development of the lifespan


Final Project – Lifespan Development


Walden University

Final Project – Lifespan Development

Lifespan development has many parts which work together to promote growth in a person physically, cognitively, and psychologically. According to Erikson, the development of the lifespan is a lifelong process from birth to death and includes the formation of identity (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). During this process people experience many things and develop a worldview based on these experiences. The lifespan development theory recognizes the process of adapting to constantly changing influences in our lives by growth, maintenance or resilience, and the regulation of loss (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). From the different aspects of life many of these changes or events happen in the child, adolescent, and adult stages of life. Life events that influence development can be placed in three major categories of age-graded, history-graded, and non-normative (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). What is considered to be an important life event is different based on the person’s individual thoughts and needs. The life events I consider to have influenced my development are a mix of age, history, and non-normative.

Life Event I – Parents Divorce (1979)

My parents were high school sweethearts together from young teen years to young adult. I do not have many memories of my parents being happily married. My father was in the Army Reserves and was away a lot for training. When I was three my father left and divorced my mother. I do remember her telling me he wanted freedom and did not want to be married anymore. He left my mother in a position to raise a daughter on her own with little income. We were on public assistance and I wore thrift shop clothes. These hard times went on deep into childhood. At the time I did not know any different but as I grew older I started to realize the position he put my mother in and the lack of caring he displayed. I see this event as significant to my development because it became one of my earliest schemas of what a family system consists of.

Life Event I – Gradation

The event of my parents’ divorce is non-normative event for me. Non-normative events are events in life that are not expected and are specific to the individual (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). As a very young child I did not anticipate my father would one day not be there with us. Growing up we lived in a low income area of Chicago within the Hispanic culture. In some aspects this may also be considered a history-graded event as the environment I lived in was full of young single mothers in similar situations like our own. History-graded events are experiences people may have at different times in their life but affect a cohort as a whole (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). I would consider the cohort to be cultural and socio-economical.

Influence on Development

I was very close to my father and the separation really affected the way I perceived him. I would say my early attachment was to him more than my mother. Bowlby suggests early attachments keep infants feeling safe and secure and become our working models for social functioning (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). I remember crying for him and asking my mother why he did not love us anymore. The cognitive effects of the divorce left me with a void that was later filled by a shift in attachment towards my mother and a psychological hurt toward my father. Attachment to one parent can be lost over time and can be affected by conflict between parents (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). As I saw my parents argue it became my father’s fault which helped with the attachment to my mother. Vygotsky’s believed culture has an influence on cognition shaping the way people learn and interact socially (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). Growing up with a single mother has given me both positive and negative experiences. Attachments are carried into adulthood and transition into other attachment styles such as secure, dismissive, preoccupied, and unresolved (Rodriguez & Ritchie, 2009). I believe this early experience has carried into the way I live my life now through means of dismissive adult attachments.

Life Event II – Father Remarried (1986)

My father reentered my life in mid childhood and we had a routine where he saw me every other weekend. One weekend when I was ten years old my father broke routine and took me to a woman’s house. The first time meeting this woman and her infant daughter was when I learned she would be my father’s wife. This whole experience was tough on me because I was not invited to be part of the church wedding and because of his relationship with my mother I was not told the date with enough time to make plans to attend. Since my mom was not given the date I was at summer camp about an hour away which was a normal thing for me. My father offered to drive and pick me up but the fiancé said no. Therefore his only daughter was not there. This made me grow up to have a strong dislike for her which still exists today and has caused a serious break in the relationship between me and my father.

Life Event II – Gradation

The marriage of my father was another non-normative event in my childhood as it came by surprise. Everything happened so fast and it seemed my father waited to the last minute to tell us which prevented me from going. Not only did I have to deal with my father being married and having a step daughter I also had to try and understand where I fit in with his new family.

Influence on Development

The thought of my father being remarried was not the issue. The influential part was how I was left out of the whole process leaving me feeling like I did not matter. It is suggest how children learn through a cognitive process of adaption and assimilation taking new information and relating it to what they already know (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). Taking the repeated factors of being close, growing distant, getting close again, and now the wedding which made me feel insignificant. I developed a distorted view of how I fit into his family putting a huge wedge in between us. For a developing child of this age it is hard to believe what they cannot see (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). I did not see my father make any attempts to really make things better therefore I could not believe him when he said that wanted to. Psychologically, I grew up feeling like there was a void but instead of making me want a relationship with him it made me put up a wall. Part of a child’s identity is structured by family and the actions of my parents were causing me to develop feelings of being alone and not know where I fit into the family.

