Lifespan Development


Lifespan development is a complex human phenomenon due to the physical, cognitive, emotional and moral changes that take place within an individual. In an effort to explain how these changes take place, scientists have developed theories to help people understand how these changes occur. These theories are useful to the guidance and counseling profession since they enable counselors to understand human growth and development at various stages. Scientist such as Kohlberg, Piaget, and Gilligan formulated theories of moral development. Piaget and Vygotsky have developed theories of cognitive development while Bowlby and Ainsworth have formulated theories of attachment. This paper is going to examine lifespan development by discussing the similarities and differences between these theories.

Similarities and difference in Kohlberg, Gilligan, and Piaget models of moral development

Moral development refer to how an individual’s beliefs and practices regarding social, ethical, and judicial treatment of others evolve over the lifespan (Stauffer, Cook, Trippany-Simmons, Rush-Wilson, 2016). Kohlberg, Gilligan, and Piaget are some of the scientists who have examined the moral development and formulated theories with similarities and differences as follows.

The first similarity among these models is that moral development takes place in stages and the approach of each stage is more sophisticated than that of the previous stage. The key stages in moral developed that are posited by these models are pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional stages (Stauffer, Cook, Trippany-Simmons, Rush-Wilson, 2016). The second similarity between these models is that the stages of moral development are dependent on the cognitive abilities of an individual. For Piaget, moral decisions are made on the basis of an individual’s ability to decenter the information that they acquire. Similarly, Kohlberg and Gilligan base their stages of moral development on Piaget’s concrete operational stages, for example, they argue that moral decisions made by children and concrete and egocentric. The third similarity among these models is that an individual’s moral decisions are influenced by their cultural surrounding.

One of the differences is that Gilligan’s model focused on care ethics such as justice, attachment, and abandonment (Stauffer, Cook, Trippany-Simmons, Rush-Wilson, 2016). On the other hand, Kohlberg and Piaget’s models state that moral development is based on moral thinking and more on the cognitive abilities of a child. For example, one makes moral decisions based on logical reasoning about objects that evolves through the lifespan. Another difference among these theories is that Kohlberg and Piaget models of moral development are based on what the societal rules allowed, for example, a child makes moral decisions based on rewards or fear for punishment. On the other hand, Gilligan’s model argues that moral development is influenced by responsibility and self-sacrifice for others.

The theory that most resonates with me is Gilligan’s model of moral development since it is based on care ethics. Personally, morality is concerned with god or bad behavior, therefore, Gilligan’s theory is more applicable to me since the care ethics such as justice have a significant influence on moral decisions.

Compare and contrast the theories of Piaget, Vygotsky, and information processing

In the past century, scientists have examined cognitive development in infancy. This led to the formulation of popular theories such as Piaget’s Cognitive Theory of Development, Vygotsky Social Cultural Theory, and Information Processing Theory. While dealing with a child between this ranges, some of the things that I would as the similarities and differences are as follows.

The first factor I would view is the child as an agent. The three theories are that a child is an active agent in the learning process. According to Jenkins, Fineran, and Lange (2016), the three theories posit that human mind function through an active process of selection, organization, and integration of personal experience with already existing knowledge. Second similar factor that I would view is age. All the three theories agree that there is an age-related difference in cognitive abilities and that and that information processing takes place in a hierarchical level of complexity. This is in a tight link to the concept that cognitive development takes place in stages. For example, according to Piaget cognitive development stages include sensorimotor and preoperational stages. Similarly, Vygotsky suggested a two-stage process involving inter-psychological and intra-psychological development. Third, I would view socio-cultural factors. All the three theories agree that learning is influenced by the child’s interaction with social and cultural factors.

One different factor I would view is the process of cognitive development. The information processing is based unremitting pattern of development while Vygotsky and Piaget emphasize on cognitive development that takes place in stages (Jenkins, Fineran, & Lange, 2016). Second, while Vygotsky and Information Processing theory emphasize that changes in learning are reinforced by the capacity of memory and repeated exposure, Piaget’s theory argue that changes in learning are influenced by qualitative changes in the stages of development.

Among the three theories, I would choose Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. Key factors that have influenced my decision are the process of cognitive development and the age of a child. Piaget does an excellent work by providing an in-depth explanation of how cognitive development takes place in distinct stages during childhood.

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Temperament and Marcus and his caregiver

According to chapter six’s discussion regarding emotional and social development, infants develop emotions and behavior based on what they learn from the primary caregivers. Therefore, the following suggestions to Juanita can help Marcus.

