Issues in Lifespan Development
Nature and Nurture: Why are you the way you are? As you consider some of your features
(height, weight, personality, being diabetic, etc.), ask yourself whether these features are a result
of heredity or environmental factors-or both. Chances are, you can see the ways in which both
heredity and environmental factors (such as lifestyle, diet, and so on) have contributed to these
features. For decades, scholars have carried on the “nature/nurture” debate. For any particular
feature, those on the side of Nature would argue that heredity plays the most important role in
bringing about that feature. Those on the side of Nurture would argue that one’s environment is
most significant in shaping the way we are. This debate continues in all aspects of human
development, and most scholars agree that there is a constant interplay between the two forces. It
is difficult to isolate the root of any single behavior as a result solely of nature or nurture.
Continuity versus
Discontinuity: Is human
development best characterized
as a slow, gradual process, or is
it best viewed as one of more
abrupt change? The answer to
that question often depends on
which developmental theorist
you ask and what topic is being
studied. The theories of Freud,
Erikson, Piaget, and Kohlberg
are called stage theories. Stage
theories or discontinuous
development assume that
developmental change often
occurs in distinct stages that
are qualitatively different from each other, and in a set, universal sequence. At each stage of
development, children and adults have different qualities and characteristics. Thus, stage
theorists assume development is more discontinuous. Others, such as the behaviorists,
Vygotsky, and information processing theorists, assume development is a more slow and gradual
process known as continuous development. For instance, they would see the adult as not
possessing new skills, but more advanced skills that were already present in some form in the
child. Brain development and environmental experiences contribute to the acquisition of more
developed skills.


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