Development Through the Lifespan
Laura E. Berk
Preface for Instructors
My decision to write Development Through the Lifespan was inspired by a wealth of professional and
personal experiences. First and foremost were the interests and concerns of hundreds of students of human
development with whom I have worked in over three decades of college teaching. Each semester, their
insights and questions have revealed how an understanding of any single period of development is enriched
by an appreciation of the entire lifespan. Second, as I moved through adult development myself, I began to
think more intensely about factors that have shaped and reshaped my own life course--family, friends,
mentors, co-workers, community, and larger society. My career well-established, my marriage having stood
the test of time, and my children launched into their adult lives, I felt that a deeper grasp of these multiple,
interacting influences would help me better appreciate where I had been and where I would be going in the
years ahead. I was also convinced that such knowledge could contribute to my becoming a better teacher,
scholar, family member, and citizen. And because teaching has been so central and gratifying to my work
life, I wanted to bring to others a personally meaningful understanding of lifespan development.
The years since Development Through the Lifespan first appeared have been a period of considerable
expansion and change in theory and research. This fourth edition represents these rapidly transforming
aspects of the field, with a wealth of new content and teaching tools:
Diverse pathways of change are highlighted. Investigators have reached broad consensus that
variations in biological makeup and everyday tasks lead to wide individual differences in paths of
change and resulting competencies. This edition pays more attention to variability in development and
to recent theories--including ecological, sociocultural, and dynamic systems--that attempt to explain
it. Multicultural and cross-cultural findings, including international comparisons, are enhanced
throughout the text. Biology and Environment and Cultural Influences boxes also accentuate the theme
of diversity in development.
The lifespan perspective is emphasized. As in previous editions, the lifespan perspective--development
is lifelong, multidimensional, multidirectional, plastic, and embedded in multiple contexts--continues
to serve as a unifying approach to understanding human change and is woven thoroughly into the text.
In addition, special Lifespan Vista boxes discuss lifespan-perspective assumptions and consider
development across a wide age span.
The complex, bidirectional relationship between biology and environment is given greater attention.
Accumulating evidence on development of the brain, motor skills, cognitive and language
competencies, temperament and personality, and developmental problems underscores the way
biological factors emerge in, are modified by, and share power with experience. Interconnections
between biology and environment are integral to the lifespan perspective and are revisited throughout
the text narrative and in the Biology and Environment boxes with new and updated topics.
Inclusion of interdisciplinary research is expanded. The move toward viewing thoughts, feelings, and
behavior as an integrated whole, affected by a wide array of influences in biology, social context, and
culture, has motivated developmental researchers to strengthen their ties with other fields of
psychology and with other disciplines. Topics and findings included in this edition increasingly reflect
the contributions of educational psychology, social psychology, health psychology, clinical
psychology, neuropsychology, biology, pediatrics, geriatrics, sociology, anthropology, social welfare,
and other fields.
The links among theory, research, and applications are strengthened. As researchers intensify their
efforts to generate findings relevant to real-life situations, I have placed even greater weight on social
policy issues and sound theory- and research-based applications. Further applications are provided in
the Applying What We Know tables, which give students concrete ways of building bridges between
their learning and the real world.
The role of active student learning is made more explicit. Ask Yourself questions at the end of each
major section have been thoroughly revised and expanded to promote four approaches to engaging
actively with the subject matter--Review, Apply, Connect, and Reflect. The new Reflect questions help
make the study of lifespan development personally meaningful by encouraging students to take a well-
reasoned stand on important issues and to relate theory and research to their own lives. In addition,
highlighting of key terms within the text narrative reinforces student learning in context.
The basic approach of this book has been shaped by my own professional and personal history as a teacher,
researcher, and parent. It consists of seven philosophical ingredients that I regard as essential for students to
emerge from a course with a thorough understanding of lifespan development. Each theme is woven into
1. An understanding of the diverse array of theories in the field and the strengths and shortcomings
of each. The first chapter begins by emphasizing that only knowledge of multiple theories can do
justice to the richness of human development. As I take up each age period and domain of
development, I present a variety of theoretical perspectives, indicate how each highlights previously
overlooked aspects of development, and discuss research that evaluates it. Consideration of contrasting
theories also serves as the context for an evenhanded analysis of many controversial issues.
2. A grasp of the lifespan perspective as an integrative approach to development. I introduce the
lifespan perspective as an organizing framework in the first chapter and refer to and illustrate its
assumptions throughout the text, in an effort to help students construct an overall vision of
development from conception to death.
