans, their memory’s storage capacity improves, and they get better at choosing problem-solving strategies that fit the task they are facing.

20. Both nature (maturation) and nurture (experience) are important. Children do better with familiar material. Children learn memorization strategies in school.

D0. Linkages: Development and Memory

Few adults remember anything from before the age of three. This is called “infantile amnesia.” Several explanations are offered for this phenomenon.

10. Children could lack adult-like memory encoding and storage capacity. Yet two- and three-year-old children can remember events from several months ago.

20. Infantile amnesia may occur because infants do not have a strong self-identity and thus cannot organize memories around what happens to them. This would not explain losing memory from ages two to three, when children do have self-identity.

30. Memories may be there but may be accessible only implicitly or unconsciously. But both implicit and explicit memories of early years are quite limited.

40. Early memories may be lost because children do not have the language skills to talk about, and thus solidify, those memories. However, studies have shown that children can have memories of events that could be recalled nonverbally.

50. Early memories could have been fused into generalized event representations, such as “going to Grandma’s.” So, the capacity to retrieve specific memories may not be possible.

E0. Culture and Cognitive Development

10. Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky focused on the social world of people and viewed cognitive abilities as the product of cultural history. A child’s mind grows through interaction with other minds in the culture.

20. Researchers have studied how social routines (e.g., family dinners, religious services, birthday parties) affect a child’s growing knowledge of how the world works.

a0) Quite early, children form scripts, mental representations of the sequences in which routine activities of their culture should proceed.

Example: A child’s mental representation for mail may include the fact that first someone writes a birthday card, then the card goes in a mailbox, then the card is delivered to the family’s mailbox, then Mommy or Daddy gets the card and hands it to the child, then the child opens the birthday card, and so on.

30. Cognitive abilities are also shaped by language. It is harder to understand concepts if the culture’s language has few terms or abstract terms to describe them.

F0. Individual Variations in Cognitive Development

10. Although heredity is an important factor, experience (the environment) also plays a role in cognitive development.

a0) Cognitive development can be slowed by conditions of deprivation, such as those resulting from abuse, neglect, poverty, and poor nutrition.

b0) Parents can aid a child’s cognitive development by exposing him or her to a variety of interesting materials and experiences, supportive conversation, and loving interactions with family members or others, as well as by encouraging the child to take on challenges actively.

c0) Project Head Start and other programs for poor preschool children can enhance children’s cognitive abilities. Music lessons and electronic games can also promote children’s cognitive development.


How do infants become attached to their caregivers?

Mutual attraction begins immediately after birth between parents and infants. Infants are sensitive to the people around them. Year-old children use their mothers’ emotional expressions to guide their own behavior when they are uncertain. (Recall social referencing from Chapter 8.)

A0. Individual Temperament

10. Temperament refers to an infant’s style and frequency of expressing needs and emotions; it is constitutional, biological, and genetically based. It is a prelude to personality. Temperament can be affected by the prenatal environment. The stress experienced by the mother after her baby’s birth also affects the baby’s temperament.

a0) Easy babies, the most common, are predictable, react to new situations cheerfully, and seldom fuss.

b0) Difficult babies are irregular and irritable.

c0) Slow-to-warm-up babies react warily to new situations but slowly come to enjoy them.

20. Early temperamental characteristics have lasting effects.

a0) Temperament patterns persist later in life. But since nature interacts with nurture, experiences can shift the individual’s development in one direction or the other.

(1)0 The match between an infant’s temperament and parental expectations or personal style affects the stability of a child’s temperamental qualities.

(2)0 There is an adaptive interplay of innate and cultural factors in the development of temperament operating in all cultures.

B0. The Infant Grows Attached

As they interact with parents and other important figures, infants form deep, affectionate, close, and enduring relationshipsattachments.

10. Attachment theory was first developed by John Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst, who drew attention to the importance of attachment after he observed children who had been orphaned in World War II.

2. Motherless Monkeys—and Children

Harry Harlow’s experiments studied the nature and importance of attachments.

a0) Newborn monkeys removed from their mothers formed “attachments” with a soft, cloth-covered artificial mother, but not with a similarly shaped wire-mesh artificial mother, even if the wire mother held a milk bottle.

(10) Attachments seem to follow from needs for softness and cuddling, rather than from meeting basic physical needs.

b0) Infant monkeys were very impaired socially, emotionally, and physically when attachments were prevented. They did not engage in normal sexual behavior, and when females became mothers through artificial insemination, they did not have adequate maternal behaviors.

