Development involves the changes that occur to use throughout our entire life. The developments start when we are in the womb and stops when the individual dies. The developments are gradual and systematic and each stage in lifespan development is marked by certain characteristics that are typical to it. Some of the characteristics that we show in our developmental process are carried on to our future and shape our career paths. Psychologist Piaget conforms to the belief that, reflex actions in children when they are young are the building blocks in our life.
Cognitive theorists holds that behavior is acquired from the environment and an individual shows responses in form of behavior after acquiring a stimulus in the environment and therefore a habit is developed. Operant theorists on the other hand, believes that individual identify what they want and go for it manipulating the environment to suit oneself needs. The paper therefore tries to have a deeper insight into the different theories, research findings and personal beliefs that are in the attempt of explaining lifespan development and how they differ and contribute to planning interventions sports psychology.
Many are the times that we often misinterpret the changes that occur from the time a child is born as growth rather than development. Misconceptions arise as to when life actually begins. To the layman’s terms, development and growth are used to mean the same thing and life begins when a child is born. This is the time that we think that development starts to take place because we can see the child move, breathe and use his or her eyes.
Through the study of the stages of development in psychology, I have come to learn that development starts from the time fertilization takes place to the time that a person dies, in other words development is an ongoing process from the time an individual is born till death. My belief of development starting from birth is misinformed and always leaves me to ignore one of the most important stages when development occurs. At the end of the course I have come to learn that lifespan development involves systematic stages and each stage has its own characteristics that are typical to it (Lerner, 2002).
Lifespan development entails the developments that occur since the onset of birth to the time an individual is fully grown and continues throughout until an individual dies. Our genetics manifest themselves in our day to day life and unfold characteristics that are innate to us and propel us towards different fields in life and careers. These characteristics are the ones that shape us to the world and define who we ought to be in future. In other words, they set the platform for us or are the stepping stones for us in life.
There have been different theories and beliefs that have been put forward to explain lifespan development (Demetriou, 1998). Prenatal stage is mostly used to refer to the time between conception and birth of a child. This stage in development of a child is characterized by psychological developments of the fetus. At this stage, the fetus develops reactions or reflexes which psychologists like Piaget believe that they form the building blocks that are later used in life. To my own knowledge at the beginning of the course, prenatal stage meant a stage that did not have many developments for the unborn child.
Contrary to my thoughts, prenatal stage is believed by researchers to be among the most important stages in life for the child because most developments occur at this stage. A new born is born with brain cells that are fully developed and most of the developments occur during the prenatal stage. At this stage, the child is fully aware of the environment that he or she is exposed to while still in the womb. However, beliefs exist that completely shun off the life of the fetus and we fail to acknowledge the life of the fetus in the mother’s womb (Wood, 1998). Infancy stage starts from birth till the time the child can learn how to speak.
The child is born and exposed to the environment that helps shapes the characteristics that will dominate the child in the future. This is the stage where the child spends most of their time sleeping and synthesizes a lot of information. Infancy stage is also characterized by the infant ability to differentiate different sounds in the environment including the mother’s voice. The new born baby communicates for his or her need for attention, food among other things through crying. At infancy, the baby starts to assimilate a language that he or she is exposed to.
It is also in this stage that the baby is exposed to different stimulus for which he or she responds to differently. Different stimulus like sight, sounds, smell, pain and touch helps shape the child’s reaction to them and develop his or her sensory organs. Infancy is also a stage where the infant is able to link up his or her sight-hand–motor functions. Infancy also depicts the stage where the child tries to understand the language that he or she is predisposed to, and the ability of the child to acquire a language is primarily dependent on exposing the child to the language (Robert, 2006).
Exit of infancy stage marks the beginning of early childhood with toddlers being a little bit independent. Early childhood is a phase in development that the parent or the guardian should be more careful with the child. At this stage, the child is learning to discover his or herself and will therefore experiment with his or her surroundings. I believe that children should be given autonomy for them to discover themselves. I tend to think that the parent or the guardian should let the child be who he or she wants to, and hence the child will learn to be self confident and independent in life.
In early childhood, children experience the world on their own and learn how to handle different situations in the future. For instance, the child learns how to use the toilet, walk, create sentences that are meaningful and can communicate with others and they also get food for themselves. Without these experiences in early childhood stage, the child will lack confidence in his or her life and begin to doubt his or her actions. The child would be relying on the parent to second their every decision in life even when they are old enough to make their own decisions.
