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is an interdisciplinary area of study involving the biology of aging, the psychology of aging, and the sociology of aging, from maturity to old age



discrimination of older adults based on age


based on myths 


lifespan perspective

Divides human development into 2 phases: 1) early phase: Childhood and adolescence 2) later phase: young adult, middle age, old age


four key features of the lifespan perspective, as identified by Paul Baltes?

Multidirectionality, Plasticity, Historical context, Multiple causation



Development involves growth and decline: so you might gain a skill in some area of sharp shooting, but then you lose your eyesight and have a hard time seeing the target



The brain and abilities are not set in stone, you can keep growing - learning piano later in life


Historical context

The era in which we grow affects how we grow older - people today are more likely to live longer due to the advancement of medicine


Multiple causation

Bio, psycho, social environmental, etc.. I'm growing in different ways than my grandmother


four forces that shape development also known as BIOPSYCHOSOCIAL



1) Biological forces Such as menopause, wrinkles, gray hair


2) Psychological Internal processes, like cognitive etc..


3) sociocultural Cultural, ethnic, interpersonal - context of development


4) life-cycle forces Same events (bio, psycho, socio) affect different people differently at different stages of their lives



a group of people born at the point or specific time span in historical time


Normative Age graded influences

experiences caused by biological, psychological, sociocultural forces that occur to most people of particular age


Example of bio: puberty, menopause


Normative history graded influences

events that most people in the same culture experience at the same time


Non-normative influences

random or rare events that may be important for a specific individual but are not experienced by most people


Example: suffering a concussion and it changing your ability to work


three processes of aging


Is the normative, disease-free way of aging that

  • Primary:
  • Is the normative, disease-free way of aging that happens through time - menopause, lower sperm and egg count, forgetfulness, gray hair, wrinkles
  • Secondary:
  • Is when you have disease, or circumstances that are not inevitable - a war breaks out that lasts 30 years and changes you due to malnutrition
  • Tertiary:
  • When the downhill right before death picks up in pace (that is called a terminal drop)




four different meanings of age

  • Chronological age:
  • Biological age:
  • Psychological age
  • Sociocultural age
  • emerging adulthood



Chronological age

  • Marked by what happens in the passing of time
  • Example: left out in the rain, the patio cushions will get moldy and eventually decay - during that time span something happened
  • We are studying what happens in the interval, not just the passing of time
  • Perceived age is how old you think of yourself
  • poor indicator of time-dependent processes and serves as a shorthand for the passage of calendar time 
  • time dependent processes do not cause behavior 


Biological age: 

  • Is where you are relative to how long you might live
  • Assessed by measuring bodily functions such as heart


Psychological age

  • How are you functioning psychologically, I guess someone with Downs syndrome might function at a younger age


Sociocultural age

  • How you act in relation to your group - Hassidic Jews are at child rearing age in their early 20s whereas hipsters maybe in their 30s
  • Influenced by their culture
  • Has an influence on self-esteem in term of comparators


emerging adulthood

Late teens to late 20s is emerging adulthood - not teens but not yet fully adults


four core issues in developmental psychology

  • 1) Nature vs. Nurture
  • 2) Stability/Change Issue
  • 3) Continuity-Discontinuity controversy
  • 4) Universal vs Context specific development controversy


2) Stability/Change Issue

a debate around whether people mostly stay the same over time, or whether they are mostly changing over time. On one hand, it is clear that many parts of who we are as people remains stable (this is essential for recognizing ourselves and others over time), and on the other, there is also a belief that our characteristics can change a great deal as time goes on. There continues to be controversy over how to measure changes versus stability in a person, and different parts of development may be more likely to be stable versus changeable that others. For instance, it may be easier to change a bad habit like being late for everything, versus changing how happy and satisfied a person is with their life.


3) Continuity-Discontinuity controversy


  • Did the change happen all at once (discontinuity) or was it smooth/gradual (continuity)
  • Over time, my mom has lost her balance - continuity


Universal vs Context specific development controversy 

  • Example of the !Kung that don't keep track of their age or how many kids they have so they have a different view around aging
  • Universalists believe it's all one underlying process but we are all going through the same thing
  • Context-specific viewpoints argue that context changes how you age as it is the product of how you interact with your environment




possible to be valid, but not reliable? 

IT IS possible to have a test which is reliable but not valid but researchers need both


3 ways gerontologists  use to observe and measure

  • Observing systematically (naturalistic and/or structured)
  • Using tasks/tests to sample behavior
  • Self-report
  • most research has been EU americans so that is a problem for understanding development of other groups 


Systematic observation

  • Natural setting or structured observation
  • Example in book is watching people grocery shop
  • Structured setting
  • Better for measuring things that are hard to measure
  • Example in book is measuring reaction to an emergency  so faking an emergency setting


Sampling behavior with tasks 

  • Give them a task to do
  • Ex In Book is give them a grocery list to remember
  • ME is ask a person with Parkinson's to walk along a line to measure balance



  • written report is a questionnaire
  • Verbal questions = interview format
  • May not be accurate because people may not have a good enough memory to accurately describe or they might tell the questionnaire what they think they want to hear


List and define the three general types of research designs

  • 1) Experimental design
  • 2) Correlation Design
  • 3) Case Studies