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A U.S. organization of people aged 50 and older that advocates for the elderly. It was originally called the American Association of Retired Persons, but now only the initials AARP are used, since members need not be retired.

absent grief

A situation in which mourners do not grieve, either because other people do not allow grief to be expressed or because the mourners do not allow themselves to feel sadness.


The restructuring of old ideas to include new experiences.

achievement test

A measure of mastery or proficiency in reading, mathematics, writing, science, or some other subject.

active euthanasia

A situation in which someone takes action to bring about another person's death, with the intention of ending that person's suffering.

activities of daily life (ADLs)

Typically identified as five tasks of self-care that are important to independent living: eating, bathing, toileting, dressing, and transferring from a bed to a chair. The inability to perform any of these tasks is a sign of frailty.

activity theory

The view that elderly people want and need to remain active in a variety of social spheres—with relatives, friends, and community groups—and become withdrawn only unwillingly, as a result of ageism.

adolescence-limited offender

A person whose criminal activity stops by age 21.

adolescent egocentrism

A characteristic of adolescent thinking that leads young people (ages 10 to 13) to focus on themselves to the exclusion of others.


A legal proceeding in which an adult or couple unrelated to a child is granted the joys and obligations of being that child's parent(s).

adrenal glands

Two glands, located above the kidneys, that produce hormones (including the "stress hormones" epinephrine [adrenaline] and norepinephrine).


An opportunity for perception and interaction that is offered by a person, place, or object in the environment.

age of viability

The age (about 22 weeks after conception) at which a fetus may survive outside the mother's uterus if specialized medical care is available.


A prejudice whereby people are categorized and judged solely on the basis of their chronological age.


Rejected by peers because of antagonistic, confrontational behavior.

aging in place

Remaining in the same home and community in later life, adjusting but not leaving when health fades.


A variation that makes a gene different in some way from other genes for the same characteristics. Many genes never vary; others have several possible alleles.

allostatic load

The total, combined burden of physiological stresses (such as high blood pressure) that an individual lives with. A high allostatic load increases the risk of disease.

Alzheimer disease (AD)

The most common cause of dementia, characterized by gradual deterioration of memory and personality and marked by the formation of plaques of beta-amyloid protein and tangles of tau in the brain. (Sometimes calledsenile dementia of the Alzheimer type.)


A tiny brain structure that registers emotions, particularly fear and anxiety.

analytic intelligence

A form of intelligence that involves such mental processes as abstract planning, strategy selection, focused attention, and information processing, as well as verbal and logical skills.

analytic thought

Thought that results from analysis, such as a systematic ranking of pros and cons, risks and consequences, possibilities and facts. Analytic thought depends on logic and rationality.


A term coined to signify a drop in testosterone levels in older men, which normally results in reduced sexual desire, erections, and muscle mass. (Also called male menopause.)


The belief that natural objects and phenomena are alive.

anorexia nervosa

An eating disorder characterized by self-starvation. Affected individuals voluntarily undereat and often overexercise, depriving their vital organs of nutrition. Anorexia can be fatal.


A lack of oxygen that, if prolonged, can cause brain damage or death.


Chemical compounds that nullify the effects of oxygen free radicals by forming a bond with their unattached oxygen electron.


Feelings of dislike or even hatred for another person.

antisocial behavior

Feelings and actions that are deliberately hurtful or destructive to another person.


A proposition or statement of belief that opposes the thesis; the second stage of the process of dialectical thinking.

Apgar scale

A quick assessment of a newborn's health. The baby's color, heart rate, reflexes, muscle tone, and respiratory effort are given a score of 0, 1, or 2 twice—at one minute and five minutes after birth—and each time the total of all five scores is compared with the maximum score of 10 (rarely attained).

apprenticeship in thinking

Vygotsky's term for how cognition is stimulated and developed in people by older and more skilled members of society.


The potential to master a specific skill or to learn a certain body of knowledge.


The reinterpretation of new experiences to fit into old ideas.

assisted living

A living arrangement for elderly people that combines privacy and independence with medical supervision.

assisted reproductive technology (ART)

A general term for the techniques designed to help infertile couples conceive and then sustain a pregnancy.


A chronic disease of the respiratory system in which inflammation narrows the airways from the nose and mouth to the lungs, causing difficulty in breathing. Signs and symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing.