Therefore, in my own judgment, parents out to let their children experiment and take risks on their own for them to test their limits (Wood, 1998). At the stage of late childhood, the child is completely detached from the mother and has broadened his or her social horizons. Late childhood marks a crucial stage for children in their personalities for this is the time that children develop inferiority complex if they lack proper parenting. Children compete with their age mates and if they become successful they derive pleasure in intellectual stimulation. The child has an advanced use of tools and is able to solve problems in a logical way.
At late childhood, children are taken away from the comfort of their homes to schools and a different environment from the one they are used to. Children learn to adapt to their new environments, interact with other children and hence develop self esteem through friendships formed at school. They become more responsible, eager and experiment with the environment in pursuit of their childish adventures. In school, they learn to perform tasks that are given out by the teacher and they are more engaged. Going to school helps the child to mature through performing tasks without assistance.
I held a different belief of schools that children go to school to obtain knowledge and develop in their career. From the study of lifespan development, my scope of the role of the school has been broaden to incorporate helping children develop (Demetriou, 1998). Operant theorists hold the belief that a behavior is modified through positive or negative reinforcement. During late childhood, parents or guardians should use a lot of positive reinforcement to encourage their children in behaving well. Consequently, negative reinforcement like punishments should also be used to discourage unpleasant behavior.
In late childhood, the child is ready to differentiate when he or she is being appraised for something right or punished for the wrong things. Through reinforcements and punishments, children’s behavior is modified and the child learns to act responsibly in life. Children basic etiquettes which later on help them know how to behave in the office, how to relate to others, accommodate them and in the process have healthy relationships even with the boss. Individuals who are well mannered often find themselves gaining confidence of people and they are easily promoted in the work place (Johnson – Pynn, Fragaszy, & Cummins – Sebre, 2003).
In my own belief, late childhood is the time when a child discovers most of the important things in his or her life. Children interact with others in school and the child is exposed to different experiences. The child also experiments more with his or her environment and is fully aware of the things that he or she likes. At this stage, children develop a passion for certain things including sports and therefore the environment plays an important role in the life of the child. During this stage, I believe those children with a passion for sports develop to great sports men by making it a habit to engage in sports.
I fully conquer with operant theorists in the way children acquire behavior. When a child is taken to school, he or she has a clear vision what they want to become in future. Therefore, the child will operate the environment to suit oneself. For example, for a child who has identified that he or she wants to be an athlete, will manipulate the environment to suit his needs as an athlete (Johnson – Pynn, Fragaszy, & Cummins – Sebre, 2003). Adolescent represents a transition from childhood to the early years of adulthood. The child is suited for a more responsible life of a citizen, parent, worker or a social role.
The individual learns to identify him or herself and learns to form social networks and the adolescent can be said to be a social being. The individual is more reasonable and is able to solve abstract concepts. Adolescent life prepares an individual to a world of adults and the individual has to be more responsible and focused. The adolescent defines his or her friends clearly and the people to be associated with him or her. The adolescent stage is also marked by the adolescent gaining identity or confused and failing to recognize the role he or she is supposed to play in the society (Wood, 1998).
The end of the adolescent life marks the onset of the early adulthood life. This is the stage where the individual is able to shape his or her relationships. Relationships formed at this stage are more complex and defined in comparison to the relationships formed by the adolescents. The individual learns to find love and define who his or her friends are. In early adulthood, individuals form long term relationships and intensify in the way they date. Early adulthood is also the stage in development whereby the individual has more views on politics and chooses his or her career path.
Most of the people get married at this stage. In early adulthood, individuals who do not find intimate relationships ends up isolating themselves from people (Lerner, 2002). Between the ages of forty to sixty years represents a generation of the middle aged. By this age, most individuals have already shaped their lives and the individual is more focused and has a clear goal in life. The individual has already shaped his career and has played the parenting role. In lifespan development, individuals in this stage shows declining muscle strength.
Women in middle adulthood experience menopause while men experience andropause. Individual experience mood swings as a result of lowered testosterone (Lerner, 2002). The final stage in lifespan development is the old age. It starts from the age of sixty years and above. At this stage, individuals experience accomplishment in life and are therefore comfortable and satisfied with life or the complete opposite that is failure and despair. Mental lapses occur to people who are in old age and are also prone to diseases like heart diseases. Old people experience decrease in their intellectual knowledge.
