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            As we grow through life, we experience developments during critical periods as a result of maturation. Factors that affect development are the usual results of the interaction of nature and nurture. And to understand these things, we have to study developmental psychology or “the study of age-related changes in behavior and mental processes from conception to death (Carpenter and Huffman 2008).

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Factors Affecting Physical Development

            Physical development will always take place, whether we like it or not. This is largely biological such as the associated weight gains during adulthood, but sometimes environmental factors affect the nature of development. Consider puberty or the physical change processes by which a person becomes capable of physical reproduction. Evidence from research says that “girls from high-stress, father-absent homes reach puberty earlier than girls from low-stress, father-present homes (Bjorklund and Bering 2002).”

Factors Affecting Cognitive Development

            There are different factors directing the cognitive development of a person such as: 1) temperament; 2) parental styles; 3) schools attended; 4) peer relationships; 5) ordinal position in the family; and 6) historical era during late childhood and early adolescence (Kagan 1999).

            Factors 1 & 5 are primarily determined by nature. There is nothing that we could really do about it. A person may be born gifted, while another may be born with mental retardation. Also, depending on the ordinal position, a child may be less favored to study. So factor #5 is determined by the interaction between nature and nurture.

            Factors 3, 4, and 6 are social factors. Obviously, these determine what schemas are likely to be formed. They may be good or bad. There are several different variables involved here so the simplest example here would be a leader. Are leaders born or made? They are nurtured. They are likely the products of their environment, and perhaps would not have become leaders were they put in a different environment.

Factors Affecting Social, Moral, and Personality Development

            There are two contrasting but sometimes complementary views in moral development: one by Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development, which is based more on justice, and Gilligan’s Ethics of Care. According to Lawrence Kohlberg, people develop their morality as they mature in their dealing with and reasoning about justice. This has been criticized by Carol Gilligan since Kohlberg’s subjects were males resulting to the promotion of male-oriented values in his theory of moral development. However, the same could be argued about Gilligan since a morality of care appears to be promoting female-oriented values in detriment of men-oriented values (Franz and de Mott 2006). Hence, one would probably prefer one or the other depending on that person’s gender orientation. As a consequence, a person may view that executing justice is the highest form of morality but another may view such to be really immoral if and by giving justice, the guilty person will not receive proper care.

            One very famous theory of social and personality development is Erikson’s

Stages of Psychosocial Development: (Heffner 2001)

Trust vs. Mistrust.

Babies learn to trust or mistrust their caregivers.

Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt.

At this stage, from ages 1 -3, a child must learn to be a little independent; otherwise, he or she will feel ashamed.

Initiative vs. Guilt.

From 3-6, a child must learn to be assertive. If this is stifled, he or she will forever remain a follower.

Industry vs. Inferiority.

From 6 until puberty, a child must learn and feel that he or she is capable of achievement. Otherwise, feeling of inferiority will persist.

Identity vs. Role Confusion.

During adolescence, a person will try to explore different identities. Once he or she has achieved this, this person is more secure in living a young adult life. Otherwise, it will lead to confusion and a sense of hopelessness and lack of direction.

Intimacy vs. Isolation.

During young adulthood, a person is in a state of dilemma whether he or she will open to other people more to build stronger and long-lasting relationships or to isolate themselves and do their own thing. Failure to resolve this or achieve balance leads to depression.

Generativity vs. Stagnation.

During middle adulthood, a person tries to establish and settle down on careers and relationships. Should he or she fail in an endeavor, he or she would feel unproductive.

Ego Integrity vs. Despair.

During the final stage when a person reaches senior citizenship, he or she will try to evaluate his or her life. This person is interested if his or her life did count towards the betterment of humanity. If it did not, depression will pervade and it would really be an awful time before death.


Bjorklund, David F., and Jesse M. Bering. (2002). Milestones Of Development. Child

Development. Ed. Neil J. Salkind. New York: Macmillan Reference USA,  Gale. Apollo Library. Retrieved November 23, 2008, from

Carpenter, Siri, and Karen Huffman. (2008). Visualizing Psychology. Wiley.

Franz, Janie, and Dianne de Mott. Moral Development. (2006). Gale Encyclopedia of

Children’s Health: Infancy through Adolescence. Eds. Kristine Krapp and Jeffrey Wilson.  3(7). Detroit: Gale. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale. Apollo Library. Retrieved November 23, 2008, from

Heffner, Christopher L. (2001) Chapter 3 (Personality Development): Section 3 Erikson’s

Stages of Psychosocial Development. Psychology 101. Retrieved November 23, 2008, from

Kagan, Jerome. (1999). The Role of Parents in Children’s Psychological

Development. Pediatrics, 104(1): 164. Academic OneFile. Gale. Apollo Library. Retrieved 23 Nov. 2008 from



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