Module 9.1Prenatal Development: A Case of Nature and Nurture

Module 9.2Infant Development

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Module 9.3Years of Discovery: Emotional, Social, and
Cognitive Development in Childhood

Module 9.4Adolescence

Module 9.5Early and Middle Adulthood

Module 9.6Late Adulthood

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Module 9.1

Prenatal Development:
A Case of Nature
and Nurture

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Developmental Psychology is the branch of psychology that studies the changes that occur during the lifespan, ranging from conception through death.

Maturation is the unfolding of one’s genetic blueprint.

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Stage Approximate Ages
Prenatal period Conception to birth
Infancy period Birth to 1 year
Toddler period 1 to 3 years
Preschool period 3 to 6 years
Middle childhood 6 to 12 years
Adolescence 12 to 18 years
Young adulthood 18 to 40 years
Middle adulthood 40 to 65 years
Late adulthood 65 years and older

Here we see the range of different developmental periods with some approximate age ranges. These are not fixed, however, and may differ slightly from one theory to another.

Prenatal development extends from conception to birth. Many important developments occur before birth.

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Germinal stage

From fertilization to implantation in wall
of uterus

Embryonic stage

From implantation to about the 8th week
of pregnancy

Fetal stage

Begins around 9th week
and continues until birth

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Dance of Life In this remarkable photograph, a single sperm is attempting to penetrate the egg covering. If
it succeeds, the genetic material from both parents will combine into a single cell that marks the beginning of
a new life.

© David M. Phillips/Science Source

A discussion of the prenatal period must include a brief review of the process and key players in conception:

Ovulation – an ovum is released from a mother’s ovary, which begins traveling down the fallopian tube. If it is fertilized by a sperm cell, the result is a zygote, which is a one-cell fertilized ovum with 46 chromosomes (in normal developmental cases).

We can divide prenatal development into three stages as shown here.

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Stages

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© Cengage Learning

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The germinal stage lasts from conception to about 2 weeks. During this stage, rapid cell division occurs, and the mass of cells migrates to the uterus and begins to be implanted into the uterine wall.

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The zygote becomes an embryo after it implants into the lining of the uterus.

The neural tube forms about
3 weeks after conception, and
it will develop into the
nervous system.

© Cengage Learning

The embryonic stage lasts from about 2 weeks to about 2 months and is the period when most of the vital organs and bodily systems such as the heart, spine, and brain emerge. The embryonic period is a time of great vulnerability; if anything interferes with development during this time period, effects can be devastating.

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© Cengage Learning

The embryo, and later the fetus, lie within a protective environment in the uterus called the amniotic sac. Nutrients are exchanged with the mother through the placenta. The umbilical cord connects the embryo and fetus to the placenta.

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© Cengage Learning

The fetal stage lasts from about 2 months to birth. During the early parts of this stage, the muscles and bones begin to form. The body continues to grow and function, with sex organs developing in the 3rd month and brain cells multiplying during the final 3 months.

Here we see how the risks of the embryonic stage can extend into the fetal stage.

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Maternal Nutrition

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© Cengage Learning

A developing baby and its mother are linked through the placenta, and a mother’s behaviors can affect the healthy of the fetus dramatically.

 

Severe maternal malnutrition is linked to increased risk of birth complications and neurological problems in the newborn.

These can include having a premature birth and a low birthweight baby. A deficit of folic acid (a B vitamin) can lead to spina bifida. Pregnant women need to eat properly and take appropriate vitamins.

 

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Teratogens

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A teratogen is an environmental influence that may harm a developing baby during the prenatal period.

Infections diseases can, in some cases, be teratogenic. Rubella (German measles) can cause several different problems, including heart disease, deafness, and intellectual disability in an unborn child. Some STIs, including HIV/AIDS and syphilis can also be transmitted from mother to child and can be teratogenic.

Maternal drug use can significantly impact a developing baby, even if the drugs are legal, like alcohol and cigarettes. Many drugs, both prescription and recreational, are linked to birth defects. Problems can even be caused by some over the counter drugs.