This is also the time when old people reflect on their accomplishments in life (Satterly, 1998). More often than not, many people are coming to the realization that sports do not only include winning rather than a combination of psychological, physiological and technical factors, hence the focus on sports psychology. Sports psychology therefore involves having a deeper insight into the theories that are applicable to sports and exercises. Many may argue that sports psychology is a new field in sports but nonetheless a field that is gaining momentum in the modern world of sports.
True to say that there are those innate characteristics that propel us towards certain careers paths than others and help us shape our career. Just like there are factors that affect our performance in other careers, sports psychology deals with psychological and mental factors that affect participation in sports and performance, exercise and physical activity. In sports psychology, emotions are managed, goals are set, methods of relaxation and visualization are taught, confidence and concentration among others and hence performance in sports and physical activity is improved (Hardy, & Jones, 1998).
Research has shown that psychology is important in improving the performance of athletes in the field. Researchers believe that physical activity contribute to sports excellence. It is through exercising that an athlete is physically fit to compete and also fit health wise. Physical exercises according to research have been known to aid in the psychological well-being of athletes. Athletes ought to be free of any health related issues for them to perform in sports. In addition, coaches are finding it easy for employees to perform when they have reduced stress levels (Judith, 2004).
According to researchers, the prenatal stage of human development is characterized by psychological developments. Researchers have found that early motor developments influence our behavior and choice of career later on in life. Acquisition of motor skills in our life is largely dependent on the environment that the fetus is exposed to. For instance, a fetus is able to recognize unpleasant sensations while in the womb and therefore, the fetus is alive and conscious of the environment around it. To researchers, a child’s life starts to shape itself in the womb depending on the environment the fetus is exposed to.
Psychologists like, Piaget believes that infancy is the stage in which the responses that the fetus exhibits in the womb forms building blocks or sets a stage for a child later in life. During this stage, some responses that babies exhibit while in the womb can be traced even after birth. To Piaget, the responses that the baby shows while in the womb are carried on to life. In contrast, my own belief of infancy stage, of a stage without so many developments. Subscribing to the old belief that life and developments in life starts at birth, my belief ignores the infancy stage which is also an important stage in development (Satterly, 1998).
I conquer with researchers’ belief that at different age in lifespan development of an individual has a varying motor behavior. The developmental sequence of an individual life plays a role in the motor behavior of the individual at a particular time in his or her life. For instance, an adolescent or an individual who is in his or her early adulthood have greater success in sports as compared to individuals who are in their middle adulthood or at old age. This fact can be attributed to adolescents and individuals in their early adulthood having strong muscles as compared to middle aged and the old.
The adolescent is also seen to be experimenting with life and trying to choose his or her career unlike the middle aged who is a bit settled in life (Robert, 2006). In view of sports psychology, life experiences starts at conception and the fetus is alive in the womb of the mother. According to psychologist, Jane Piaget, children cannot learn of their environment until they are psychological mature. The psychologist emphasizes on developing learning strategies to aid in the development of the child.
To Piaget, children go through four developmental stages that are sensor motor, preoperational, concrete operations and formal operations stages. The psychologist places importance on learning strategies with emphasis on the teacher and educators to develop a curriculum that enables the pupils to assimilate their experiences in the environment. Piaget believes that children will only learn of the real world if they come into contact with the environment at first hand and see the reality for themselves and hence the emphasis on learning strategies to help the child develop (Morris, 2004).
Aligning my own view with that of Piaget, the environment is a determining factor in helping a child develops. For instance, in athletics, long distance races have been known to be most of the time dominated by athletes from countries in Africa. It is a belief that the people in these countries have traditionally been long distance runners and hence their dominance in long distances races. The conditions in their countries in terms of terrain also favor long distance runners in Africa as compared to other countries. Cognitive theory of development by Piaget has shone a light to my own thinking in lifespan development.
The emphasis for the need to develop learning strategies to aid the child in development is important to developmental milestones of human beings. In most cases child learn from exposure to new things and their curiosity to try out new things. In addition to Piaget’s belief of learning strategy, the society believes in the school culture in helping childen gain knowledge. Education is seen as the stepping stone for children to having a brighter future. According to developmental lifespan, when children are taken to school, they become more responsible and learn to perform tasks on their own.
