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developmental psychology

the branch of psychology concerned with physical, cognitive, and social change throughout the life span


Greek for "joint," it is the fertilized egg; the cluster of cells formed during conception by the union of sperm and egg


the developing prenatal human from about 2 weeks to 2 months after conception


developing prenatal human from 9 weeks after conception to birth


(literally, "poisons") any drugs, viruses, or other substances that cross the mother's placenta and can harm the developing embryo or fetus

fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)

the physical and cognitive abnormalities that heavy drinking by a pregnant woman may cause in the developing child

rooting reflex

the newborn's tendency, when the cheek is stroked, to orient toward the stimulus and begin sucking


a simple form of learning used to study infant cognition. It is the baby's decreasing responsiveness to a stimulus that is repeatedly presented


the biological growth processes that enable orderly changes in behavior and are relatively uninfluenced by experience or other environmental factors Ex: the ability to walk depends on a certain level of neural and muscular maturation; so, until a the toddler's body is physically ready to walk, practice "walking" has little effect


related to Piaget's theory of cognitive development; these are mental concepts or frameworks that organize and interpret information


interpreting a new experience in terms of an existing schema


changing an existing schema to incorporate new information that cannot be assimilated


all the mental processes associated with thinking, knowing, remembering, and communicating

sensorimotor stage

in Piaget's theory of cognitive stages, this stage lasts from birth to about age 2. In this stage, infants gain knowledge of the world through their senses and their motor activities

object permanence

this develops during Piaget's sensorimotor stage; the awareness that things do not cease to exist when not perceived

preoperational stage

in Piaget's theory of cognitive stages, this stage lasts from about 2 to age 6 or 7 years old. In this stage, language development is quick, but the child in not able to understand the mental operations of concrete logic


in Piaget's theory of cognitive stages, this ability is acquired during the concrete operational stage. It is the principle that properties such as number, volume, and mass remain constant despite changes in the forms of objects.


the difficulty that preoperational children have in considering another person's viewpoint. "ego" means "self" and "centrism" means "in the center"; the preoperational child is "self-centered"

theory of mind

our ideas about our own and others' thoughts, feelings, and perceptions and the behaviors these might predict


a disorder that appears in childhood marked by deficiencies in communication, social interaction, and theory of mind

concrete operational stage

in Piaget's theory of cognitive stages, children from about ages 6 or 7 to 11 can think logically about concrete events and objects

formal operational stage

in Piaget's theory of cognitive stages, children from about the age of 12 begin to think logically about abstract concepts
Memory aid to help differentiate: "operations" are mental transformations. PREoperational children lack the ability to perform transformations so they are "before" this developmental milestone. Concrete operational children can operate on real, or concrete objects. Formal operational children can perform logical transformations on abstract concepts.

stranger anxiety

fear of strangers that infants begin to display at about 8 months old


emotional tie with another person, shown in young children by their seeking closeness to a caregiver and showing distress on separation

critical period

limited time shortly after birth when an organism must be exposed to certain experiences or influences if it is to develop properly


the process by which certain animals form attachments during a limited critical period early in life

basic trust

a sense that the world is predictable and trustworthy - a concept that infants form if their needs are met by responsive caregiving


a person's sense of identity and personal worth


the life stage from puberty to independent adulthood, denoted by physically by a growth spurt and maturation of primary and secondary sex characteristics, cognitively by the onset of formal operational thought, and socially by the formation of identity


the early adolescent period of sexual maturation when a person becomes capable of reproduction

primary sex characteristics

the body structures (ovaries, testes, and external genitalia) that enable reproduction

secondary sex characteristics

the nonreproductive sexual reproductive sexual characteristics (female breasts, male voice quality, and body hair.)


the first menstrual period


in Erikson's theory, a sense of self is the primary task of adolescence


in Erikson's theory, the ability to establish close, loving relationships is the primary task of late adolescence and early adulthood


cessation of menstruation and typically occurs in the early fifties. It also refers to the biological and psychological changes experienced during a woman's years of declining ability to reproduce

Alzheimer's disease

a progressive and irreversible brain disorder caused by deterioration of neurons that produce acetylcholine (ACh). It is characterized by a gradual loss of memory, reasoning, language, and finally, physical functioning

cross-sectional study

people of different ages are compared with one another

longitudinal study

the same people are tested and retested over a period of years

crystalllized intelligence

those aspects of intellectual ability such as vocabulary and general knowledge reflecting accumulated learning. This type of intelligence tends to increase with age

fluid intelligence

a person's ability to reason speedily and abstractly. This type of intelligence tends to decline with age

social clock

the culturally preferred timing of social events such as leaving home, marrying, having children, and retiring

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