Fetal alcohol syndrome, one of the leading causes of intellectual disability, is a collection of congenital (inborn) problems associated with alcohol use during pregnancy. The risk of FAS increases with heavy use, but there is no recognized safe limit for alcohol intake during pregnancy.

Current studies suggest that even normal social drinking during pregnancy can have enduring negative effects on children, including deficits in IQ, reaction time, motor skills, attention span, and math skills, as well as impulsive, antisocial, and delinquent behavior.

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Module 9.2

Infant Development

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Rooting reflex

Babinski reflex

Eyeblink reflex

Palmar grasp reflex

Sucking reflex

Moro reflex

© Petit Format/Science Source

© Cathy Melloan/PhotoEdit, Inc,

© Elizabeth Crews/The Image Works

The infant is equipped with basic reflexes at birth. Most newborn reflexes disappear within the first 6 months of life.

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Vision

Blurry, but can recognize
Mom’s face

Preferences for
face-like patterns

By 1 month can visually track
a moving object

Basic color vision develops
by about 2 months

Depth perception develops
by around 6 months

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© 2003 PhotoDisc/Getty Images (top); © Mark Richards/PhotoEdit (bottom)

The newborn’s vision may be limited, but its perceptual world is not one of blooming confusion. Even the newborn can form visual discriminations needed to recognize Mom’s face and will also show preference for facelike patterns.

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Hearing

Particularly sensitive to sounds
within frequency of human voice

Can discern mother’s voice from other voices

Just hours after birth can differentiate sounds in native language from those in a
foreign tongue

By several months can discriminate between
various speech sounds

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© elwynn/Shutterstock.com

Auditory discrimination also exists at birth and develops further during the first few months of life.

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Smell

At 5–6 days can detect mother’s odor

React appropriately to repulsive scents

Taste

Can discriminate among different tastes

Show preferences for sweetness

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Likewise, infants can make other discriminations based on the senses of smell and taste.

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Perceptual Ability

Not blooming, buzzing confusion of meaningless stimuli at birth

Can begin to make meaningful discriminations among stimuli shortly after birth

By 4–6 months can discriminate among different
facial expressions

Learning Ability

Able to learn simple responses

Able to retain memories of learned responses

Show memory of faces at 6–7 months

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Infants may seem to do little more than sleep, eat, and excrete, but have more perceptual and learning abilities than many people recognize.

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Reflexes slowly replaced with voluntary purposive movements (e.g., bringing objects to the mouth, grasping objects)

By about two months: Able to lift chin

By about five months: Able to roll over

By about nine months: Sits without support

By about 1 year: Stands without support

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Here we see some of the major landmarks in motor development in the first year.

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Module 9.3

Years of Discovery: Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Development in Childhood

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Three general types

Easy children

Difficult children

Slow-to-warm-up children

Predicts later differences
in adjustment

Shaped by both nature
and nurture

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© Olinchuk/Shutterstock.com (top); © photobank.ch/Shutterstock.com (bottom)

Temperament refers to the child’s general disposition or behavioral characteristics. Investigators identify three major types of infant temperaments: easy, difficult, and slow-to-warm-up.

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Is a close bond between
child and caregiver

Does not form immediately after birth

Is not the same as “bonding”

Is seen in many
animal species, when
imprinting occurs

© Jonathan Nourok/PhotoEdit

Attachment refers to the close, emotional bonds of affection that develop between infants and their caregivers. Bonding is the process by which parents develop strong ties to the child.

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© Nina Leen/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Psychologist Harry Harlow conducted a now-famous study in which he removed monkeys from their mothers at birth and raised them in a laboratory with two different kinds of substitute mothers – a “cloth mother” and a “wire mother”. Half the monkeys were fed from a bottle attached to the cloth mother, and half were fed by the wire mother.

 

Harlow discovered that the infant monkeys showed preferences for the “cloth mother,” regardless of which substitute mother fed them. When frightened, the monkeys – regardless of which mother fed them – sought comfort from the “cloth mother,” pointing to a strong attachment and need for contact comfort.

