The life-span development approach addresses the basic nature versus nurture debate by allowing for both. Just as our physicals selves are determined by both genetics and lifestyle, so are our emotional selves. As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I plan to consider life-span development to specialize in counseling a specific type of person with hopes of becoming well-versed, and therefore more helpful, in the types of experiences that group faces.
“Personality can be better understood if it is examined developmentally” (Santrock, 2006, p. 45). Considering cognitive, biological, and socioemotional development throughout life will provide context, guideposts, and reasonable expectations for counselors. Life-span development theories also provide a useful place to start when offering emotional support as a counselor.
Understanding an individual’s previous stages of development and environment can give a counselor and individual a common place from which to start counseling. Most of the developmental theorists discussed in section one of Santrock—Sigmund Freud, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, Konrad Lorenz, and to an extent B. F. Skinner—focused mostly on early or childhood development. Early development, when considered in a life-span context of development, can give an LPC insight in an individual’s personality. Regardless of specialization, a counselor can weigh early behaviors against his or her contemporary observations, giving them a fuller context.
“Actual development requires more [than genetic loading]: an environment” (Santrock, 2006, p. 98). Two cognitive developmental theories support Santrock’s assertion of environmental influence on early development. First, Piaget’s cognitive developmental theory defines how a person behaves as how a person adapts to his or her environment. An individual’s behavior is an adaptive process driven by a biological drive to obtain balance between schemes and the environment (Huitt and Hummel, 2003). This theory states that development is a byproduct linking and relating our experiences to each other, starting with general environmental knowledge, until a person’s cognitive ability is composed of more abstract reasoning.
The second cognitive theory emphasizes social and cultural environment. Vygotsky’s theory points to our relationships with others as the definitions of ourselves (Nicholl, 1998, par. 13).
Two other theories of early development link environment with biology. Sandra Scarr, a behavior geneticist, theorizes that heredity and environment are correlated. Author Judith Harris theorizes that heredity and peer environment are the sole factors in a person’s development, and therefore parents have no affect on the development of their children.
The life-span perspective should probably make room for familial environment: family of origin and family of choice. Assuming Harris is correct, a life-span approach to counseling will allow that children and spouses do influence an adult’s development....