Psi man mascot

Chapter 10: Development

Part One: The First Three Years

Part Two: Cognitive Development

Part Three: Adolescence, Adulthood and Aging

Part Four: Death and Dying

Overview of Chapter 10: Development

Developmental psychology was once nearly equivalent to child psychology. Not any more. Developmental psychologists now study the entire process of development, from the genetic process to dying.

Infancy received a burst of attention in the 1970s and 1980s. The classic view of the human infant as a tabula rasa or blank slate gave way. Infants became seen as sophist­icated infor­mation processors in their own way.

The field of childhood development was influenced by the Swiss scientist Jean Piaget in the 1970s. He introduced the idea of cognitive stages, unfolding in a logical sequence, resulting in the the child's construction of reality.

Adolescence has been portrayed in ster­eotyped ways that are largely inaccu­rate. Most teens are not dangerously rebellious. The majority have values similar to their parents.

Modern adolescence is influenced by technologies such as the smartphone. Although some older adults seem alarmed by the extent to which smartphones have taken over teenagers' free time, smart­phones may have many desirable consequences.

Adulthood and aging are increasingly the focus of academic psychologists as developed societies have increasing numbers of aged people. Cultural changes have altered several phases of life.

In developed countries, the age of first marriage is increasingly rapidly, and many couples are not marrying at all. Women around the world are taking jobs and commanding more authority. Older people re-invent themselves if they want to.

The study of death and dying as a topic within psychology is about a half century old. Researchers are interested reactions to dying, the rights and desires of dying people, hospice care, and ways to improve final experiences.

How this chapter is organized

We use a chronological organization, moving through the lifespan. We start with genetics, then we consider infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and finally death and dying.

Related topics in other chapters

Brain development is mentioned in Chapter 2 (The Human Nervous System). Bou­chard's work with identical twins reared apart is described in Chapter 11 (Person­ality Theories). That chapter also describes Adler and Horney's ideas about formative influences of early childhood.

Developmental disorders such as autism and attention deficit disorder are the focus of a section in the Abnormal Psychology chapter (Chapter 12). Changes in sexual behavior through the lifespan are discussed in Chapter 16 (Sex, Friendship, and Love).

Write to Dr. Dewey at

Don't see what you need? Psych Web has over 1,000 pages, so it may be elsewhere on the site. Do a site-specific Google search using the box below.