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Secure

Insecure-avoidant

Insecure-resistant

Disorganized/
disoriented*

Mary

Ainsworth

*Added later

Psychologist Mary Ainsworth conducted landmark research on attachment behaviors in infants She developed an experimental method called the “strange situation” to assess the quality of attachment between 1-2-year-old infants and their caregivers. The strange situation puts infants through a series of short separations and reunions with their caregivers, typically their mothers.

 

As a result, Ainsworth concluded that attachment falls into three patterns: secure, insecure-avoidant, and insecure-resistant. Later studies introduced a fourth variation, the disorganized/disoriented type (Type D).

Some parents have a concern that putting their children in day care will interfere with attachment relationships. Research has not supported this concern, and in fact has found that high-quality center-based day care is associated with many positive developmental outcomes.

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Many factors influence a child’s development,
including peers, parents, siblings, authority figures,
and genetics

The important
influence of fathers

Cultural differences
in parenting

© Tony Freeman/PhotoEdit

The influence of fathers has been given less importance in research literature, but children whose fathers share meals with them, spend leisure time with them, and help with homework are more academically successful than children with less-engaged fathers.

Children in two-parent households (heterosexual or same-sex parents) do better academically than children raised in houses where mothers live with an unmarried heterosexual partner or single-mother households. Be careful, however, not to generalize to all situations or circumstances with this research.

Fathers tend to provide less basic care and engage in more physical play than mothers.

African-American families tend to utilize stronger kinship bonds.

Traditional Hispanic families operate with the expectation that the father is the provider and protector of the family, while the mother is responsible for childcare.

Asian cultures emphasize respect for the parents’ authority, particularly the father, and warm relationships with the mother.

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Baumrind’s Styles of Parenting
Authoritative Style Authoritarian Style Permissive Style
Limit setting High High Low
Style of discipline Reasoning Forceful Lax
Maturity expectations High High Low
Communications with children High Low Moderate
Warmth and support High Low High

What type of parent do you want to be?

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Rely on reason, not force

Show warmth

Listen to children’s opinions

Set mature but reasonable expectations

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Becoming an authoritative parent involves developing the ability to listen to your children, reason with them, and offer guidance and support, while maintaining a high but reasonable expectations for children’s behaviors.

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Stages of

Psychosocial Development

Erik

Erikson

Theorist Erik Erikson proposed a stage theory of psychosocial development based. Stage theories assume that individuals progress through specified stages in a particular order because each stage builds on the previous one. They also assume that progress through the stages is strongly related to age and that development is marked by major discontinuities or abrupt shifts that bring about dramatic changes in behavior.

 

Erikson theorized that there are eight stages of psychosocial development, which span the lifespan. He held that there is a specific life challenge or developmental crisis that defines each stage, and that each of these challenges or crises can resolve in a positive or negative direction with respect to the person’s psychosocial development.

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Infancy:
Birth to 1 year

Toddlerhood:

Years 1-3

Preschool:
3 to 6 years

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3

Stage 4

Elementary
School:
6 to 12 years

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Trust Versus
Mistrust

Can I trust that
others will meet
my needs?

Autonomy
Versus Shame
and Doubt

Can I do things

on my own?

Initiative
Versus Guilt

Do I take the
initiative and
accomplish
what I set out
to do?

Industry
Versus
Inferiority

Am I confident
in myself and
seek out
challenges or
do I feel inferior
and pull away
from them?

Here we see Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development during childhood.

 

In stage 1, trust vs. mistrust, the infant in its first year of life must depend solely on its caregiver, which should lead to a trusting view of the world.

 

[click to view next stage]

In stage 2, autonomy vs. shame and doubt, the child begins to take personality responsibility and should acquire a sense of self sufficiency.

 

[click to view next stage]

In stage 3, initiative vs. guilt, children should learn to get along with family members, leading to self confidence.

 

[click to view next stage]

In stage 4, industry vs. inferiority, children must function socially outside of the bounds of their family, from which a sense of competence should evolve.

 

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Cognitive

Development

Jean
Piaget

Swiss developmentalist Jean Piaget made a landmark contribution to psychology’s understanding of cognitive development, asserting that interaction with the environment and maturation gradually alter the way children think. This progression in thinking occurs through the complementary processes of assimilation (incorporating novel objects and new experiences in terms of existing mental structures without changing them) and accommodation (changing existing mental structures to accommodate new experiences).

