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Physical and Psychological Changes and Challenges Across the Life-Span

Info: 4020 words (16 pages) Dissertation
Published: 10th Dec 2019

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Developmental millstones of individual begins from conception to old age, it is a wide spectrum of physical and physiological changes that occurs in an individual life. It is more pronounced and visible from infancy to old age. Development is physiological and social changes that occur in an individual such as behaviours and thinking patterns. Developmental milestones of an individual cannot occur without growth. The composition of an individual comprises of growth and development. Also, developmental psychologists often divide development into three areas: physical development, cognitive development, and psychosocial development. Mirroring Erikson’s stages of lifespan development   is divided into different stages that are based on age. Prenatal, infant, child, adolescent and adult development. Mediaeval also believes that human life progresses through a series of stages, each with its own characteristics (Herbert, 2002). The stages includes conception, infancy(0-3), childhood(4-12), adolescence(13-19), adulthood(19-45), old age 45 and above (Herbert, 2002).

Conception is the period the ovum is fertilized by spermatozoon, the fertilization produces a fertilized egg, growth occurs within the womb until the baby is fully formed and birth occurs. (Herbert, 2002) During conception development can be hindered due to genetic mutation, heredity, malnutrition and environmental factors such as teratogens. Sedative drug thalidomide causes malfunctioning of embryo developing arms and legs; exposure to chemical weapons causes developmental delays to children and use of drug, smoking and alcohol has also been found to cause developmental problem at births. Maternal smoking has been researched to cause miscarriage, premature birth, and low birth weight. Research also suggests that  smoking effect can be long-term issue in children of smoking mothers during infancy as they are less responsive, more sluggish, and fussier and in later years,  they are less competent readers and exhibit social adjustment problems. ((David M. Fergusson et al., 1993)). Prescription drugs can also cause threat to prenatal development, Such as aspirin, tetracycline, and Valium which are known to cause complications and health problems. Basically reasons why pregnant women are not prescribed drugs during pregnancy. Diethylstilboestrol drug which is meant to prevent miscarriage has been shown to have effect on females, causing higher rate of cervical cancer, vaginal abnormalities and miscarriage. Male offspring also exhibited genital abnormalities. Malnutrition affects foetal development as well as child development, prenatally; the foetus relies totally on the mother to receive nutrition through the placenta. A malnourished mother will most likely give birth to a malnourished or premature child which will suffer from low birth weight, or die soon after birth (Susser & Stein, 1994). Upon birth, the immune system development of malnourished infants is suppressed resulting in respiratory illnesses frequently. This results to irritable and unresponsive stimulation of the infants.

Child developmental milestone (0-12years) Children  develop  at  their  own  pace but  still  go  through  the  same  expected stages of growth (Moran and Senseny 2016).The stages includes foetus (conception up to birth);neonatal (birth up to 1month);Infant(1 month up to 2 years);preschool(2 up to 6 years) and child(6 up to 12 years). (Makri, Goveia et al. 2004). Likewise, there is an entire field of child development that also identifies a  continuum  in  the  individual  development  of  children  that  includes  physical,  motor,  social emotional, adaptive, and cognitive as well as language domains (Moran and Senseny 2016). 1000 days of life span from day of conception till the child attends two years of age is consider most important development phase. What happens to the child in these early days has immense impact on child’s development at latter part of the year (Pem, 2015). The development of a child in the first year of life brings about changes in physiology, intellect and behaviour (Makri, Goveia et al. 2004). Factors that affect child development are nutrition, parenting, parent behaviour, environmental, and social and culture factors which have effect on growth and mental wellbeing of the child. Stunted growth results from malnutrition, it is a chronic malnutrition and is caused by poor nutrition and infection (Grantham-McGregor, Cheung et al. 2007). Insufficient intake of good nutrition and mother’s poor nutritional status during pregnancy are typical of intrauterine growth restriction whereby affecting brain development and stunted growth at the age of two years (Pem, 2015). Stunting is also associated with lethargy, less positive effect, lower levels of play and poor attention (Walker, 2007).

Learning difficulties is mostly caused by high levels of adversely and stress during early childhood which increases the risk of stress-related diseases and learning difficulties (Walker, 2007). Research on effectiveness of early intervention supports the importance of early instruction skills to aid struggling readers and English language learners as well as preventing reading disabilities (Walker, 2007). Also a case studies in Norwegian of children with developmental dyslexia, investigated preschool cognitive and linguistic profiles with emergent literacy skills, the finding was that delayed development in the emergent literacy is the most prognostic indicator of later low reading achievement (Nergård‐Nilssen 2006). Interaction between parent and children around print paves a way to the child’s independence in reading and writing (Nergård‐Nilssen 2006) and this is called the family literacy theory (Taylor 1983). Learning to read begins the first time an infant is held and a story is read aloud to him, thereby initiating a lifelong process of learning to read and write (Wolf and Stoodley 2008). Unlike the maturational theory of Gesell or stage model theory of Piaget, emergent literacy posits that literacy development begins at birth and that the home environment plays a major role in the child’s literary abilities (Clay 1991).

