The essay question is:
“Critically evaluate how the lifespan approach explains human development. Contrast specifically with
traditional theories of development” (1,750 words)
Guidance on answering assessment question:
Your essay should focus on the key features of lifespan developmental theories. It is recommended you describe and evaluate no more than two such theories (Baltes must be one of these, and then either Erikson or Levinson). Finally you will contrast this with one traditional theory of development (e.g. Bowlby, Piaget, Freud or Bandura).
Tips for high marks!
Write in paragraph chunks of approximately 150-200 words. Given the word limit, this means you should be including approximately 10 paragraphs. One paragraph will be the introduction, one will be the conclusion and there will be eight other key points. Your first paragraph will be introducing the topic and the question. This includes a brief general overview of the lifespan approach (with references), as well as mention of the key theorists you will discuss. You will also want to explain the key features of the lifespan approach.Finally, you need to explain clearly how you will answer the question and at least mention that the theories are thought to differ from the traditional models of development.
At least three paragraphs of your essay will be dedicated to describing the three theories in detail. Try to include as much detail as possible about each, making sure to include references. You may need to dedicate one paragraph to pointing out similarities and differences between the two lifespan approach theories, before you assess their pros and cons in a separate paragraph.
With regards to traditional theories, you should also evaluate these in relation to lifespan approach theories – discuss how they are similar and different, as well as how they are better or worse. You will be contrasting by identifying commonalities and differences.
Points to consider:
Continuous/discontinuous development One course of development or many? Nature or nurture?
Lifespan development has been variously described as:
A lifelong process
Multidimensional and multidirectional
A process that shows plasticity
An interactive process
A process involving both gains and losses Culturally and historically embedded
A multidisciplinary field of study
To what extent are these ideas applicable to traditional theories?
Mention research methods that have been used to test the theoretical assumptions of the lifespan approach and the traditional approach you choose. Are they valid and reliable? Do they include quantitative data? Are they scientific enough? Are traditional theories and different in terms of the way they are supported (with research) to lifespan approach? Summarise the strengths and limitation of each of the theories. What might be argued to be the main contribution of lifespan theories to understanding human development? Conclude by summing up your argument and offering a succinct answer to the essay.
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