In this module, you learned to
- compare and contrast theories lifespan development theories
- explain the physical, cognitive, and emotional development that occurs from infancy through childhood
- describe physical, cognitive, and emotional development in adolescence and adulthood
Our understanding of human nature has come a long way since the belief that children were just little adults in need of instruction. Through ongoing research, we now know that children hit certain milestones that enable them to take another viewpoint or understand the law of conservation, that babies can understand enough about the world around them to make moral judgments, and that issues of physical, social, and cognitive importance change across the lifespan.
Adolescence is one of the time periods of interest to psychologists, especially due to the focus on identity formation, which often involves a period of exploration followed by commitments to particular identities. Adolescence is characterized by risky behavior, which is made more likely by changes in the brain in which reward-processing centers develop more rapidly than cognitive control systems, making adolescents more sensitive to rewards than to possible negative consequences.
Marcia (1966) described identify formation during adolescence as involving both decision points and commitments with respect to ideologies (e.g., religion, politics) and occupations. He described four identity statuses: foreclosure, identity diffusion, moratorium, and identity achievement.
- Foreclosure occurs when an individual commits to an identity without exploring options.
- Identity diffusion occurs when adolescents neither explore nor commit to any identities.
- Moratorium is a state in which adolescents are actively exploring options but have not yet made commitments.
- Identity achievement occurs when individuals have explored different options and then made identity commitments.
Think about your own adolescent experience (you may consider yourself still in this life stage). Which identity status best fits with your own experience? Do you feel committed to your current identity, or do you feel as though you are still developing? Regardless of your answer, you can rest assured that human development does not end with adolescence, and research proves that people can continue to learn, grow, and even change as long as they would like.