 

Assimilation – Incorporating new information into existing cognitive schemas

Accommodation – Adapting existing cognitive schemas to fit with new information that does not readily fit into them.

Piaget proposed that children’s thought processes go through a series of four major stages.

 

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2 Through
7 Years

7 Through
11 Years

Birth Through
2 Years

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3

Stage 4

Age 11 Through
Adulthood

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Sensorimotor
Period

Engages the
world through
the senses and
motor behavior;
development
of object
permanence

Preoperational
Period

Development of
language allows
symbolic
representation
of objects and
actions, but
thought Is limited
by irreversibility,
centration, and
egocentrism

Concrete
Operational
Period

Able to perform
logical operations
tied to concrete
objects or events;
development
of conservation

Formal
Operational
Period

Able to engage in
abstract reasoning
and apply abstract
concepts and ideas

In the sensorimotor stage, a child gradually develops object permanence, which involves the recognition that objects continue to exist even when they are no longer visible.

 

[click to view next stage]

In the preoperational stage, children engage in symbolic thought through the use of language, but show characteristic flaws in their reasoning skills, such as irreversiblity (failure to see that superficial changes in an object’s appearance can be reversed), centration (tendency to focus on just one feature of a problem), and egocentrism (limited ability to share another person’s point of view or perspective]. The preoperational child also displays animistic thinking, the belief that inanimate objects are living and have feelings, just like oneself.

 

[click to view next stage]

The concrete operational stage is characterized by the ability to perform operations by applying logical thought, such as reversing or mentally undoing an action. Children in the concrete operational stage are able to focus on more than one feature of a problem simultaneously, a process called decentration. These new cognitive skills lead to the development of conservation, or recognition that the quantity of a substance does not change just because its superficial appearance is changed.

 

[click to view next stage]

The formal operational period is marked by the ability to use and apply abstract concepts such as justice, love, and free will.

 

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Source: Adapted from Berger & Thompson, 1995.

Here are some examples of the types of tasks Piaget used to evaluate whether a child had developed the principle of conservation.

 

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This video shows children at Piaget’s sensorimotor stage.

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This video shows children at Piaget’s preoperational stage.

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This video shows children at Piaget’s concrete operational stage.

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This video shows children at Piaget’s formal operational stage.

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How do children come to understand their
social world?

Cultural learning acquired through
social interactions

Emphasized role of culture in development
of understanding of world

Social learning occurs within a zone of proximal development and through scaffolding by a
more-skilled individual

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In contrast to Piaget, Vygotsky emphasized the importance of culture and social interactions in cognitive development.

 

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Module 9.4

Adolescence

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© Elena Zidkova/Shutterstock.com

While many define adolescence as the period between 12 and 18 years of age, it may be better thought of as a “transition” period between childhood and adulthood that is not neatly bound by a specific age range.

Adolescence is a time of growth, but also of stress. What are some sources of stress in the life of the adolescent?

 

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Source: Adapted from Seifert, Hoffnung, & Hoffnung, 2000.

Puberty, which marks the beginning of adolescence, is the stage during which reproductive functions reach full maturity. It is during puberty that the primary sex characteristics, the structures necessary for reproduction, develop fully.

 

In females, the onset of puberty is signaled by menarche – the fist occurrence of menstruation. In males, it is signaled by sperm production.

 

At this time, males begin to show acne, facial and body hair, voice change, muscle development, and ability to ejaculate.

 

Females also develop acne, as well as body hair, breast development, rounded contours, enlargement of the uterus, clitoris, and labia, as well as menstruation.

 

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Earlier maturation

Athletic advantages

More positive self-esteem

Later maturation

Less popular

Subject to ridicule or becoming socially ostracized

More likely to engage in deviant social behavior

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Effects of early maturation tend to affect boys and girls differently. Is this due to biological differences or to social and emotional factors?