First, Juanita should provide a secure base for Marcus. Based on the case of Marcus, Marcus was separated from his mother after birth, and hence, he lacks primary attachment. In this regard, establishing a secure base by responding immediately to the emotional needs of Marcus. This is in accordance with Rothbart’s Three-Dimensions of Temperament, Effortful Control, which states that the establishment of a secure base will enable Marcus to develop executive attention skills, and hence, he will respond positively to stimulation such as cooing (Johnson & Anderson, 2016).

Second, Juanita should allow Marcus to spend time with his biological mother. The case of Marcus reveals a lack of primary attachment, and this contributes to his poor emotions and behavior. Marcus has developed a difficult child as described in the Goodness-of-Fitness Model of Child-Rearing. However, exposing Marcus to his mother will enable him to acquire primary attachment that is needed by infants (Johnson & Anderson, 2016). This is in line with the Evolutionary Theory and Harry Hallow study that established that for normal development, infants require an object to cling to.

The development case of Rosey

Based on the readings of chapter seven, the growth and development of children are marked with the achievement of specific milestones, for example, the acquisition of gross and fine motor skills. Therefore, based on the given case, Rosey exhibits both normal and abnormal development as follows.

Rosey’s development is normal since she is active, plays, and interact with other children. According to Hill, Hanks, Wagner, and Portrie-Bethke (2016), 2-year old children have developed gross and fine motor skills. On the other hand, Rosey’s development is abnormal due to the delayed speech that she is experiencing. Children her age have acquired language skill; however, she exhibits a delay. The delay is attributed to infectious diseases are hindering her development. Exposure to genetic predispositions and early childhood stressors have a negative impact on brain development (Hill, Hanks, Wagner, & Portrie-Bethke, 2016). Rosey’s prolonged exposure to toxic stress causes irreparable health and development consequences. This has caused permanent changes in the structure and the functioning of her brain, and hence, she is not able to talk like other children her age.

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Compare and contrast John Bowlby’s and Mary Ainsworth’s theories of attachment

First, both Bowlby and Ainsworth theories of attachment agree that the early attachment between the child and the parents for the basis of later relationships in adolescent and adulthood (Leggett, Roaten, Ybanez-Llorente, 2016). Second, both theories agree that positive attachment between an infant and the mother stimulates pleasure and joy. The third similarity is that both theories agree that there are four categories of attachment namely, secure, anxious-ambivalent, anxious-avoidant, and disorganized attachments.

Despite the similarities above, one of the notable difference between these two theories is that Ainsworth states that early attachment influences the child’s ability to develop social skills across the lifespan (Leggett, Roaten, Ybanez-Llorente, 2016). A second difference is that in Bowlby’s theory, infant attachment plays three functions namely, to maintain the proximity between the infant and the parent, to provide protection, and to create a safe haven during distress.


In conclusion, development lifespan is understood through scientific theories. Moral and cognitive development are explained through Piaget’s, Kohlberg’s, and Gilligan theories. Physical and emotional development among infants is also understood through theories such as Bowlby’s and Ainsworth theories. Despite explaining the same phenomenon, these theories have similarities and differences.

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  1. Hill, N. R., Hanks, B. B., Wagner, H. H., & Portrie-Bethke, T. (2016). Early Childhood: Physical and Cognitive Development. In Capuzzi, D. & Stauffer, M. D. (Eds.). Human Growth and Development Across Lifespan: Application for Counselors. (pp. 299-374). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  2. Jenkins, C., Fineran, K. R., & Lange, A. (2016). Birth and Infancy: Physical and Cognitive Development. In Capuzzi, D. & Stauffer, M. D. (Eds.). Human Growth and Development Across Lifespan: Application for Counselors. (pp. 220-262). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  3. Johnson, A. L.  & Anderson, E. D. (2016). Birth and Infancy: Emotional and Social Development. In Capuzzi, D. & Stauffer, M. D. (Eds.). Human Growth and Development Across Lifespan: Application for Counselors. (pp. 263-298). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  4. Leggett, E. S., Roaten, G. K., Ybanez-Llorente, K. (2016). Early Childhood: Emotional and Social Develoment. In Capuzzi, D. & Stauffer, M. D. (Eds.). Human Growth and Development Across Lifespan: Application for Counselors. (pp. 263-298). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  5. Stauffer, M. D., Cook, J., Trippany-Simmons, R., & Rush-Wilson, T. (2016). The Many Facets of Human Development: Spiritual and Moral Development Theories. In Capuzzi, D. & Stauffer, M. D. (Eds.). Human Growth and Development Across Lifespan: Application for Counselors. (pp. 134-181). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
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