Reflection on Health through the Lifespan
Section : Media Representations of Life span stages
The media often portrays the various life span stages in terms of issues individuals undergo. It is common to read about infant mortality and nutritional diseases while listening, watching or reading materials about infants (Child Development Institute, 2010). Learning and development-oriented media usually focus on school-going children. The adolescents are a very significant group since they are not only portrayed but are also influenced by the media itself. The issues that affect adolescents and young adults revolve around sexual identity (Belkin, 2010), drug abuse, early pregnancy, obesity and other forms of challenges that they begin to struggle with.
This section includes six examples of electronic media that indicate the most important issues that affect individuals in the different life span stages. They are articles taken from the New York Times addressing topics such as child development, toxic breast milk, adolescence pregnancy, sex safety and cholesterol checks for young adults. The links to the media are given below:
Toxic breast milk
The Child’s Developing Brain.
Teaching Safe on TV
Screening: Cholesterol Checks for Young Adults
The Care Giver Next Door
Piaget focused on cognitive mechanisms and how they progress from sensormotor stage of infancy to preoperational and concrete operations stage or adolescence (Andresa, 2007). His approach to development is uniform and progressive, giving a general picture of what we all see to go through. However, the media seem to portray a custom scenario where different individuals experience different difficulties and act in diverse ways depending on their upbringing among other factors (Smith, 1999).
While it is true that individuals of the same developmental stage exhibit similar characteristics, the media show instances of poor growth due to serious health problems which are either hereditary or acquired from the environment. Piaget does not seem to take such set backs into account while examining how knowledge grows. An infant fed on toxic milk or a child with a defective brain may not be in a position to make use of reflexes to accumulate knowledge in Piaget’s fashion. Since the health problems of infants are serious, the media dwells on them and reports mortality rates, nutritional deficiency diseases and other complications which defy most developmental theories (New York Times, 2008). According to Piaget’s theory, the adolescent stage is a period of characteristic behavior when thought forms become more abstract and the individual begins to understand formal logic and acquire the ability to handle algebra, proportions and other simple mathematical problems. While this is true, it is also important to look at the other aspects of adolescence which have a great bearing on their future life.
Piaget’s analysis lays more emphasis on intellectual and academic development in this sense, leaving out the social and health issues of the adolescent world. The contemporary presentations of adolescents and young adults portray them as a group with very good mental and physical health in comparison to infants, children and older adults. Nevertheless, they outdo the rest in high risk and habit forming behavior which have serious implications on their health and well being (Jackson and Darbishire, 2010).
The discrepancies between the media presentations and Piaget’s theory results from the fact that his work narrows down to one aspect of development. He concentrates on how knowledge grows. Being a biologist and epistemologist, he focuses on results obtained from controlled experiments. The media, on the other hand, portrays real life experiences and cases which embrace the social, cultural and public health knowledge. It reports without any reservations or assumptions and is in a better position to present what is on the ground. Nevertheless, Piaget and other theorist still give insight and enable readers to understand the stages on development.
Section 2: Developmental Theories
The growth and development of humans has been examined by different theorists. Their developmental theories shade light on varies aspects and stages of growth. Piaget studied the growth of knowledge from early childhood. He looked into whole part relationships, asymmetric relationships and harmony between parts as a way of portraying how far the child has developed logic and math. He came to believe that children understand processes through different ways in his analysis of the simplest functional structures that make up mental processes.
He also examined how intelligence progresses from childhood through mental activities such as knowing, thinking, communicating, remembering and problem solving. He laid emphasis on the role of memory on cognitive development stating its development through gradual organization which originates from organized thinking and behavior pattern (Andresa, 2007).
According to him, infants use reflexes to learn and adjust to the new situations they face. He refers to their behavioral style as schematic perception. His studies indicate that children gain new knowledge through testing and making mistakes. He saw intelligence as relationship between the organism and the environment.
Erikson on the other hand, examined the impact of social experience across the human lifespan. He believed that personality develops in a series of stages. According to him, development begins with a conscious sense of self which grows as one acquires new knowledge and information while interacting with others. He attempted to explain a growing sense of competence behind the child’s behavior and actions. Gaining mastery in one area of life leads to a promotion to the next level. He referred to both concepts as ego identity and ego strength respectively Gilmore and Durkin (2001).
Erikson believed that every developmental stage ends in a conflict which becomes a turning point at which the individual develops or fails to develop a particular psychological quality. It is also a stage for potential growth or failure. Depending on the outcome, Erikson’s psychological stages yield trust or mistrust, autonomy versus shame and doubt (Learning Theories, 2008). He organized life into eight stages which extend from birth to death. He divided the stages into infancy, early childhood, play age, school age, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood and late adult.