Life Event III – Mother Remarried (1989)

My mother remarried when I was thirteen years old. This was not a marriage I was happy about because the man was an abusive alcoholic. By the time of their marriage she had already had two children by him and we were all living together. My mother took a trip to Vegas and before the trip I remember begging her not to marry a man that would disrespect us with violence. Despite her promising she came back married. This left me feeling hurt and angry.

Life Event III – Gradation

The remarriage of my mother was something that was a possibility but not expected to actually happen. I would consider my life full of these non-normative events. The reason I consider this to be a non-normative event is because I believed my mother when she said she would not get married and it was a surprise when she did. She broke my trust and pushed me away from her. This left me feeling alone and like an outsider in my own house.

Influence on Development

At this point I am beginning the teenage years of development and it is important for me to develop positive schemas of what a healthy family is. I do not feel I have had good examples to promote positive identity growth. Erikson’s stage of identity verses role confusion explains how adolescents are in a time of making choices and developing values and goals (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). Adolescence is a time of emotional identity crisis. I did not want my identity to be formed by negative feelings and influences of my main family system. Both my mother and my stepfather had an authoritarian parenting style. An authoritarian parenting style is low in responsiveness, high in demandedness, has a minimal positive emotional climate, restricts emotional expression, and strong conformity to rules (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). It was their way or no way with little room for crying or voicing opinions. It became a very strict and disciplined household. During early adolescents one starts to have feelings of autonomy from parents transferring emotional dependency towards peers (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). I felt myself pulling away from them and getting into negative peer influence such as smoking. Parents are supposed to support positive self-development and social interactive experiences while helping to build self-esteem (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). I do not feel I was getting this from my mother, father, or stepfather. This makes it seem like I was at a disadvantage when it came learning positive ways of life, believing in my abilities, and making social relationships.

Life Event IV – First Job (1991)

Continuing in the adolescent part of looking for autonomy one of the highlights of my adolescence was getting a job. I went to a vocational high school and once I was fifteen I applied for a work permit to get a job. My mom agreed I needed to learn the real world and as long as I was not at home I was all for it. My first job was at Woolworth down the street from my house where I was a stock and cashier employee. It was a minimum wage job but it was allowing me to further develop my identity as an individual separate from my parents.

Life Event IV – Gradation

Getting a first job is an age-graded life event. Age-graded experiences are events that happen to people around the same age and point in their lives (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). Depending on life circumstances and culture adolescents find themselves getting first jobs at different times during this stage. For me, I was in search for something positive so getting a job early on helped me focus on myself.

Influence on Development

Getting my first job was a big influence on my development. Identity development is a major point of crisis in adolescents. Erikson said identity development is a time for adolescents to evaluate their abilities, interests, and influences while exploring future choices for love and work (Arnett, 2007). Later this stage of exploration was said to lead into emerging adulthood. When it came to forming my identity having a job was a positive thing for me. It supported my need for autonomy and made me feel like I was someone outside of my mother’s idea of who I should be. The need for adolescents to search for autonomy can sometimes put a strain on parental relationships (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). My mom started to resent the fact I had a job and my own money and said I needed to learn life lessons. At the age of fifteen I was paying rent of $50 per month. I found this to be unfair and now as a mother of a sixteen year old I would not ask her to take on that responsibility. I was a good kid who obeyed rules and respected adults so I did not understand and from a cognitive aspect took it as punishment. Psychologically, I became more closed off towards her and began to wonder if she was really teaching me something or being spiteful. By this time she was divorced from her second husband and was a single struggling mother of three. Socially, having my first job allowed me to progress more in making friends and building ties outside of family. My identity will always consist of family structures and experiences but was now starting to include individualized decision making.

Life Event V – Becoming a Mother (1997)

Giving birth to my daughter was the best influential day in my life. Having already broken up with my ex-boyfriend I was a single mother from the beginning. Being twenty one years old most of my friends were taking advantage of the social scene and I was going through the transition of being a mother. I was happy and felt blessed to have a healthy baby girl. However, I did not know what I wanted to do with my own life and now I had to be able to guide hers which made me nervous.

Life Event V – Gradation

Having a child during emerging adulthood was a history-graded and non-normative experience for me. Having children can be considered an age-graded event for some but since I was so young not even finishing college yet I do not consider it to be age-graded. Emerging adulthood is a time of unstructured experiences with most structured systems such as family roles coming later in adulthood (Arnett, 2007). The history-graded relation is from the socio-cultural aspect where a lot of people living within my environment shared the experience of being a young single mother. I also consider this to be a non-normative event because it was an unplanned pregnancy which took me by surprise.

