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Developmental psychology

The branch of psychology that studies how people change over the lifespan


A long, threadlike structure composed of DNA; a person's "genetic blueprint"

Deoxyribunucleic acid (DNA)

The chemical basis of heredity; carries all genetic instructions


The basic unit of heredity that directs the development of particular characteristics; can be recessive or dominant


The genetic makeup of an individual organism

Human genome

The scientific description of the complete set of DNA in the human organism, including gene locations

Prenatal stage of development

Stage of development before birth that is divided into three stages: germinal, embryonic, and fetal periods

Germinal period

The first two weeks of prenatal development

Embryonic period

The second period of prenatal development, extending from the third week through the eighth week


Harmful substances that can cause defects in an embryo or fetus

Fetal period

The third and longest period of prenatal development, extending from the ninth week until birth


Inborn predispositions to consistently behave and react in a certain way

Three categories of infant temperament

About two-thirds of infants fit into one of three broad temperamental patterns: easy, difficult, and slow-to-warm-up. The other one-third of infants are characterized as average because they do not fit neatly into one of these categories


Emotional bond that forms between an infant and his or her caregivers

Attachment theory

Theory supporting the notion that an infant's ability to thrive physically and psychologically depend sin part of the quality of attachment

Infant-directed speech

A type of speaking commonly used with infants that is characterized by very distinct pronunciation, a simplified vocabulary, and exaggerated intonation. Also called motherese

Comprehension vocabulary

The words that are understood by an infant or child

Production vocabulary

The words that an infant or child understands and can speak

Sensorimotor stage

In Piaget's theory, the first stage of cognitive development, during which an infant explores the environment and acquires knowledge through sensing and manipulating objects. Age range: birth age 2.

Object permanence

The understanding that an object continues to exist even when it can no longer be seen

Preoperational stage

In Piaget's theory, the second stage of cognitive development, characterized by increasing use of symbols and prelogical though processes. Age range: age 2 to age 7.

Symbolic thought

Ability to use words, images and symbols to represent the world


In Piaget's theory, the inability to take another person's perspective or point of view

Concrete operational stage

In Piaget's theory, the third stage of cognitive development, characterized by the ability to think logically about concrete objects and situations. Age range: age 7 to adolescence.

Formal operational stage

In Piaget's theory, the fourth stage of cognitive development, characterized by the ability to think logically about abstract principles or hypothetical situations. Age range: adolescence to adulthood.

Zone of proximal development

In Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development, the difference between what children can accomplish on their own and what they can accomplish with the help of others who are more competent

Information-processing model

The model that views cognitive development as a process that is continuous over the lifespan


The transitional stage between late childhood and the beginning of adulthood, during which sexual maturity is reached


The stage of adolescence in which an individual reaches sexual maturity and becomes physiologically capable of sexual reproduction

Primary sex characteristics

Sexual organs that are directly involved in reproduction, such as the uterus, ovaries, penis and testicles

Secondary sex characteristics

Sexual characteristics that develop during puberty and are not directly involved in reproduction but differentiate between the sexes, such as male facial hair and female breast development

Adolescent growth spurt

Period of accelerated growth during puberty, involving rapid increases in height and weight


Female's first menstrual period, which occurs during puberty


A person's definition or description of oneself including values, beliefs, and ideals that guide the individual's behavior

Psychosocial development

A theory proposed by Erik Erikson that there are eight stages of life and that each stage is associated with a particular psychosocial conflict hat can be resolved in a positive or negative direction

Identity versus role confusion

In Erikson's theory, the key psychosocial conflict facing adolescent in which the adolescent must integrate various dimensions of personality into a coherent whole

Intimacy versus isolation

In Erikson's theory, the key psychosocial conflict facing young adults in which they must establish lasting and meaningful relationships and develop a sense of connectedness and intimacy with others

Generativity versus stagnation

In Erikson's theory, the key psychosocial conflict facing middle-age adults in which they must develop the ability to express unselfish concern for the welfare of the next generation

Ego integrity versus despair

In Erikson's theory, the key psychosocial conflict facing older adults in which they experience a strong sense of self-acceptence and meaningfulness based on life accomplishments


The natural cessation of menstruation and end of reproductive capacity in women


Twenties to approximately age 65; establish career, form bonds of love and friends, and contribute to society

Late adulthood

Sixty-five and beyond; completion of the life cycle, hopefully with a sense of dignity and fulfillment

Activity theory of aging

The psychosocial theory that life satisfaction in late adulthood is highest when people maintain the level of activity they displayed earlier in life

Stages of dying

Theory by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross that states that dying consist of five distinct stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance

Authoritarian parenting style

Parenting style in which parents are demanding and unresponsive toward their children's needs or wishes

Permissive parenting style

Parenting style in which parents are extremely tolerant and undemanding; parents may be indulgent-permissive or indifferent-permissive

Authoritative parenting style

Parenting style in which parents set clear standards for their children, but are also responsive to their needs and wishes

Moral reasoning

Aspect of cognitive development that has to do with how an individual reasons about moral decisions

Levels of moral development

Theory proposed by Lawrence Kohlberg that moral reasoning can be categorized into three distinct levels: preconventional, conventional and postconventional

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