(10) Similar serious problems are seen in children abandoned by their mothers and neglected by orphanage workers. Neurologists suggest that there is developmental brain dysfunction and damage brought on by a lack of touch and body movement in infancy.

30. Forming an Attachment

In most cultures, infants first grow attached to their mothers. By six or seven months, infants prefer their mother to anyone else. In most cultures, attachment to the father occurs later than that to the mother and may be different in nature.

20. Variations in Attachment

The amount of closeness and contact the infant seeks with a caregiver depends to some extent on the infant as well as the caregiver. Attachments are studied by observing the child’s attachment behavior during the Strange Situation Test, where the natural coming and going of the attached person is simulated.

a0) Most infants in the United States form a secure attachment to loving mothers. These children tolerate brief separations from mother but are happy to see her return.

b0) Some infants form an insecure attachment:

(1)0 If the relationship is avoidant, the infant avoids or ignores the mother when she approaches or when she returns from a brief separation.

(2)0 If the relationship is ambivalent, the infant is upset when the mother leaves but acts angry and rejects her when she approaches.

(30) If the relationship is disorganized, the infant is inconsistent, disturbed, and disturbing.

c0) The type of attachment formed has lasting effects. Compared to children with insecure attachments, securely attached children tend to be more competent socially.

d0) Patterns of attachment vary widely in different parts of the world. In all countries, the likelihood that children will develop a secure attachment depends on the mother’s attentiveness.

C0. Thinking Critically: Does Day Care Harm the Emotional Development of Infants?

10. What am I being asked to believe or accept?

Daily separations due to day care damage attachment between the mother and infant and harm the child’s emotional development.

20. Is there evidence available to support the claim?

Infants placed in day care do form attachments to their mothers and prefer their mothers to their daytime caregivers. However, these infants are more often classified as insecurely attached in the Strange Situation than infants who were not in full-time daycare.

30. Can that evidence be interpreted another way?

The Strange Situation method may not be a valid measure of secure attachments in these situations. Infants who experience routine separations may feel more comfortable being left alone, so they seek less closeness with their mothers because they are more independent, not insecure. Also, parents who value independence in themselves and their children may be more likely to work and place children in day care.

40. What evidence would help to evaluate the alternatives?

Other measures of emotional adjustment are needed to know if children are actually harmed by day-care separations. A large study of infant day care found that infants in day care were no more likely to have emotional problems or to be insecurely attached to their mothers than infants not in day care. However, infants placed in poor-quality day care and whose mothers were insensitive to their needs were less likely to develop a secure attachment to their mothers.

50. What conclusions are most reasonable?

Day care by itself does not lead to insecure attachment. But if the day care is of poor quality, it can worsen a situation at home and increase the likelihood that infants will have problems forming a secure attachment to their mothers.

D0. Relationships with Parents and Peers

Erik Erikson described lifelong psychosocial development as following a series of eight stages, each of which focuses on an issue or “crisis” that is especially important at that time in life. The ways in which people resolve these crises shape personalities and personal relationships. The first crisis in infancy of basic trust or mistrust about caregivers forms the basis for all future social and emotional development. The second stage involves the development of independence from parents. Whether parents encourage or discourage independence is related to their parenting styles.

10. Parenting styles

Socialization is the process whereby authority figures channel a child’s energy into socially acceptable outlets and teach a child the skills and rules needed to function in their culture.

a0) Cultural forces powerfully shape socialization. In the United States, Hispanic parents are often influenced by the more collectivist cultural traditions of Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Central America, in which family community is emphasized over individual goals. Compared to European American parents, Hispanic parents in the United States more often expect children to respect and obey elders and to do less questioning, negotiating, or arguing.

b0) There are distinct patterns of socialization or parenting styles among European American parents.

(10) Authoritarian parents are strict, punishing, and unsympathetic. They value obedience from their children, do not encourage independence, and seldom praise their children.

() Children raised in this way tend to be unfriendly, distrustful, and withdrawn.

(20) Permissive parents give their children complete freedom with little discipline.

() Children raised in this way tend to be immature, dependent, and unhappy.

(30) Authoritative parents reason with their children, giving greater responsibilities with age. They set firm limits but also remain understanding and encourage independence. Their demands are reasonable, rational, and consistent.