Influence on Development

Having a child changed my identity for the best. During Erikson’s middle adulthood time of generativity is when adults start to think about the next generation displaying positive virtues such as caring (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). This was something I had to develop earlier than anticipated in order to promote positive development in both of us. My cognitive processes had to strengthen and logical thinking turned on. Schaie’s achieving stage of young adulthood explains ill-defined problems with no pre-established answers and the increase of logical thinking and long term goal setting (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). I would not say parenthood was a problem but there were a lot of questions with no answers and I had to stop and really think about better decisions. This was a chance for me to add value to my identity and really understand where I wanted my life to go. The emerging adulthood stage is an opportunity to create positive change in life’s trajectories developing on already existing strengths (O’Conner, et al., 2001). The one thing I did not want to do was abandon the identity I already made for myself, but instead further develop it.

Life Event VI – Completing my Bachelors Degree (2012)

Completing my Bachelors degree in Psychology and moving into my Masters in Mental Health Counseling were educational goals that I finally achieved. After taking a long eight year break from college I decided to go back to school and finish my degree seeking goals. I took a break because it became too much pressure to raise my daughter, work full time, and go to school. I tried going back into a classroom but still felt my time was better served in the home. At this point I started looking into on-line education and found Walden. With Walden I was able to finish my degree, start graduate school, and be at home at night. I am still a single mother I thought of how being gone affected her development and thought it was best to seek this option.

Life Event VI – Gradation

I consider the completion of my degree to be a history-graded event. Getting a degree is not an inevitable part of development. One can be successful without a college degree. However, despite some people graduating college earlier in young adulthood more and more people my age (37) are going back to school. Society is providing a picture of acceptance when it comes to people in middle to late adulthood completing degrees. Therefore, I believe it’s an experience shared by cohort of adults fitting school in with family and work roles. Life events can occur based on life experiences including circumstances, gender, and culture (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). At my current rate I will graduate with my Masters the same time my daughter graduates high school. That’s an experience I am looking forward to.

Influence on Development

Graduating with my Bachelors degree helped build my identity as an individual separate from being a mother. Psychologically, graduating college helped me complete long term goals and feel better about myself. I always felt like a drop out and wanted to show myself I could do it and also be an example for my daughter. It helped me feel happier to know I accomplished something that took so long. According to Ruff, a person’s psychological well-being includes working towards the realization of one’s true potential (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). Life satisfaction includes psychological well-being and is something all adults look for in order to lead positive lives.

Lifespan development includes every positive and negative aspect of a person’s life. Major life events include expected and unexpected, as well as, normative transitions, meaningful changes, and major new experiences (Specht, Egloff, & Schmukle, 2011). The development of child, adolescent, and adult stages are predicted by many but may not be exact among all based on other influencing factors. The life events described herein have influenced my identity by being meaningful learning experiences for me. As a result of my experiences I believe I have developed into a respectable and responsible adult continuing to add to my identity.

References Arnett, J. J. (2007). Suffering, selfish, slackers? Myths and reality about emerging adults. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 36(1), 23–29. Broderick, P. C., & Blewitt, P. (2010). The life span: Human development for helping professionals (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. O’Conner, M. S., Hawkins, M. T., Letcher, P., Toumbourou, J. W., Smart, D., Vassallo, S., & Olsson, C. A. (2001). Predictors of positive development in emerging adulthood. J Youth Adolescence, Vol 40, 860-874. Rodriguez, P. D., & Ritchie, K. L. (2009). Relationship between coping styles and adult attachment styles. Journal of the Indiana Academy of the Social Sciences, 13, 131–141. Specht, J., Egloff, B., & Schmukle, S. C. (2011). Stability and change of personality across the life course: The impact of age and major life events on mean-level and rank-order stability of the Big Five. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(4), 862–882.

Running head: LIFE EVENTS 1



2015 My daughter graduates high school and off to college. I graduate with Masters 2012 Graduated with Bachelors in Psychology from Walden

1997 Gave birth to my only daughter and became a single mother

1986 My father remarried 1991 My first job at Woolworth

1976 Born

1976 1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 2011 2015

1989 My mother remarried an abusive man making life at home hard 2002 Moved into first house in a different neighborhood 2013 Started Masters Degree in Mental Health Counseling at Walden 1994 Graduated high school 1979 My parents divorced

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