According to Ainsworth, an affectional tie that an infant forms with a caregiver—a tie that binds them together in space and endures over time.

attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

A condition in which a person not only has great difficulty concentrating for more than a few moments but also is inattentive, impulsive, and overactive.

authoritarian parenting

An approach to child rearing that is characterized by high behavioral standards, strict punishment of misconduct, and little communication.

authoritative parenting

An approach to child rearing in which the parents set limits but listen to the child and are flexible.


A developmental disorder marked by an inability to relate to other people normally, extreme self-absorption, and an inability to acquire normal speech.

autistic spectrum disorder

Any of several disorders characterized by inadequate social skills, impaired communication, and unusual play.

automatic processing

Thinking that occurs without deliberate, conscious thought. Experts process most tasks automatically, saving conscious thought for unfamiliar challenges.


A process in which repetition of a sequence of thoughts and actions makes the sequence routine, so that it no longer requires conscious thought.

autonomy versus shame and doubt

Erikson's second crisis of psychosocial development. Toddlers either succeed or fail in gaining a sense of self-rule over their own actions and bodies.

average life expectancy

The number of years the average newborn in a particular population group is likely to live.


A fiber that extends from a neuron and transmits electrochemical impulses from that neuron to the dendrites of other neurons.

B cells

Immune cells manufactured in the bone marrow that create antibodies for isolating and destroying bacteria and viruses that invade the body.


The extended repetition of certain syllables, such as ba-ba-ba, that begins when babies are between 6 and 9 months old.

balanced bilingual

A person who is fluent in two languages, not favoring one over the other.

base rate neglect

A common fallacy in which a person ignores the overall frequency of some behavior or characteristic (called the base rate) in making a decision. For example, a person might bet on a "lucky" lottery number without considering the odds that that number will be selected.

behavioral teratogens

Agents and conditions that can harm the prenatal brain, impairing the future child's intellectual and emotional functioning.


A grand theory of human development that studies observable behavior. Behaviorism is also called learning theory because it describes the laws and processes by which behavior is learned.


The complicated and multifaceted feelings of loss following a death.


A protein that makes up the plaques that are found in the tissues surrounding neurons.


Petty, peevish arguing, usually repeated and ongoing.

Big Five

The five basic clusters of personality traits that remain quite stable throughout adulthood: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

bilingual schooling

A strategy in which school subjects are taught in both the learner's original language and the second (majority) language.

binocular vision

The ability to focus the two eyes in a coordinated manner in order to see one image. This ability is absent at birth.

bipolar disorder

A condition characterized by extreme mood swings, from euphoria to deep depression, not caused by outside experiences.


The condition of data gatherers (and sometimes participants as well) who are deliberately kept ignorant of the purpose of the research so that they cannot unintentionally bias the results.

BMI (body mass index)

A person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters.

body image

A person's idea of how his or her body looks.

body mass index (BMI)

The ratio of a person's weight in kilograms divided by his or her height in meters squared.

Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS)

A test often administered to newborns that measures responsiveness and records 46 behaviors, including 20 reflexes.

bulimia nervosa

An eating disorder characterized by binge eating and subsequent purging, usually by induced vomiting and/or use of laxatives.


Someone who attacks others and who is attacked as well. (Also calledprovocative victims because they do things that elicit bullying, such as stealing a bully's pencil.)


Repeated, systematic efforts to inflict harm through physical, verbal, or social attack on a weaker person.

bullying aggression

Unprovoked, repeated physical or verbal attack, especially on victims who are unlikely to defend themselves.

calorie restriction

The practice of limiting dietary energy intake (while consuming sufficient quantities of vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients) for the purpose of improving health and slowing down the aging process.

cardiovascular disease

Disease that involves the heart and the circulatory system.


A person whose genotype includes a gene that is not expressed in the phenotype. Such an unexpressed gene occurs in half of the carrier's gametes and thus is passed on to half of the carrier's children, who will most likely be carriers, too. Generally, only when such a gene is inherited from both parents does the characteristic appear in the phenotype.


A person who has lived 100 years or more.

center day care

Child care that occurs in a place especially designed for the purpose, where several paid adults care for many children. Usually, the children are grouped by age, the day-care center is licensed, and providers are trained and certified in child development.