() Children raised in this way tend to be friendly, cooperative, self-reliant, and socially responsible. They are also more successful in school and better tolerate divorce of their parents, if it should occur.

(40) Uninvolved parents invest as little time, money, and effort in their children as possible, focusing on their own needs before their children’s.

c0) Links between particular parenting styles and children’s personalities are correlations (and not particularly strong ones), so it is unclear what the cause-and-effect relationships are. Children may also shape their parents’ behavior.

d0) Also, it may not be the parents’ socialization practices that influence their children but rather how the children perceive the discipline they receive.

e0) There is no universally “best” style of parenting. It is probably the fit between the particular style and the particular child that affects the child the most. Parenting styles must be evaluated in terms of their cultural context.

20. Relationships with Peers

Social development is also strongly influenced by children’s peer relationships.

a0) It takes time to learn how to interact with other children. Relationships with others change with age. Two-year-olds play together only by exchanging or fighting over toys. Three-year-olds use toys to get a response from peers. Four-year-olds converse about the toys they play with, and by the end of preschool, children begin to share toys and tasks cooperatively. During the school years, peer interaction becomes more complex and structured. Friends become important, but psychological intimacy does not appear until adolescence.

E0. Social Skills

Social skills, like cognitive skills, must be learned. Very young children lack the social skills for sustained, responsive interactions with others. Parents can help children develop such skills, and they can help children detect and correctly interpret other people’s emotional signals. Another set of social skills involves feeling what another feels (empathy) and responding with comfort or help if the person is in distress.

10. Children who have developed social skills like empathy tend to be more popular. Children without them tend to be rejected or neglected.

F0. Focus on Research: Exploring Developing Minds

1. What was the researcher’s question?

Renee Baillargeon (pronounced “by-ar-ZHAN”) wanted to know whether the inability of young children to recognize what others are thinking reflects a true lack of a “theory of mind,” or was the result of using research methods that were not sensitive enough to detect its existence.

2. How did the researcher answer the question?

Baillargeon’s basic method was to show infants various events and then carefully measured the amount of time they spent looking at them. She reasoned that infants’ tendency to look longer at certain events indicates that those events violate their expectations about the world. For instance, she used this method to measure the ability of fifteen-month-old infants to predict where a woman would look for a toy, depending on whether she had a true or a false belief about a toy's location.

3. What did the researcher find?

The results of this study showed that, contrary to what would be expected from previous research, the infants looked reliably longer when the woman looked for the toy in the yellow box.

4. What do the results mean?

These results support the view that, despite lots of earlier research evidence to the contrary, infants under the age of four do have a “theory of mind.”

5. What do we still need to know?

What mental states besides beliefs and perceptions can infants understand? Do they also realize that other people’s behavior can be influenced by goals, intentions, emotions, and even by the fairness or unfairness of a situation? How soon after birth does a “theory of mind” develop?

G0. Gender Roles

10. Many social roles that children learn are linked to gender. All societies have sex roles (also known as gender roles), patterns of work, appearance, and behavior associated with being male or female, but they may differ in how traditional or extreme the roles are.

20. Gender roles persist because they are deeply rooted in both nature and nurture. Small physical and behavioral differences between the sexes appear early and tend to increase over time.

30. Biological Factors

Research in behavioral genetics shows that genes exert a moderate influence on the appearance of gender-typed behaviors. The biological nature of sex differences is suggested by their appearance at an early age, differences in anatomy, hormones, and brain organization, and cross-cultural demonstration of consistent gender patterns, despite different socialization.

40. Social Factors

a0) Gender roles are nurtured by social interactions and environmental cues. From birth, boys and girls are treated differently.

(10) Parents, teachers, and television role models pass on ideas about “appropriate” behaviors for boys and girls. Boys tend to receive encouragement to achieve, compete, and act independently, while girls are more often encouraged to be expressive, nurturant, dependent, and unselfish.

(20) Children also pick up gender-appropriate behavior from peers.

(30) Social and cultural training tends to support and amplify any biological predispositions that distinguish boys and girls.

50. Some parents have attempted to de-emphasize gender-role socialization. Such efforts may reduce some gender differences, such as those in verbal and mathematics skills, but other gender differences persist, such as males’ greater ability to visualize and manipulate objects in space and females’ greater ability to read facial expressions. Whatever the cause of gender differences, it is important to remember that most of them are quite small.


