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developmental psychology

the branch of psychology that studies the patterns of growth and change that occur throughout life

cross-sectional research

a research method that compares people of different ages at the same point in time

longituninal research

a research method that investigates behavior as participants age

sequential research

a research method that combines cross-sectional research and longitudinal research by considering a number of different age groups and examining them at several points in time

germinal period

first two weeks of development (before ebryo)

embryonic period

lasts from weeks two through eight; considered an embryo

fetal period

week eight until birth; considered a fetus

age of viability

the point at which a fetus can survive if born prematurely; about 22 weeks

critical period (sensitive period)

the time when organisms are particularly susceptible to certain kinds of stimuli


a newborn child


unlearned, involuntary responses that occur automatically in the presence of certain stimuli

rooting reflex

causes neonates to turn their heads toward things that touch their cheeks

sucking reflex

prompts infants to suck at things that touch their lips

gag reflex

clearing throat

startle reflex

series of movements in which an infant flings out the arms, fans the fingers and arches the back in response to a sudden noise

Babinski reflex

a baby's toes fan out when the outer edge of the foot is stroked


the decrease in response to a stimulus that occurs after repeated presentations of the same stimulus


the positive emotional bond that develops between a child and a particular individual

securely attached

employ the mother as a kind of home base; explore independently but return to mother occasionally; distressed when she leaves and go to her when she comes back


don't cry when the mother leaves and avoid her when she comes back


display anxiety before separation and upset when the mother leaves; seek close contact when she returns but hit and kick her


display inconsistant, contradictory behavior

authoritarian parents

parents who are rigid and punitive and value unquestioning obedience from their children

permissive parents

patents who give their children relaxed or inconsistant direction and, although they are warm, require little of them

authoritative parents

parents who are firm, set clear limits, reason with their children and explain decisions and actions

uninvolved parents

parents who show little interest in their children and are emotionally detached


one's basic, innate disposition

Erickson's Theory of Psychosocial Development

development of individual's interactions; their understanding of each other; and their knowledge and understanding of themselves as members of society

trust-versus-mistrust stage

the first stage of psychosocial development that occurs from birth to age 1 1/2 years, during which time infants develop feelings of trust or mistrust

autonomy-versus-shame-and-doubt stage

the period during which toddlers (ages 1 1/2 to 3) develop independence and autonomy if exploration and freedom are encouraged, or shame and self-doubt if they are restricted and overprotected

initiative-versus-guilt stage

the period during which children ages 3 to 6 experience conflict between independence of action and the sometimes negative results of that action

industry-versus-inferiority stage

the last stage of childhood during which children ages 6 to 12 may develop positive social interactions with others or may feel inadequate and become less sociable

cognitive development

the process by which a child's understanding of the world changes as a function of age and experience

Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

children around the world proceed through a series of stages of intellectual development in a fixed order; movement from one stage to another when the child reaches an appropriate level of maturation and is exposed to relevant types of experiences

sensorimotor stage

birth to two years; development of object permanence, development of motor skills, little or no capacity for symbolic representation

preoperational stage

two to seven years; development of language and symbolic thinking, egocentric thinking

concrete operational stage

seven to twelve years; development of conservation, mastery of concept of reversibility

formal operational stage

development of logical and abstract thinking

zone of proximal development (ZPD)

according to Vygotsky, the level at which a child can almost, but not fully, comprehend or perform a task on his or her own


when parents, teachers or skilled peers assist a child by presenting information that is both new and within the ZPD


the developmental stage between childhood and adulthood


the period at which maturation of the sexual organs occurs, usually beginning at approximately age 11 or 12 for girls and ages 13 or 14 for boys

Laurence Kohlberg

psychologist that believed people pass through a series of stages in the evolution of their sense of justice and in the kind of reasoning they use to make moral judgements

Level 1: Preconventional Morality

the concrete interests of the individual are considered in terms of rewards and punishments

Level 2: Conventional Morality

people approach moral problems as members of society; they are interested in pleasing others by acting as good members of society

Level 3: Postconventional Morality

people use moral principles which are seen as broader than those of any particular society

adolescent egocentrism

a state of self-absorption that causes a teenager to view the world from his or her point of view; leads adolescents to be highly critical of authority figures, unwilling to accept criticism and quick to fault others

midlife crisis

"crisis" caused by physical aging and dissatisfaction with one's life marks; little evidence


a broad, imprecise term typically applied to older adults who experience progressive deterioration of mental abilities, including memory loss, disorientation to time and place, and general confusion

disengagement theory of aging

a largely discredited theory that suggests that aging produces a gradual withdrawal from the world on physical, psychological and social levels

activity theory of aging

a theory that suggests that the elderly who are most successful while aging are those who maintain the interests and activities they had during middle age

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