The Top 10 Theories and Concepts in the Growth and Lifespan Development Section of the EPPP


Lifespan Development is a huge domain full of an incredibly large amount of information. It is also a Category B domain meaning that the material is emphasized on the EPPP. If you look at your Lifespan Development study materials, you’ll quickly notice that it’s a thick book of material compared to other domains required for review. Take your time reviewing Lifespan because it can encompass material in Biological Bases of Behavior, Cognitive-Affective Bases of Behavior, and Assessment and Diagnosis. Understand test taking strategies that will help you to remember all of the developmental stages, including concept maps, mnemonics, and chunking the material. Questions on the exam for this area tend to be fairly detailed but also straightforward.


To get you started, here are the top 10 theories and concepts you want to be sure to be familiar with:


1. Early Influences on Development

Before birth and during fetal development, there are several factors that can have a lasting impact on development. Take time to understand concepts such as genotype, phenotype, Rutter’s indicators, niche-picking, and critical versus sensitive periods of development. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model is also important for understanding the complex interactions between an individual and their context/environment. You will want to have some familiarity of the impact of maternal malnutrition, substance use, and prolonged stress on a fetus.


2. Chromosomal Disorders

There are several disorders that are the result of chromosomal abnormalities. Understand the characteristics of PKU, Down Syndrome, Klinefelter Syndrome, and Turner Syndrome. For example, you will want to know that Klinefelter Syndrome occurs in males, whereas Turner Syndrome occurs in females and is the result of a single “X” chromosome.


3. Physical Development and Health

Brain development, along with the normal developmental milestones of early childhood, are important to know and easy to confuse. Generally, it’s helpful to put this information in a chart format for easy comparison. Be able to differentiate what it expected of a baby age 1-3 months compared to a baby 10-12 months of age. Learn the physical abilities of a newborn at birth, including reflexes, vision, auditory localization, and pain perception. What happens to overall physical ability through maturation? For example, you will want to understand visual changes in adulthood as well as physical maturation in adolescence.


4. Cognitive Development

Piaget is an important name to be familiar with along with his stages of cognitive development. Use an acronym to remember sensorimotor through formal operational thought. Learn the information processing theories for acquiring new information as well as Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory.


5. Language Development

There are several stages toward language acquisition. Understand each of the 5 stages along with language errors that often occur during development. Learn the two theories of language development. Finally, you will likely come across a question pertaining to bilingualism and bilingual education. How do bilingual children compare to monolingual children in the classroom?


6. Temperament, Personality, and Identity

When looking at temperament and personality, Freud and Erikson are two names you want to be quite comfortable with along with their developmental theories. Questions pertaining to these stages of psychosexual and psychosocial development often provide you with a case example and ask you to determine what stage of development that child/adult is in.


7. Family Influences

How does family impact a child’s development and temperament? You will want to learn the research of parenting styles by Baumrind. To add, maternal depression also has some outcomes for children you will want to be familiar with.


8. Attachment, Emotions, Aggression, and Moral Development

Theories, signs, and patterns of attachment are all incredibly important to know and understand. You will want to connect questions pertaining to attachment to researchers such as Bowlby and Harlow. Although Piaget is known for his work pertaining to cognitive development, he was also interested in moral decision-making and identified two states of moral development. Kohlberg added to that research by suggesting that there are three levels of moral development: preconventional, conventional, and postconventional. Know and understand the work of each of these researchers and be prepared to be provided with questions asking you to determine what stage of moral development an individual is in based on a factitious case example.


9. Family and Peers

Family can have a significant effect of a child’s development, particularly major life stressors such as a parent’s diminished capacity provide for their children, divorce, or remarriage. Understand the effects of divorce on children along with the impact of remarriage for children and stepparents. Other concepts to be aware of include maternal employment, gay and lesbian parents, sibling relationships, child sexual abuse, and rejected vs. neglected children, to name a few.


10. School

Finally, school can play an incredibly important role in a child’s development, feelings of self-efficacy, and relationships. Understand the Rosenthal effect (self-fulfilling prophecy), the impact of gender on teacher feedback, and differences in education for traditional schooling and the Montessori method.


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