What threatens adolescents' self-esteem?

A0. The Challenges of Change

10. Adolescence begins with a sudden growth spurt. Puberty, the beginning of reproductive capability, causes dramatic bodily changes.

20. In early adolescence (age eleven to fourteen), self-esteem, the sense of being worthy, capable, and deserving of respect, is challenged.

30. Adolescent changes and pressures often cause family conflicts. In most homes, however, the level of conflict is moderate. More than half of teens in Western cultures find early adolescence relatively trouble-free.

40. Love and Sex in Adolescence

a0) About half of adolescents between ages fifteen and nineteen say they have had sexual intercourse, about 55 percent have engaged in oral sex, and roughly 10 percent have tried anal sex.

b0) Sexually active teens tend to hold less conventional attitudes and values, and are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and use other drugs.

c0) Sexual activity is often followed by lower school achievement, sexually transmitted diseases, and unwanted pregnancies.

d0) One-fifth of all AIDS cases start in adolescence, and although teenage pregnancy rates have been declining of late, nearly 750,000 teenage girls in the U.S. get pregnant before they reach age nineteen. Teenage parents tend to be less positive and stimulating and more likely to abuse their children than older parents. A number of support programs have reported some success in alleviating symptoms of depression, increasing the young mothers’ parenting capabilities, and helping them to achieve their educational goals.

B0. Identity and Development of the Self

Adolescents’ extended time as students and trainees makes it hard to find and form identities.

10. Forming a Personal and Ethnic Identity

a0) Preschool children describe themselves in terms of a favorite activity. At 8 or 9, children give facts about themselves. At about age eleven, children begin to describe themselves in terms of social relationships, personality traits, and other general stable psychological characteristics, suggesting changes in the ways they think of themselves and the beginning of development of a unique personal identity.

b0) Personal identity may be affected by ethnic identity, which reflects one’s racial, religious, or cultural group. A positive ethnic identity adds to self-esteem.

20. Facing the Identity Crisis

According to Erikson, events of late adolescence trigger an identity crisis, a struggle to create an integrated and unique self-image. In Western cultures during late adolescence, young people do consider alternative identities. They “try out” various behaviors to help resolve questions about sexuality, self-worth, industriousness, and independence. By age twenty-one about half of the adolescents studied have resolved the identity crisis in a way consistent with their self-image and the historical era in which they are living. For those who fail to resolve identity issues, there are often problems ahead.

C0. Moral Reasoning

10. Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Reasoning

Kohlberg found that the reasons given for moral choices change systematically and consistently with age. However, his six stages are not tightly linked to age. There is a range of ages for reaching each stage, and not everyone reaches the highest level.

a0) The preconventional level includes Stages 1 and 2. Moral judgments are selfish, trying to avoid punishment or following rules when it is advantageous.

b0) At the conventional level, Stages 3 and 4, moral judgments consider other people. Morality consists of following rules and conventions, such as duties to family, to marriage vows, and to country.

c0) At the postconventional level, Stages 5 and 6, moral judgments are based on personal standards or universal principles of justice, equality, and respect for human life—not just the demands of authority figures or society.

20. Limitations of Kohlberg's Stages

a0) In forty-five studies in twenty-seven cultures, as subjects grew older, they ascended through Kohlberg’s Stages 1 through 4 without reversing; however, Stages 5 and 6 did not always appear. Also moral judgments made in some cultures did not always fit neatly into Kohlberg’s stages.

(1)0 People in different cultures define moral ideals differently. For example, those in collectivist cultures argue that supporting the community is more important than supporting personal standards.

b0) Carol Gilligan argues that the moral ideal for women is not Kohlberg’s abstract concept of justice, but one of caring and relationships.

30. Moral development is an adaptation to the moral world and to specific situations.


What developmental changes occur in adulthood?

Early adulthood is ages 20 to 39; middle adulthood is ages 40 to 65; and late adulthood is after age 65.

A0. Physical Changes

10. In early adulthood physical growth continues, and these years are often the “prime of life.”

20. By middle adulthood the senses lose sharpness. Women generally experience menopause, the shutdown of reproductive capability in their late forties or early fifties.

30. In late adulthood physical changes include the dwindling of bone mass and a higher risk of heart disease. There are more digestive disorders and weakened reflexes. The brain shrinks.