A characteristic of preoperational thought in which a young child focuses (centers) on one idea, excluding all others.

cerebral palsy

A disorder that results from damage to the brain's motor centers. People with cerebral palsy have difficulty with muscle control, so their speech and/or body movements are impaired.

cesarean section (c-section)

A surgical birth, in which incisions through the mother's abdomen and uterus allow the fetus to be removed quickly, instead of being delivered through the vagina. (Also called simply section.)

charter school

A public school with its own set of standards that is funded and licensed by the state or local district in which it is located.

child abuse

Deliberate action that is harmful to a child's physical, emotional, or sexual well-being.

child maltreatment

Intentional harm to or avoidable endangerment of anyone under 18 years of age.

child neglect

Failure to meet a child's basic physical, educational, or emotional needs.

child sexual abuse

Any erotic activity that arouses an adult and excites, shames, or confuses a child, whether or not the victim protests and whether or not genital contact is involved.

child-directed speech

The high-pitched, simplified, and repetitive way adults speak to infants. (Also called baby talk or motherese.)

choice overload

Having so many possibilities that a thoughtful choice becomes difficult. This is particularly apparent when social networking and other technology make many potential romantic partners available.


One of the 46 molecules of DNA (in 23 pairs) that virtually each cell of the human body contains and that, together, contain all the genes. Other species have more or fewer chromosomes.

classical conditioning

The learning process in which a meaningful stimulus (such as the smell of food to a hungry animal) is connected with a neutral stimulus (such as the sound of a tone) that had no special meaning before conditioning. (Also calledrespondent conditioning.)


The logical principle that things can be organized into groups (or categories or classes) according to some characteristic they have in common.

clinical depression

Feelings of hopelessness, lethargy, and worthlessness that last two weeks or more.


A group of adolescents made up of close friends who are loyal to one another while excluding outsiders.

cluster suicides

Several suicides committed by members of a group within a brief period of time.


A custom in which parents and their children (usually infants) sleep together in the same room.

code of ethics

A set of moral principles that members of a profession or group are expected to follow.

cognitive equilibrium

In cognitive theory, a state of mental balance in which people are not confused because they can use their existing thought processes to understand current experiences and ideas.

cognitive theory

A grand theory of human development that focuses on changes in how people think over time. According to this theory, our thoughts shape our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.


An arrangement in which a couple live together in a committed romantic relationship but are not formally married.


A group defined by the shared age of its members. Each cohort was born at about the same time and moves through life together, experiencing the same historical events and cultural shifts.


Refers to the presence of two or more unrelated disease conditions at the same time in the same person.

complicated grief

A type of grief that impedes a person's future life, usually because the person clings to sorrow or is buffeted by contradictory emotions.

compression of morbidity

A shortening of the time a person spends ill or infirm, accomplished by postponing illness.

compulsive hoarding

The urge to accumulate and hold on to familiar objects and possessions, sometimes to the point of their becoming health and/or safety hazards. This impulse tends to increase with age.

concrete operational thought

Piaget's term for the ability to reason logically about direct experiences and perceptions.


According to behaviorism, the processes by which responses become linked to particular stimuli and learning takes place. The word conditioning is used to emphasize the importance of repeated practice, as when an athlete conditions his or her body to perform well by training for a long time.

consequential strangers

People who are not in a person's closest friendship circle convoy but nonetheless have an impact.


The principle that the amount of a substance remains the same (i.e., is conserved) even when its appearance changes.

control processes

The part of the information-processing system that regulates the analysis and flow of information. Memory and retrieval strategies, selective attention, and rules or strategies for problem solving are all useful control processes. Also calledexecutive processes.)

conventional moral reasoning

Kohlberg's second level of moral reasoning, emphasizing social rules.

corpus callosum

A long, thick band of nerve fibers that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain and allows communication between them.


A number between +1.0 and −1.0 that indicates the degree of relationship between two variables, expressed in terms of the likelihood that one variable will (or will not) occur when the other variable does (or does not). A correlation indicates only that two variables are related, not that one variable causes the other to occur.


The outer layers of the brain in humans and other mammals. Most thinking, feeling, and sensing involve the cortex. (Sometimes called the neocortex.)


Symptoms of pregnancy and birth experienced by fathers.

creative intelligence

A form of intelligence that involves the capacity to be intellectually flexible and innovative.

critical period

A time when a particular type of developmental growth (in body or behavior) must happen if it is ever going to happen.

cross-sectional research

A research design that compares groups of people who differ in age but are similar in other important characteristics.

cross-sequential research

A hybrid research design in which researchers first study several groups of people of different ages (a cross-sectional approach) and then follow those groups over the years (a longitudinal approach). (Also called cohort-sequential research or time-sequential research.)


A larger group of adolescents who have something in common but who are not necessarily friends.

crystallized intelligence

Those types of intellectual ability that reflect accumulated learning. Vocabulary and general information are examples. Some developmental psychologists think crystallized intelligence increases with age, while fluid intelligence declines.

culture of children

The particular habits, styles, and values that reflect the set of rules and rituals that characterize children as distinct from adult society.


