We can all agree that from birth to death, people change along several parallel pathways, including movement, cognition, and social skills and emotion. But how exactly do these changes take place? Are they sudden and abrupt or gradual? This article explains how developmental psychologists explore differences between people of certain ages based on how gradually or abruptly those differences seem to emerge. The Continuity Approach
If you have spent any significant amounts of time with young children, there are some aspects of their behavior that seem to change so gradually that you hardly notice. We can compare these aspects of development to the growth of a mighty oak from its beginnings as a little acorn.For example, young parents are unlikely to notice the gradual weight gain of the young infant. From day to day, the parents will respond to lifting the growing child by becoming stronger themselves, so they hardly notice any change in weight. What makes this truly astonishing is that the child is growing at a remarkable rate, especially during the first year of life. According to McCall (1979), if a human child continued his or her growth rate during the first year of life over the next nine years as well, the child at age 10 years would be about the size of a jumbo jet!Another gradual change that seems to sneak up on parents is the child's increasing vocabulary. Once children start speaking, their vocabularies begin to increase on a daily basis. The typical 18-month-old child might have between 10 and 50 words, but by the time children reach kindergarten age, they have a very mature sounding vocabulary of about 2000 words. Because these are the types of words even adults use most frequently (as opposed to the types of words we learn in high school or college, like hippocampus), you can have a rather sophisticated conversation with a 5-year-old.Children's social skills might also proceed in a very gradual manner. As they are exposed to more diverse social...
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