 

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Earlier maturation

Unwelcome sexual attention

Feels that no longer “fits in” with peers

Lower self-esteem

More negative body image

More emotional and substance-abuse problems

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Piaget’s formal operations stage

Adolescent egocentrism

Imaginary audience

Personal fable

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© Jim West/The Image Works

The adolescent becomes capable of entering the stage of formal operations (not all do). But vestiges of egocentric thinking remain, as represented by the concepts of the imaginary audience and the personal fable.

 

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Moral

Reasoning

Lawrence
Kohlberg

Lawrence Kohlberg devised a stage theory of moral development based on subjects’ responses to hypothetical moral dilemmas. He was interested in a person’s reasoning, not necessarily their answer.

 

Kohlberg theorized that people progress through a series of three levels of moral development, each of which can be broken into 2 sublevels. Each stage represents a different way of thinking about right and wrong.

 

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Conventional
Level

Postconventional
Level

Preconventional
Level

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3

Stage 4

Stage 5

Stage 6

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Obedience
and
Punishment
Orientation

Behavior is
good if it goes
unpunished

Instrumental
Purpose
Orientation

Behavior is
good if it serves
one’s needs
or interests

Good Boy/
Nice Girl
Orientation

Behavior is
good when
it meets
with other’s
approval

Concrete
Operational
Period

Behavior is
good when
it rigidly
conforms
to rules and
laws needed
to maintain
social order

Authority or
Law-and-Order
Orientation

Right and
wrong is based
on mutual
agreement
in the interest
of the common
good, not on
a rigid set of
absolute rules
and laws

Social
Contract
Orientation

Right and wrong
determined by
one’s own moral
code; universal
ethical principles
of justice take
precedence
over rules
and laws

Universal
Ethical
Principles
Orientation

Younger children at the preconventional level think in terms of external authority – acts are considered wrong or right based on whether or not they are punished for them.

 

Older children who have reached the conventional level of moral reasoning see rules as necessary for maintaining social order.

 

Adolescence represents the move to the postconventional level of moral reasoning, where acts are individually judged by a personal code of ethics.

 

Criticisms of Kohlberg’s model

  • Moral reasoning and moral behaviors are not always consistent with each other
  • Is moral development more continuous or actually stage-based?
  • Is postconventional thinking too subjective to Kohlberg’s opinions of what is and is not moral?
  • Is his theory biased because it is based on cultural (Western) and gender (male) grounds?

Carol Gilligan has proposed a different model that suggests men are oriented toward “justice” while women are oriented toward “care.” Research suggests that there are some gender differences, but not as stark as Gilligan may have suggested.

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This video explains moral development, and shows children’s responses to moral dilemmas.

 

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Stage 5

Adolescence

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Erikson and

The Challenge

Of Identity
Versus
Role Diffusion

Who am I
and where
am I going?

According to theorist Erik Erikson, the key challenge of adolescence is to form a clear sense of ego identity – a clear and stable sense of who we are, what we believe in, and where we are headed in life.

 

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Peer Relationships

Adolescent Sexuality

© Brendan O'Sullivan/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Peer relationships in adolescence are important for a number of purposes: Helping to learn about relating to/fitting in with others; bolstering self-esteem and emotional adjustment; and learning about themselves.

Parental concerns about children “running with the wrong crowd” are valid, but can be offset by close parent-teen relationships and communication.

Adolescent sexuality is a challenge that all must negotiate, and it is particularly difficult for non-heterosexual adolescents.

Sexual intercourse frequency has declined, as has teen pregnancy, in recent years, but sexual exploration in adolescence is still a topic the requires attention. 

Some recommendations for increasing sexual restraint include:

Living in an in-tact family

Having family with low conflict levels

Having at least one parent who is a college graduate

Placing importance on religion and attendance at religious services

Having reduced exposure to sexual content (magazines, television shows, music, video games)

Self-acceptance is an important part of the “coming out” process for gay adolescents, and acceptance from peers and family members can help to facilitate this and enhance positive self-directed feelings and self-esteem.

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Module 9.5

Early and Middle
Adulthood

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Reaches a peak in early adulthood

Cognitive changes

Changes in fluid intelligence

Changes in crystallized intelligence

Declines in some types of memory functioning

Physical changes

Loss of lean body tissue, especially muscle

Women experience menopause

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What are some of the changes that occur during adulthood in physical and cognitive development?

