The psychology of the life cycle

The psychology of the life cycle

The life cycle psychology It is not a psychological theory in the classical sense of the term, but an orientation within a specific area. Even the initial proponents of this perspective (such as Baltes, Reese and Schaie) argue that it is not a theory, nor a collection of theories, nor a metatheory of development.

It is a psychology approach based on the idea that all the changes (growth, development, aging) that people show from the moment of conception, through their lives and until their death They can be conceptualized as evolutionary changes.


  • 1 Life cycle psychology: an evolutionary psychology
  • 2 Final Comments
  • 3 References

The psychology of the life cycle: an evolutionary psychology

The normally called perspective evolutionary psychology of the life cycle it crystallizes around a set of ideas about the nature of change and human development. Because the evolutionary psychology of the complete cycle of life is an approach to the study of human development, its assumptions and propositions are neither fixed nor rigidly configured.

The description and explanation of development from the life cycle approach

The psychology of the life cycle rejects the traditional vision of development based on the idea of ​​evolutionary growth inspired by biology.

Thus, from traditional organic positions for development to be considered as such it must be qualitative. This is, by sequences, irreversible, oriented to a point or final state, and universal.

These features give the definition of development, according to the authors of the life cycle, a restrictive nature. In addition, it is inadequate to describe and explain the ontogenetic changes throughout the life cycle.

The authors of the life cycle have focused more attention on the following aspects of change

1. Development is a life-long process

From this perspective, development is conceived as a process that takes place from the beginning of change until death. Often this statement is opposed to the traditional orientation related to biological growth that involves a state of maturity and a final state of the process of evolutionary change.

Post-maturity change is considered as decline or aging and not as development. In this context, development and aging are considered conceptually different.

The psychology of the life cycle does not presuppose the existence of special stages of maturity. Therefore, development is seen as a continuous process that occurs throughout life.

The differences increase over the years

When the development curves are analyzed, it is observed that the differences between subjects of the same age do not remain constant throughout life, but increase over the years, even after adolescence.

If the differences remain constant at the end of adolescence, it could be maintained that the development ends at that stage. But, since the differences continue to increase, it is logical to think that development continues.

In this way, The task of psychology is to identify the form and course of behavioral changes as they occur at different points or moments in the life cycle, as well as establishing the structure of their order and temporal interrelations,

2. The development is multilineal and multidirectional

Another characteristic aspect of this approach is its defense that the different psychological processes do not follow the same direction throughout development.

In a wide variety of areas it has been found that changes can take many forms in terms of its temporal extension, directionality, degree of interindividual variability and plasticity.

Life cycle psychology researchers conceptualize processes not as linear, but as discontinuous multilineals. Thus, there are developmental processes that are limited to early periods of life (eg, reflex behavior).

Others, such as cognitive and social behavior, are based on childhood, but Acquisitions made can be transformed and extinguished in later periods such as adulthood.

There are also many relevant behaviors that are acquired during aging. In short, this conception implies that the changes do not have to extend throughout the entire life cycle and that new processes of behavioral change may appear at many different times in life, including the elderly.

3. Development is multicausal

The most important contribution of this approach to the explanation of development is its multicausal model. That is to say, There are several types of factors that affect development.

  • First, there are the normative influences related to age. They consist of biological and environmental determinants that are correlated with chronological age. They are normative from the moment that their appearance and duration are similar for many individuals.
    • Examples of these influences include maturational events, such as menarche or the onset of the stretch, and also socialization events such as fatherhood.
  • Next, you will find the normative influences related to history. They consist of biological and environmental processes that take place at a particular historical moment. They are normative because they are experienced by most members of a cohort.
    • Examples may include historical events (eg, epidemics, wars, periods of prosperity or economic depression) and sociocultural evolution (eg, changes associated with sexual roles, the education system, practices of parenting). These influences are revealed through the generational effects.
  • Finally, the non-normative influences that are not directly related to time since they do not happen to all people, not even to most individuals.
    • Examples of these non-normative events relevant to development may include the accidents, illnesses, the death of a close relative, separation, divorce, etc.

Final comments

The defenders of the life cycle psychology They have speculated that these three sources of influence show different profiles during the entire life cycle.

  • Regulatory influences related to age can be particularly significant in childhood and early adolescence, and again in old age.
  • Regulatory influences related to history may be more important throughout adolescence and subsequent years. This approach reflects the importance of the sociocultural context when the person begins adult life.
  • Finally, it is proposed that non-normative influences are particularly significant towards the middle of adult life and in old age. These influences explain the increasing differences that occur in individuals due to the unique vital events that each person experiences.


  • Chaparro, O., Mauricio, J., & Londoño, I. (2007). Individual life cycle: old age.Journal of the Colombian Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics. July September, (3), 1072-1084.
  • Posada, F. V. (2005). The life cycle approach: towards an evolutionary approach to aging.SP Hernandis, & MS Martínez, Gerontology, 147-148.
  • Ruiz, E. D., & Valdivieso, C. U. (2002). Psychology of the life cycle: towards a comprehensive vision of human life.Latin American Psychology Magazine1(1), 17-27.
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