Chapter 14. Growing and Developing
Development begins at conception when a sperm from the father fertilizes an egg from the mother, creating a new life. The resulting zygote grows into an embryo and then a fetus.
Babies are born prepared with reflexes and cognitive skills that contribute to their survival and growth.
Piaget’s stage model of cognitive development proposes that children learn through assimilation and accommodation and that cognitive development follows specific sequential stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational.
An important part of development is the attainment of social skills, including the formation of the self-concept and attachment.
Adolescence involves rapid physical changes, including puberty, as well as continued cognitive changes. Moral development continues in adolescence. In Western cultures, adolescence blends into emerging adulthood, the period from age 18 until the mid-20s.
Muscle strength, reaction time, cardiac output, and sensory abilities begin to slowly decline in early and middle adulthood. Fertility, particularly for women, also decreases, and women eventually experience menopause.
Most older adults maintain an active lifestyle — remaining as happy as they were when they were younger, or happier — and increasingly value their social connections with family and friends.
Although older adults have slower cognitive processing overall (fluid intelligence), their experience in the form of crystallized intelligence, or existing knowledge about the world and the ability to use it, is maintained and even strengthened during aging. A portion of the elderly suffer from age-related brain diseases, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Sex refers to the biological category of male or female, defined by physical differences in genetic composition and reproductive anatomy and function. Gender refers to the cultural, social, and psychological meanings that are associated with masculinity and femininity whereas gender identity refers to a person’s psychological sense of being male or female. Gender roles are the behaviours, attitudes, and personality traits that are designated (by our culture) as either masculine or feminine and gender stereotypes are the beliefs and expectations people hold about the “typical” characteristics, preferences, and behaviours of men and women.
There are multiple theories about how our gender roles and gender stereotypes development. Developmental intergroup theory proposes that adults’ heavy emphasis on gender leads children to pay attention to gender as a key source of information about themselves and others, to seek out possible gender differences, and to form rigid stereotypes based on gender that are subsequently difficult to change. Gender schema theory proposes that children are active learners who socialize themselves, by organizing others’ behaviour, activities, and attributes into gender categories known as schemas. These schemas affect what children notice and remember later. Social learning theory argues that gender roles are learned through reinforcement, punishment, and modeling. Children are rewarded for gender conformity and punished for breaking gender roles.
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