The school environment predisposes children to develop and become responsible and not to rely on their parents (Satterly, 1998). It is also at the prenatal stage that mothers should take greater cautions for them not to be infected with teratogens. Teratogens refer to harmful substances that a pregnant mother can be exposed to which usually cause birth defects. At the prenatal stage, fetal development is dominant and exposure of the pregnant woman to teratogens can have serious defects on the child.
For instance, cocaine is an example of a teratogens which when used by a pregnant mother causes a slow in growth of the fetus. Use of cocaine can also lead to congenital hearts defects and babies who later on in life will experience slowed motor skill development among other symptoms (Berg, 2004). Teratogens damage the fetus brain development which mostly occurs at the fetus stage. At birth, a child is born with most of the brain cells being developed and therefore exposure to teratogens has negative effects on the developing brain cells of the fetus.
When children have been exposed to teratogens at the fetus stage, they show symptoms of difficulties in behavior, emotional instabilities, eating and sleeping disorders. Experiences at the early stages of life often effects on a person’s development throughout life. For instance, exposing a fetus to cocaine may make a child get frustrated in a sports career. If the child who was exposed to cocaine chooses to have a career in sports, he or she would be frustrated because the child will lack the focus and attention that is needed in sports.
Therefore, exposure to harmful substances at the early stages of development of a child affects the child in his or her career (Johnson – Pynn, Fragaszy, & Cummins – Sebre, 2003). When a child skips a step in lifespan development for instance the step of going to school, the child is affected for the rest of their life. When a child is not exposed to the language he or she is supposed to learn at infancy, he or she grows up with difficulties in communicating with others and likewise the child will often doubt his or her abilities to deal with the world because he or she did not go to school.
Early life experiences have an influence on our later life experiences. Children have different characteristics and abilities based on what they experienced when they were young. Some individuals tend to be more successful and outgoing than others are not (Berg, 2004). Classical theorists in psychology subscribe to the belief that motor developments in individual are as a result of maturity of the central nervous system. However, children too develop motor skills that are typical to their age and hence a clash between classical theorists and lifespan development theorists.
Children have been known to have acquired motor skills depending on the environment that they are predisposed to. I also believe that culture in some way plays a role in the development of motor skills. Early motor development will result in a child gaining permanency of certain skills which can help later on in life (Johnson – Pynn, Fragaszy, & Cummins – Sebre, 2003). Different facets in lifespan development are useful in planning interventions sports psychology. At prenatal, the baby conscious is alive and therefore negative influences like teratogens impair the development of a baby.
The health of the baby is crucial in activities like sports. If a baby is born with deformities, the baby cannot concentrate fully in sports a quality that is a requirement in all sportsmen. Diseases like heart diseases, difficulties in breathing also disqualify an individual who was exposed to teratogens at the prenatal stage. On the other hand, a healthy baby is stands at a better chance of participating in sports for he or she is healthy (Hardy, & Jones, 1998).
In sports, communication is of high importance and most of the times individuals are supposed to communicate with their coaches, team leaders and among themselves. During infancy, the predominant characteristic that a child gains among others is language acquisition. For an individual, who did not get exposure to language will have difficulties in relating with others in sports participation for he or she will shows antisocial behavior and this is a hindrance to planning interventions sports psychology.
A person, who mastered language during infancy, is confident and able to relay his or her messages to the team (Judith, 2004). In early childhood, children gain sovereignty in their life through experimenting with the environment. Independence consequently brings about confidence for one is very sure in what he or she is doing and believes in themselves. Athletes who are confident have been known to have good performance, are able to plan their time, sure of themselves and manage anxiety and stress associated with sports participation.
An individual with confidence in him or herself requires less motivation to perform in sports in comparison with an athlete with a low self esteem gained through lack of autonomy at early childhood. In planning interventions sports psychology, athletes with low self esteem will require high levels of motivation. They will want to be assured of their every move in sports participation (Hardy, & Jones, 1998). Late childhood is the transition to a life of full independence and personality formation. The child identifies with the characters that are unique to him or her. He or she develops passion for certain activities including sports.
While planning interventions sports psychology, personality should be taken into consideration to plan events that encourage athletes to relate better with others and engage in group events. The shy athlete who does not have a defined personality will develop his or her personality when interventions that encourage communal sports are incorporated into sports participation. Reinforcement occurs at early childhood stage to cement a good behavior and punishment to shun a bad behavior. While incorporated in sports during planning interventions, strategies that make athletes feel worthy and competent in sports