Bullying is common among children; this is when a person or a group shows unwanted aggression toward another person (CDCP, 2014). The behaviour  involves an imbalance of power (e.g., physical strength, popularity, access to embarrassing details about a person) and be repetitive, meaning that it happens more than once or is highly likely to be repeated (U.S DHHS, 2012). A survey of 2013 from the National Centre for Education Statistics found continual bullying affects many school-aged children (CDCP, 2014): Slightly more than 1 out of 5 students in middle and high school experienced “traditional” bullying at school during the 2012–2013 school years. Bullying has a short term and long term effects that can affect physical and emotional health. It can lead to physical injury, social problems, emotional problems, and even death (CDCP, 2014). Children who are bullies have higher risk for substance abuse, academic problems, and violence to others later in life (U.S DHHS, 2012). The impact is more on those who are both bullies and victims of bullying because they suffer the most serious effects of bullying and are at greater risk for mental and behavioural problems than those who are only bullied or who are only bullies (U.S DHHS, 2012).

Asthma is an epidemic that has affects 155 million individuals in the world (Cookson and Moffatt 2000). In the UK, One child in seven wheezes (Strachan, Anderson et al. 1994). Asthma is resulted from a combination of strong genetic and environmental factors (Cookson and Moffatt 2000). Asthma has risen to be very popular in western counties for  over the past 30 years (Von Mutius, Fritzsch et al. 1992), perhaps as result of loss of childhood infections (Rook and Stanford 1998). Asthma costs 1 billion a year to treat in the UK (Partridge and Hill 2000) and about$15 billion a year is made from drugs by the pharmaceutical industry world-wide to treat the disease (Cookson and Moffatt 2000).

The adolescence’ refers periods of gradual transition from childhood to adulthood, although the boundaries are not precisely defined (Spear, 2000), in girls between the age of 10 to 17 years and 12 to 18 years of age in boys (Arnett, 2001). Puberty is associated with dramatic biological and social changes including growth spurts life style choices dietary habit. Girls and boys develop different traits such as hips for girls and facial hair for boys. Its characterized by increase in social behaviour, risk-taking, impulsivity and reward sensitivity, which are linked to the drastic neurobiological and hormonal changes taking place during this developmental stage (Arnett, 2001; Brown, 2004; Gardner and Steinberg, 2005; Spear, 2000). Adolescence start is marked by the onset of puberty, where reproductive organs become functional and secondary sexual characteristics emerges with the end not clearly characterized by biological boundaries. Adolescence is pointed by change and renegotiation in almost every arena-biological, social and cognitive development; identity development; changes in pear relation and friendships; a renegotiation of family relationship; and school transitions (Hill et.al, 2007). The usual phenomenon used for the adolescence development is storm and stress. The milestones associated with the adolescence stage includes firstly, friendship becoming more intense and intimate as both cognitive and social competence increases (Hill et.al, 2007). Friendship formed at adolescence is most likely to share identical values, more intimate and fulfilling, and promote conformity compared to the childhood stage. Secondly, the development of identity and self-concept which requires a renegotiation of family-relationship, especially parent-child relationships (Hill et al, 2007). Erik Erikson (1968) characterized adolescence by the need to solve the “identity vs identity diffusion” crisis, requiring the adolescent to reconcile multiple roles examples (student, daughter/son, friend, athletes, and dancer into an integrated, coherent identity or self-concept. According Marcia‘s theory of identity development is based on the need for exploration prior to establishing identity. Establishment of identity without exploration results to decreased level of mental health and increased fragile self-concept (Hill et.al, 2007).  Thus leading to isolation and depression of the adolescence. Gould’s theory also outlines the stages of adult personality development characterizes adolescence as a time of “leaving my parents ‘world” (1978). Thus, changes are required in the parent-adolescence relationship from unilateral authority to collective/discussion based decision making style (Fuligni and Eccless, 1993). There is increased psychological and emotional distancing as adolescence share and discuss less with their parents and desires freedom from their parents (Hill et.al, 2007). Peer influence is more at the adolescence developmental stage, thus the quality of relationship with parents and peers, independently and interactions, impacts adolescence development and mental health outcomes. Some of the factors that affect adolescence are firstly, Anorexia nervosa characterized by an obsessive weight loss and refusal of food; it is a psychological illness (Soanes & Stevenson, 2008).  Anorexia frequently occurs between 14-18 years of age (WHO, 2004). The adolescence suffering from anorexia conditions usually disapproves diagnosis, minimizes illness implication and treatment refusal (Couterier & Lock, 2006). Anorexia is used as a coping mechanism to block emotions, with restriction of food used to control and deal with painful emotional states of an individual (Harrison et al., 2009). The experience of anorexic adolescence is often difficulties in expression of oneself and frequently have irresistible traits, striving for perfectionism. Secondly, suicidal behaviour is among the issues adolescent undergoes, it is an ill-adjusted and exhibition of lack of attachment and commitment to family and school (Kandel, Raveis et al. 1991). The strongest predictors of suicidal ideation is Depression, eating disorder and delinquency are also direct effect of suicidal ideation (Kandel, Raveis et al. 1991). thirdly, drinking of alcohol is very predominant at adolescent stage due to peer pressure influence (Donovan 2004) and lifestyle of parents especially those that drink, which results to early drinking  with consequence of higher risk of developing alcohol use disorder (Sittner 2017) and experience of alcohol-related automobile accidents, fights, and unintentional injuries (Hingson, Edwards et al. 2009). Lastly, anxiety in adolescent is also caused by sleeplessness which is predominant at adolescent stage, Dahl, who suggested that sleep and anxiety are antithetical to each other. The reason being that sleep involves the loss of most sensory perception of the environment, which requires sense of safety and security necessary for good night sleep. This argument has been most often applied to study family effects on sleep, finding that family conflict or weak attachment with family members triggers anxiety that disrupts sleep (Adam, Snell et al. 2007) and  research has shown that disrupted sleep in adolescence produces a persistent tiredness and lack of motivation that is harmful to academic performance (Carskadon 2002).