B0. Cognitive Changes

10. Early and Middle Adulthood

Cognitive changes through age sixty are usually improvements: learning new information and skills, retaining old information, and honing skills.

a0) Adult thought is more complex and adaptive than adolescent thought. People’s thinking becomes dialectical; they understand that knowledge is relative, not absolute.

20. Late Adulthood

After age sixty-five, some people see a decline in certain intellectual abilities—memory, flexibility, speed and efficiency of processing new information, and the ability to concentrate. But, given more time, older adults can perform as well as younger adults. Mental and physical exercise helps maintain high levels of cognitive ability.

a0) Cognitive declines are less likely and occur less often in people who are healthy and psychologically flexible; who have a high level of education, income, and occupation; and who live in an intellectually stimulating environment with mentally able companions.

b0) The greatest threat to cognitive abilities in late adulthood is Alzheimer’s disease.

C0. Social Changes

10. Early Adulthood

Many people in their twenties focus on careers and love. Erikson named this an “intimacy versus isolation” crisis.

a0) Adult perceptions of intimacy parallel their earlier patterns of infant attachment.

b0) Parenting is another development phase accompanied by change. For many couples, marital satisfaction declines. When the father does not do his share of caring for the baby, both mothers and fathers are dissatisfied. The ability of young parents to provide adequate care for their babies is related to their own attachment histories.

20. Middle Adulthood

By their forties, adults may focus on producing something to outlast them. Erikson called this the crisis of generativity.

a0) Around age forty, people go through a midlife transition, reappraising and modifying their lives and relationships. For some, but not all, the transition is a “midlife crisis.” The degree of happiness and healthiness people experience during middle adulthood may depend on how much control they feel they have over their work, finances, marriage, children, and sex life, as well as the level of education they have attained and the type of work they are doing.

30. Late Adulthood

Most people between sixty-five and seventy-five view themselves as middle-aged, not old. They are usually still active politically and socially, are physically vigorous, and are just as satisfied with life as people at other periods of adulthood. People in late adulthood tend to become more introspective, cautious, and conforming. They interact with others less frequently but enjoy these interactions more. As long as they have a network of at least three close relatives or friends, they are content.

D0. Death and Dying

A few years or months before death, people often show a sharp decline in mental functioning known as terminal drop. The awareness of impending death is the last psychological crisis according to Erikson—integrity versus despair—as people review, evaluate, and try to put their lives into perspective.

10. Longevity

Longevity is related to personality characteristics like conscientiousness and curiosity. People with higher IQs, faster reaction times, and more positive self-perceptions while in their fifties tend to live longer, as do people who stay active mentally and physically and who have a sense of control over important aspects of life.


An activity based on the key terms could be used to introduce students to search engines like PsycINFO or PsycARTICLES. This could be done as an in-class demonstration or as an assignment.

accommodation (p. 352)

assimilation (p. 352)

attachment (pp. 364-368 and 384)

attachment behavior (p. 366)

attachment theory (p. 364)

authoritarian parents (p. 369)

authoritative parents (p. 369)

behavioral genetics (pp. 346-347 and 373)

chromosomes (p. 347)

concrete operations (pp. 355 and 358)

conservation (pp. 354-355, 357-358, and 360)

conventional (p. 379 )

critical period (pp. 348-349)

deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) (p. 347)

developmental psychology (p. 344)

embryo (p. 348)

ethnic identity (pp. 377-378)

fetal alcohol syndrome (p. 349)

fetus (pp. 348-349)

formal operational period (pp. 355, 378, and 381)

gender roles (pp. 372-374)

generativity (pp. 368 and 385)

genes (pp. 346-347)

identity crisis (pp. 377-378 and 387)

information processing (pp. 357-358 and 381-382)

moral development (pp. 378-380)

maturation (pp. 346, 350-351, and 357-358)

object permanence (pp. 353-354 and 358)

parenting style (pp. 368-370)

permissive parents (p. 369)

personality (p. 363)

postconventional (p. 379)

preconventional (p. 379)

preoperational period (pp. 354-355)

puberty (pp. 374 and 387)

reflexes (pp. 350-351)

schemas (pp. 352-353)

sensorimotor period (pp. 352-354)

sex roles (p. 372)

socialization (pp. 368-369 and 372-373)

temperament (pp. 363-364, 369, and 384)

teratogens (p. 348-349)

terminal drop (p. 386)
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