The developmental theories and models seem to focus on universals of development without giving any consideration to individual. Freudian theory put emphasis on the psychosocial stages. While there is a general developmental trend which portrays the oral, anal, phallic, latency and genital stages, there is a great variation in real life sexual activity among individuals of different life span stages. A mixture of sexual issues comes into play as people grow up. At one stage, say childhood, the young boys and girls try it out of adventure; others later do it for pleasure and procreation.
From a health perspective, all the groups at some point, experience different forms of sexual problems and disorders. For the adolescent, the danger of sexually transmitted diseases and unexpected pregnancy is very high. Children on the other hand may undergo sexual abuse and develop complications and psychosexual disorders that persist into adulthood. Depending on their upbringing and early childhood experiences, the adults may suffer from impotence, menstrual problems, low libido, infertility and all other kinds of dysfunctions which are not mentioned in Freudian theory.
While Feud emphasized psychosexual stages, Piaget focused on cognitive mechanisms and how they progress from sensormotor stage of infancy to preoperational and concrete operations stage or adolescence. Kohlberg extended this approach further to moral development, coming up with stages that represent different levels of moral maturity. Gasell and Erikson portrayed development as a series of milestones with the latter giving more weight to their interaction with the society. It is only Erikson, who extended his theory to cover adult life. All these theories explain some aspect of our development. Nevertheless, individual life is never straight forward. Some people skip stages while others take longer in a particular stage. Children take a very variety of paths thereby giving rise to kinds of adults,
The infancy, adolescence and late adulthood stages have very important health implications. Infants need more care for both physical and psychological growth because it is the initial stage for learning the most basic skills of survival. They still need to be fed and taught how to perform simple tasks.
According to Erikson’s Theory, their main conflict is trust versus mistrust and autonomy versus shame and doubt. For Freud, the key health issue may spring from the oral stage when everything ends in the mouth. The infants suffer health risks associated with what they put in their mouths. It is the care givers’ responsibility to give them proper food, which they continue to learn and master according to Piaget’s principles (Baskale et al, 2009). These theories give indirect hints about the implications of infant behavior on health but fail to come out explicitly on any health risks. The adolescent is also prone to health problems related to behavior change and risky adventure. According to Erikson, they are in a state of identity crisis and confusion. This implies that they can easily ruin their health. However, Piaget gives a more positive aspect of their development that has no bearing on any health issue.
Late adulthood is replete with health problems associated with old age. Erikson believed that this group experiences the conflict of integrity versus despair. While they seem to have attained the mark of maturity and wisdom hinted by Piaget and Erikson, there is more to despair about in terms of health (Span, 2010). If they accept their conditions, they are likely to overcome the conflict and live a more fulfilling life.
Andresa. (2007).Jean piaget cognitive theory. Retrieved August 10,2010 from http://www.shvoong.com/social-sciences/psychology/1713912-jean-piaget-cognitive-theory/
Atherton J S (2010) Learning and Teaching; Piaget’s developmental theory [On-line] UK: Available: http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/piaget.htm Accessed: 12 August 2010
Başkale H, Bahar Z and Başer G Ari M (2009).Use of Piaget’s theory in preschool nutrition education . Retrieved August 10, 2010 from http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1415-52732009000600012
Belkin. L. (2010). Teaching Safe Sex on TV. Retrieved August 2, 2010 from http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/16/teaching-safe-sex-on-tv/
Child Development Institute. (2010). Stages of Intellectual Development In Children and Teenagers. Retrieved August 2, 2010 from
Gilmore J. and Durkin K. (2001). A Critical Review of the Validity of Ego Development Theory and Its Measurement. Retrieved August 10, 2010 from http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all~content=a785038236
New York Times. (2008).The Child’s Developing Brain. Retrieved August 10, 2010 from http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2008/09/15/health/20080915-brain-development.html
Jackson D and Darbishire P. (2010). Adolescent Health: We have along way to go. Retrieved August 2, 2010 from http://www.contemporarynurse.com/archives/vol/23/issue/2/article/2209/adolescent-health
Learning Theories. (2008). Erikson’s Stages of Development. Retrieved August 10, 2010 from http://www.learning-theories.com/eriksons-stages-of-develoment.html
Smith M. K (1999). Life span development and lifelong learning. Retrieved August 2, 2010 from
Span P. (2010). The Caregiver Next Door. Retrieved August 10, 2010 from http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/10/the-caregiver-next-door/