Lecture: Development
Reading Assignment 24:
Physical Development
Summary:
The twenty-fourth reading assignment introduces students to the discipline and methods of Developmental Psychology as well as the stages of Prenatal Development.

The definition and focus of Developmental Psychology has been modified in recent years. Originally, their was a disproportional emphasis on the early years of life. Today, we understand that the domain of Developmental Psychology is all-inclusive and includes changes in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that occur across the entire life of the individual. Life can arguably be seen as a series of challenges; if so, the main focus of Developmental Psychology is to understand those challenges and how people adapt to them. Scientists today believe that development occurs from conception until death. The Life-Span Developmental Perspective holds that meaningful and life-changing events occur beyond adolescence or teenage years. A great deal of interests, research, and new knowledge has been gained since the shift to consider the entire life-span. Now research has in later years has a more complete picture of the changes that occur in the later years of life rather than simply focusing on the hot-topics in research or popular culture like the Mid-Life Crisis or Menopause.

There are three issues that consistently reoccur throughout all of Developmental Psychology. First, is the Nature-Nurture controversy. For years, scientists have been trying to figure out how development occurs. Is it according to maturation or is the individual’s learning experience more important. Second, is the notion of windows of opportunity. Research has pointed to the existence of two types of windows of opportunity: Critical Periods and Sensitive Periods. Looking at certain species of animals has showed evidence of critical periods. Failing to gain experiences during such a window would prevent that person from dealing with types of change that they might encounter later in life. However, it may be incorrect to say that humans have Critical Periods, but rather sensitive periods. In some areas, including language, the “window of opportunity” could be crucial for adapting to change later in life but not critical. Take into account a child who was never exposed to language, this child would still be able speak, but may lack when it comes to the use of proper syntax. The third basic concern of developmental change deals with whether development occurs in stages. Several theories have been proposed that prescribe to fixed stages; however, modern theorists often challenge whether these theories really exist or whether they are categories for Processes (See also Reading Assignment 24: Cognitive Development).

Physical Development: The Beginning
Much of what we know about the process of Prenatal Development originates from the discipline of biology. For the purposes of this textbook, we will discuss three periods of Prenatal Development: Germinal Period, Embryonic Period, and Fetal Period. The periods of Prenatal Development should not be confused with trimesters. A Trimester is a period of time that approximates three calendar months (Merriam Webster) and, with respect to pregnancy, is the division of the weeks of pregnancy during which the mother’s body undergoes changes. Prenatal periods, on the other hand, refer to the changes that are occurring with the unborn fetus. During the second trimester of pregnancy, the mother will experience bodily changes such as the expansion of her abdomen. During the second prenatal period, bodily changes will be happening with the fetus such as the growth of organs. Throughout this process, the growing fetus is susceptible to different Teratogens. These Teratogens might lead to abnormalities in the fetus or even death. Alcohol is one the most common teratogens that lead to fetal abnormality. The consequences of a mother who consumes alcohol during her pregnancy could be a child that is born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, also known as FAS. Researchers have not found the definitive amount of alcohol consumption that leads to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and likely never will for ethical and physiological reasons. Ethically, it would not be appropriate to permit or even observe alcohol consumption in an expectant mother. After the child is born, after the fact research questions are not likely to aid in the determination of the amount of alcohol that caused the disorder. Finally, human metabolisms are often very different and also tolerance to alcohol also likely plays an important role.

Physical Development: After Birth
As infants reach childhood, the growth for boys and girls is mostly equal until they reach the age of 10. At this time there are significant changes in psychological development and in the size and shape of the body. While these milestones are usually hit around the same time and as adolescence begins, boys and girls individually vary at the age they will hit Puberty. Girls hitting Puberty at an early age tend to be associated with negative outcomes like delinquency, while boys who hit puberty at an early age tend to be associated with positive ones like being more athletic.

As men and women reach middle adulthood there are still developmental changes that are occurring. For women, Menopause is seen to be the most dramatic change experienced in their adult life. While males do not undergo any reproductive changes, it said that men experience a male menopause where from their forties and beyond testosterone levels drop and sexual activity in turn declines. Menopause is not to be confused with the mid-life crisis, which is arguable, if one prescribes to this notion, psychological in nature and not necessarily predicted or caused by physical changes in or of the body.

In early life, most developmental changes were physical. As humans reach elderly age there are still some physical changes occurring, but there are more significant sensory changes. Elderly people tend to experience hearing loss and also experience Presbycusis which can make things like hearing a telephone ringing more difficult. It is true that as humans get older there is deterioration in some parts of functioning, but that comes along with development. Universally, people have different perceptions of the elderly. Ageism can be positive or negative. Someone may have the notion that all elderly people are sweet while someone else may believe that all elderly people are unable to drive.


References:

Draft of Summary
Bryant, Nichel. (2013, Spring). Assignment 6. Draft of summary submitted in partial fulfillment of Advanced Experimental (RPS 411).

Stewart, Alexis. (2013, Spring). Assignment 6. Draft of summary submitted in partial fulfillment of Advanced Experimental (RPS 411).




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