Old age from 45 plus is quantitative change because a person information retrieval from memory gradually slows down, with Old age comes both quantitative and qualitative changes (Hoyer and Roodin, 2009). Qualitative changes occurs when person behaviour changes with regards to his/her thinking about interpersonal relationship, According to multi directionality, theory Old age comes with being wiser due to experience, expertise and knowledge (Hoyer and Roodin, 2009). Old age follows the theory of plasticity that individual have a limited amount of resources to respond adaptively to stress and challenges. The brain capacity reserve in old age decreases to the point of very little space this is where factors such as Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and memory lost occurs (Bales & Smith 2003).

For successful aging to take place three things that play an important factor are avoidance of diseases and disability, the continuation of effective physical and psychological functioning in later years and continued active social engagement with life (Baltes, Rosler & Reuter Lorenz 2006; Rowe & Kahn 1997). Levinson et al. (1978) classification of old age is from middle adulthood (40 –65) and late adulthood (over 60). They described how this phase contributes to great personal and social value: Resulting in more ‘individual’ or more pronounced man in his own individuality and specialness. The key turning point lies in acceptance of one’s self, giving up the tyranny of external evaluations, seeing reality clearly while being guided more by one’s own internal lights. Levinson et al. (1978) also classified individuals between 45 and 60 as ‘the dominant generation’ due to their strong ideas regarding politics, business, religion, art and science.

Coping with bereavement can be a very traumatic time in a person life especially the elderly. Bereavement is when human respond to loss of a love one to death. The death of a spouse can be seen as the most stressful, thus can cause individual to have intense emotional pain, manifesting itself as sorrow anger and confusion and can affect an individual emotional, physical cognitive, spiritual and behaviour (Hoyer and Roodin, 2009). It is important that a thaving bereave counselling to help to cope with their loss.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia and dementia is a broader term for conditions caused by brain injuries or diseases that negatively affect memory, thinking, and behaviour (Hoyer and Roodin, 2009). These changes interfere with daily living with episodes of forgetfulness from time to time, Alzheimer’s disease person display certain ongoing behaviours and symptoms, which worsen over time (Herndon, 2016). These  includes: memory loss affecting  daily activities, such as  ability to keep appointments, trouble with familiar tasks, such as using a microwave, difficulties with problem solving, difficulties with speech or writing, disorientation to time or place, decreased judgment decreased personal hygiene, mood and personality changes withdrawal from friends, family, and community (Herndon,2016). Most people with the disease are diagnosed after age 65 and if diagnosed earlier, it is known as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (Hoyer and Roodin,2009).


In conclusion, development is a life history theories that helps in suggesting the rate of physical and physiological changes that occurs in an individual life. Development is very fundamental process in growth Lifespan. It shows the different changes that are experienced throughout the life stages of humans. This means that at every stage in life there are different, one cannot happen without the other this will seen as developmental  problem genetics, lifestyles, socioecemic and the environment are all contributory factors. Erikson has divided the life span into different stages. However everyone is not going to go through all the milestones stages with ease. Some will succumb to few challenges along the way which will hindered the development process. It is possible to say that adolescence is a very complicated and extremely important age when children grow older and transit to adulthood. Naturally, they may face certain psychological problems but eventually they arrive to the formation of their identity and their place in their social group and as an individual.



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