The normative approach to lifespan development is a theoretical framework that brings together the life course perspective, cognitive-developmental theories, and the concept of age-graded norms to attempt to explain how human behavior and development changes throughout life. Through the normative approach, researchers ask questions about the continuity and discontinuity of development, how life experiences influence development, and the role of social and cultural norms in shaping development. The normative approach suggests that individuals develop according to a relatively predictable pattern and that this pattern is influenced by internal factors such as life experiences, cognitive development, and maturational changes, as well as external factors such as family and cultural influences.
In order to answer questions about the normative approach to lifespan development, it is important to understand the three major issues in development: continuity and discontinuity, one common course of development, and the role of social and cultural norms.
Continuity and Discontinuity: Continuity refers to the idea that development is a continuous process that is made up of small changes that accumulate over time. Discontinuity suggests that development is made up of distinct stages that are marked by major shifts in behavior and cognitive functioning. This means that development does not necessarily move in a linear fashion but instead contains periods of both stability and rapid change.
One Common Course of Development: The normative approach suggests that there is a “common course” of development and that individuals experience similar changes throughout life. This suggests that even though there is variation in how individuals experience and respond to different life events and experiences, there is a general pattern of development that is shared by all individuals.
The Role of Social and Cultural Norms: Social and cultural norms play an important role in the normative approach to lifespan development. Norms are the expectations, values, and behaviors that are shared by a particular culture or group. They shape individuals’ behavior and guide their development, influences their decisions and beliefs, and provide a framework for understanding the world around them.
By understanding the normative approach to lifespan development, researchers can better understand individual differences in development, how life experiences shape development, and the influence of social and cultural norms. In this way, this approach can provide important insight into the complex phenomena of human development.