3. Knowledge of both the sequence of human development and the processes that underlie it.
Students are provided with a discussion of the organized sequence of development along with
processes of change. An understanding of process--how complex combinations of biological and
environmental events produce development--has been the focus of most recent research. Accordingly,
the text reflects this emphasis. But new information about the timetable of change has also emerged. In
many ways, the very young and the old have proved to be far more competent than they were believed
to be in the past. In addition, many milestones of adult development, such as finishing formal
education, entering a career, getting married, having children, and retiring, have become less
predictable. Current evidence on the sequence and timing of development, along with its implications
for process, is presented for all periods of the lifespan.
4. An appreciation of the impact of context and culture on human development. A wealth of
research indicates that people live in rich physical and social contexts that affect all domains of
development. Throughout the book, students travel to distant parts of the world as I review a growing
body of cross-cultural evidence. The text narrative also discusses many findings on socioeconomically
and ethnically diverse people within the United States and Canada. Furthermore, the impact of
historical time period and cohort membership receives continuous attention. In this vein, gender
issues--the distinctive but continually evolving experiences, roles, and life paths of males and
females--are granted substantial emphasis. Besides highlighting the effects of immediate settings,
such as family, neighborhood, and school, I make a concerted effort to underscore the influence of
larger social structures--societal values, laws, and government programs--on lifelong well-being.
5. An understanding of the joint contributions of biology and environment to development. The
field recognizes more powerfully than ever before the joint roles of hereditary/constitutional and
environmental factors--that these contributions to development combine in complex ways and cannot
be separated in a simple manner. Numerous examples of how biological dispositions can be
maintained as well as transformed by social contexts are presented throughout the book.
6. A sense of the interdependency of all domains of development--physical, cognitive, emotional,
and social. Every chapter emphasizes an integrated approach to human development. I show how
physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development are interwoven. Within the text narrative, and
in a special series of Ask Yourself questions at the end of major sections, students are referred to other
sections of the book to deepen their grasp of relationships among various aspects of change.
7. An appreciation of the interrelatedness of theory, research, and applications. Throughout this
book, I emphasize that theories of human development and the research stimulated by them provide the
foundation for sound, effective practices with children, adolescents, and adults. The link among theory,
research, and applications is reinforced by an organizational format in which theory and research are
presented first, followed by practical implications. In addition, a current focus in the field--harnessing
knowledge of human development to shape social policies that support human needs throughout the
lifespan--is reflected in every chapter. The text addresses the current condition of children,
adolescents, and adults in the United States, Canada, and around the world and shows how theory and
research have combined with public interest to spark successful interventions. Many important applied
topics are considered, such as family planning, infant mortality, maternal employment and child care,
teenage pregnancy and parenthood, domestic violence, exercise and adult health, lifelong learning,
grandparents rearing grandchildren, adjustment to retirement, adapting to widowhood, and palliative
care for the dying.
I have chosen a chronological organization for Development Through the Lifespan. The book begins with
an introductory chapter that describes the history of the field, contemporary theories, and research
strategies. It is followed by two chapters on the foundations of development. Chapter 2 combines an
overview of biological and environmental contexts into a single, integrated discussion of these multifaceted
influences on development. Chapter 3 is devoted to prenatal development, birth, and the newborn baby.
With this foundation, students are ready to look closely at seven major age periods: infancy and
toddlerhood (Chapters 4, 5, and 6), early childhood (Chapters 7 and 8), middle childhood (Chapters 9 and
10), adolescence (Chapters 11 and 12), early adulthood (Chapters 13 and 14), middle adulthood (Chapters
15 and 16), and late adulthood (Chapters 17 and 18). Topical chapters within each chronological division
cover physical development, cognitive development, and emotional and social development. The book
concludes with a chapter on death, dying, and bereavement (Chapter 19).
The chronological approach assists students in thoroughly understanding each age period. It also eases
the task of integrating the various domains of development because each is discussed in close proximity. At
the same time, a chronologically organized book requires that theories covering several age periods be
presented piecemeal. This creates a challenge for students, who must link the various parts together. To
assist with this task, I frequently remind students of important earlier achievements before discussing new
developments, referring back to related sections with page references. Also, chapters or sections devoted to
the same topic (for example, cognitive development) are similarly organized, making it easier for students
to draw connections across age periods and construct an overall view of developmental change.
New Coverage in the Fourth Edition
Lifespan development is a fascinating and ever-changing field of study, with constantly emerging new
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