Issues in Studying Adult Development and Aging
What four main forces shape development?
• Development is shaped by four forces. Biological forces include all genetic and health-related factors. Psychological forces include all internal perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and personality factors. Sociocultural forces include interpersonal, societal, cultural, and ethnic factors. Life-cycle forces reflect differences in how the same event
or combination of biological, psychological, and
sociocultural forces affects people at different points in their lives.
What are normative age-graded influences,
normative history-graded influences, and
• Normative age-graded influences are life experiences that are highly related to chronological age. Normative history-graded influences are events that most people in a specific culture experience at the same time. Nonnormative influences are events that may be important for
a specific individual but are not experienced by most people.
How do culture and ethnicity influence aging?
• Culture and ethnicity jointly provide status, social settings, living conditions, and personal experiences for people of all ages. Culture can be defined as shared basic value orientations, norms, beliefs, and customary habits and ways of living, and it provides the basic worldview of a society. Ethnicity is an individual and collective sense of identity based on historical and cultural group membership and related behaviors and beliefs.
What is the meaning of age?
• Three types of aging are distinguished. Primary aging is normal, disease-free development during adulthood. Secondary aging is developmental changes that are related to disease. Tertiary aging is the rapid losses that occur shortly before death.
• Chronological age is a poor descriptor of time-dependent processes and serves only as a shorthand for the passage of calendar time. Time-dependent processes do not actually cause behavior.
• Perceived age is the age you think of yourself as being.
• Better definitions of age include biological age (where a person is relative to the maximum number of years he or she could live), psychological age (where a person is in terms of the abilities people use to adapt to changing environmental demands), and sociocultural age (where a person is in terms of the specific set of roles adopted in relation to other members of the society and culture).
What are the nature-nurture, stability – change, continuity-discontinuity, and the "universal versus context-specific development" issues?
• The nature-nurture issue concerns the extent to which inborn, hereditary characteristics (nature) and experiential, or environmental, influences (nurture) determine who we are. The focus on nature and nurture must be on how they interact.
• The stability-change issue concerns the degree to which people remain the same over time.
• The continuity-discontinuity issue concerns competing views of how to describe change: as a smooth progression over time (continuity) or as a series of abrupt shifts (discontinuity).
• The issue of universal versus context-specific development concerns whether there is only one pathway of development or several. This issue becomes especially important in interpreting cultural and ethnic group differences.