An addictive form of self-mutilation that is most prevalent among adolescent girls and that correlates with depression and drug abuse.


Bullying that occurs when one person spreads insults or rumors about another by means of e-mails, text messages, or cell phone videos.

DALYs (disability-adjusted life years)

A measure of the reduced quality of life caused by disability.

deductive reasoning

Reasoning from a general statement, premise, or principle, through logical steps, to figure out (deduce) specifics. (Also called top-down reasoning.)

deferred imitation

A sequence in which an infant first perceives something that someone else does and then performs the same action a few hours or even days later.

Defining Issues Test (DIT)

A series of questions developed by James Rest and designed to assess respondents' level of moral development by having them rank possible solutions to moral dilemmas.

delay discounting

The tendency to undervalue, or downright ignore, future consequences and rewards in favor of more immediate gratification.


A temporary loss of memory, often accompanied by hallucinations, terror, grandiosity, and irrational behavior.

demand/withdraw interaction

A situation in a romantic relationship wherein one partner wants to address an issue and the other refuses, resulting in opposite reactions—one insistent on talk while the other cuts short the conversation.


Irreversible loss of intellectual functioning caused by organic brain damage or disease. Dementia becomes more common with age, but it is abnormal and pathological even in the very old.

demographic shift

A shift in the proportions of the populations of various ages.


A fiber that extends from a neuron and receives electrochemical impulses transmitted from other neurons via their axons.

deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)

The chemical composition of the molecules that contain the genes, which are the chemical instructions for cells to manufacture various proteins.

dependent variable

In an experiment, the variable that may change as a result of whatever new condition or situation the experimenter adds. In other words, the dependent variable depends on the independent variable.

developmental psychopathology

The field that uses insights into typical development to understand and remediate developmental disorders, and vice versa.

developmental theory

A group of ideas, assumptions, and generalizations that interpret and illuminate the thousands of observations that have been made about human growth. A developmental theory provides a framework for explaining the patterns and problems of development.

deviancy training

Destructive peer support in which one person shows another how to rebel against authority or social norms.

dialectical thought

The most advanced cognitive process, characterized by the ability to consider a thesis and its antithesis simultaneously and thus to arrive at a synthesis. Dialectical thought makes possible an ongoing awareness of pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages, possibilities and limitations.

diathesis-stress model

The view that psychological disorders, such as schizophrenia, are produced by the interaction of a genetic vulnerability (the diathesis) and stressful environmental factors and life events.


Difficulty in performing normal activities of daily life because of some physical, mental, or emotional condition.

disenfranchised grief

A situation in which certain people, although they are bereaved, are prevented from mourning publicly by cultural customs or social restrictions.

disengagement theory

The view that aging makes a person's social sphere increasingly narrow, resulting in role relinquishment, withdrawal, and passivity.

disorganized attachment (type D)

A type of attachment that is marked by an infant's inconsistent reactions to the caregiver's departure and return.

distal parenting

Caregiving practices that involve remaining distant from a baby, providing toys, food, and face-to-face communication with minimal holding and touching.

dizygotic (DZ) twins

Twins who are formed when two separate ova are fertilized by two separate sperm at roughly the same time. (Also called fraternal twins.)

DNR (do not resuscitate)

A written order from a physician (sometimes initiated by a patient's advance directive or by a health care proxy's request) that no attempt should be made to revive a patient if he or she suffers cardiac or respiratory arrest.

dominant-recessive pattern

The interaction of a heterozygous pair of alleles in such a way that the phenotype reveals the influence of one allele (the dominant gene) more than that of the other (the recessive gene).

double effect

A situation in which an action (such as administering opiates) has both a positive effect (relieving a terminally ill person's pain) and a negative effect (hastening death by suppressing respiration).


A woman who helps with the birth process. Traditionally in Latin America, a doula was the only professional who attended childbirth. Now doulas are likely to arrive at the woman's home during early labor and later work alongside a hospital's staff.

Down syndrome

A condition in which a person has 47 chromosomes instead of the usual 46, with 3 rather than 2 chromosomes at the 21st site. People with Down syndrome typically have distinctive characteristics, including unusual facial features, heart abnormalities, and language diffi culties. (Also called trisomy-21.)

drug abuse

The ingestion of a drug to the extent that it impairs the user's biological or psychological well-being.

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