Six Principles of the Lifespan Perspective


The lifespan perspective is a conceptual framework, which considers a person’s development along his or her course of the lifetime. There are several key principles, which need to be considered to have a comprehensive understanding of the underlying ideas behind the notion of the given concept. These include lifelong aspect, multidimensionality, multidirectional view, plasticity, contextual influences, and multidisciplinary factor. Therefore, the six principles serve as the fundamental pillars of the lifespan perspective of human development.

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The lifespan perspective theory revolves around the idea that significant changes in human life occur throughout his or her lifetime, which is why fragmented or periodic observations are inaccurate or implausible. The concept is focused on psychological, cognitive, and biological changes, which form the basis for the six principles of the lifespan theory (“The lifespan perspective,” n.d.). One of the most integral principles is the fact that human development is a lifelong process, that is not completed or finished at a certain age. For example, one might consider that an individual stops his or her development after adolescence when the age is around the early 20s. However, the lifespan perspective will oppose such a view since it claims that a person changes and develops as he or she goes through all stages from birth until death. In other words, development is an ongoing process, which continues throughout one’s lifetime.

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The second important aspect of the lifespan perspective is its multidimensional component. It is stated that: “three basic dimensions of the aging process are biological, cognitive, and socio-emotional. Each dimension has many sub-components (examples from the cognitive dimension include attention, working memory, and social intelligence) that interact with the other two dimensions, and are subject to some level of environmental influence” (CDC, n.d., para. 4). In other words, developmental changes do not merely occur in one’s physical and physiological spheres because the alterations take place in all three major dimensions. For example, a teenager undergoing puberty does not solely develop secondary and primary sex characteristics because he or she changes cognitively and socioemotionally. Such an individual gains a new social status and perceives the surrounding world differently than a child. The emotional basis develops as well because a child might be more attached to his or her parents, but an adolescent exhibits rebellious behavioral patterns, where he or she seeks more autonomy and independence. Similar principles apply to all stages of human development, such as entering an elderly age.

The third element of the lifespan perspective is the notion of multidirectional changes. In other words, these developmental alterations do not occur in one direction because they can go forwards or backward. It is important to note that there is no linearity in one’s development because there are combined elements of gain and loss (“The lifespan perspective,” n.d.). The given idea can be illustrated by comparing a teenager to an adult, where the former might be more emotional and eager to take action, whereas the latter is more conservative and emotionally stable. In this case, an adolescent transitioning to adulthood losses the capability of fast reaction for more emotional control. These factors vary on an individual basis, but each stage of human development brings gains and losses. An older woman might lose sexual functions but gain a safer and more reserved attitude towards life. Therefore, a person does not progress in a linear and one-directional fashion because changes take place in a multitude of directions.

The fourth essential element of the lifespan perspective is plasticity, which emphasizes the fact that many characteristics are changeable and malleable. There are no traits or human development elements, which remain static throughout one’s lifetime. The inevitable alterations occur, which demonstrates the notion of the non-static nature of these characteristics. In addition, the given aspect accentuates the key limitations and potentials of human development as well as an individual intrapersonal variability (“The lifespan perspective,” n.d.). For example, an individual might lose his or her vision, but it might be compensated by his or her improved capability to hear. In other words, human development and progression are highly malleable with no fixed states.

The fifth critical aspect of the lifespan perspective is the context-based influences. The given idea refers to the fact that human development is jointly affected by both environmental and biological factors, which drive and alter the developmental process. It is important to point out that there are two main forms of influences, which are non-normative influences and normative age-graded influences (“The lifespan perspective,” n.d.). In the case of the former, it is highly personalized or individualized, where a person’s development milestones affect his or her progressions. These might include earning a college degree, getting a driver’s license, or getting married. These activities are not determined by the age-related norms, where one person might acquire a degree during young adulthood, and the other graduate from a university in the early thirties. Similarly, marriage is not tightly bound to one’s age, which is also deviated from the possibility of norm establishing by avoidance of the given institution.

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However, regarding normative age-graded influences, the concept focuses on norms, which occur based on chronological age. It is stated that the given form of contextual influences is “biological and environmental factors that have a strong correlation with chronological age, such as puberty or menopause, or age-based social practices such as beginning school or entering retirement” (“The lifespan perspective,” n.d., para. 19). For example, puberty takes place during the stage of adolescence, which means that the given occurrence is tightly tied to a person’s chronological age.

The last important aspect of the lifespan perspective is the fact that human development is multidisciplinary. In other words, the notion cannot be understood and studied from a solely single field’s view. To have a full and comprehensive understanding of human development, it is vital to involve experts from an array of areas, such as medical professionals, historians, economists, educators, anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists (“The lifespan perspective,” n.d.). The multidisciplinary approach is a mandatory requirement for having a complete understanding of human development.


In conclusion, the lifespan perspective is a comprehensive conceptual and theoretical framework for having a full picture of human development. The given idea is based on its essential pillars or principles, which define the key features of the notion. These include lifelong aspect, multidimensionality, multidirectional view, plasticity, contextual influences, and multidisciplinary factor. A person’s development is lifelong, which means there is no completion or halt in the developmental process. The key changes within an individual take place in biological, cognitive, and socioemotional dimensions at all times, and the direction of these alterations is not linear. In addition, human development is malleable and changeable, where it is affected by contextual influences, which can only be fully studied in a multidisciplinary fashion.


CDC. (n.d.). A life-span perspective. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Web.

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The lifespan perspective. (n.d.). Web.

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