 

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© Cengage Learning

Fluid intelligence shows the greatest changes as we age. We become less capable of solving problems quickly, remembering new information, solving puzzles and analyzing spatial relationships, and applying reasoning skills to hypothetical problems.

 

 

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© Cengage Learning

Yet crystallized intelligence, the type of intelligence represented by accumulated knowledge and skills, including numerical and verbal abilities, remains relatively intact as we age and may even increase in some respects (expanded vocabulary).

 

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Loss of lean body tissue, particularly muscle,
begins in the 20s

Loss of 30% of muscle cells between 20 and
70 years of age

Menopause typically occurs in the 40s or 50s
for women

Men experience a decline of testosterone, but it
is gradual and men usually remain fertile well into
later adulthood

 

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Early
Adulthood

Middle
Adulthood

Stage 6

Stage 7

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Intimacy
Versus
Isolation

Am I ready to
form an intimate
relationship
with another
person?

Generativity
Versus
Stagnation

What will I
give back to
the younger
generation?

According to Erikson, early and middle adulthood each involve a single stage of psychosocial development marked by these life challenges or crises:

 

Intimacy vs. isolation concerns the challenged involved in sharing emotional intimacy with others, which should resolve in the formation of strong intimate relationships marked by empathy and openness.

 

Generativity vs. stagnation involves concern for future generations, resulting in unselfish guidance to younger people (versus remaining stagnant in a state of self-absorption).

 

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Module 9.6

Late Adulthood

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Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, Health, United States, 2007, Figure 1.

Number in millions

Year

10

20

30

40

50

60

1950

1960

1980

1970

1990

2000

2010

2020

2030

2040

2050

70

80

90

100

Projected

65+ years

75+ years

The numbers of Americans in the 65+ age range has rising steadily and is expected to continue to do through the first half of the 21st century.

 

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General decline in sensory and motor abilities

Physical changes

Cognitive changes

Declines in performance
on fluid intelligence-
related tasks

Declines in memory functioning

Creativity does not necessarily decline

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© Journal-Courier/Clayton Stalter/The Image Works

How do we change as we age during late adulthood? What can we do to best compensate for these changes?

 

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Age related physical changes include changes in appearance, neuron loss, sensory loss, and hormonal changes. Research indicates that menopause is not as problematic as once thought.

 

Cognitive functioning research indicates that general mental ability remains fairly stable. Fluid intelligence is more likely to decline with age, while crystallized intelligence remains stable or increases.

 

Mental speed declines in late adulthood, and memory losses have been reported in many studies. These are moderate and variable.

This video shows declining mental acuity in aging adults, as well as measures taken to prevent the decline.

 

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© Victoria Roberts/www.cartoonbank.com

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Some people develop dementia in late adulthood,
most often as the result of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)

AD is one of the leading causes of death in older
adults in the U.S.

Symptoms include

Severe memory loss

Changes in cognition (judgment, reasoning) and personality

Physical changes in the brain

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Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disease of unknown origin; it is not a consequence of normal aging.

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Stage 8

Late
Adulthood

Keys to
Successful Aging

1. Selective optimization
with compensation

2. Optimism

3. Self-challenge

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Integrity
Versus
Despair

Has my life
been full and
meaningful
or filled
with regret?

According to Erikson, late adulthood involves one stage of psychosocial development marked by these life challenges or crises:

  

Integrity vs. despair involves overcoming the tendency to dwell on mistakes of the past and sense of despair as death draws near, versus the achievement of a sense of completeness or integrity about one’s life experiences and acceptance of the finality of death.

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Kübler-Ross’s stages of dying

Denial

Anger

Bargaining

Depression

Final acceptance

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Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified five stages of dying based on interviews with patients facing impending death. Not all patients facing impending death go through each of the stages, or necessarily the same order of stages. Nonetheless, this is a useful framework for understanding the psychological effects of facing impending death.

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Applying Psychology in Daily Life

Living Longer,
Healthier Lives

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Develop healthy exercise
and nutrition habits

Stay involved and help others

Manage stress

Exercise the mind

Practice healthy habits

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