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Psychology Life-Span Development
by
Kathleen Stassen Berger

Introduction

Life-span development studies human development from the moment of conception to the last breath. The goal is not to describe characteristics of any particular time period but to trace and predict the processes of “dynamic interaction”—how the present connects to a person’s past and future. Life-span science is relatively new, flourishing since about 1970 as a distinct area in psychology, but it has deep roots in developmental research on children and the elderly. The concept that early family experiences affect later life is implicit in a century of child-rearing research, especially from a psychoanalytic or behavioral perspective, and the idea that genes affect all of life, including intelligence and personality, has been central to the biological understanding of human life for decades. Life-span development acknowledges these genetic and early family influences but also holds that culture, cohort, and contexts are powerful. A basic tenet is that change is always possible: people are affected but not determined by their genes and early childhood. Life-span psychology overlaps with many other disciplines, especially anthropology, life-course sociology, intergenerational family studies, and social history. Since life-span development is relatively new as a distinct field within psychology, with major foundations and discoveries in the past few years, current research and theory are particularly valuable. Both interdisciplinary and contemporary articles are often published in the latest issues of thousands of academic journals. Students and scholars who already understand the basic tenets of life-span may wish to jump to the Journals section and go online to seek the abstracts of the most recent issues of these journals, as well as to peruse other journals with life-span development in mind.

General Overviews

Life-span development became prominent when several leaders of the study of child development realized that people keep changing after adolescence. This was not obvious in the first half of the 20th century, and consequently Freud and Piaget described developmental stages that ended at adolescence. Then Erikson, Bronfenbrenner, and a cluster of scholars at annual conferences in West Virginia led by Baltes described human development after age 20 (see Erikson 1963, Bronfenbrenner 1977, and Baltes 1978–1990). Soon books on successful aging were published, notably Baltes and Baltes 1993 and Rowe and Kahn 1998, as a welcome antidote to ageism. Demographic data from the United Nations over the past decades continually verify worldwide increases in the average life span, bringing new attention to the adult years. Lerner 2010 and Fingerman, et al. 2011 are recent edited handbooks of life-span development that include dozens of articles on every aspect of life-span psychology. Either one is recommended as a start for the serious scholar, as they reflect the state of the field in the 21st century.

  • Baltes, Paul, ed. 1978–1990. Life-span development and behavior. 10 vols. New York: Academic Press.

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    Baltes edited ten volumes of research on the life span, providing a forum and resources for scholars in the field. As later entries in this overview section make clear, the field has progressed since then, but these volumes are important historical works, and many are still relevant to current concerns.

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  • Baltes, Paul, and Margret Baltes, eds. 1993. Successful aging: Perspectives from the behavioral sciences. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Margret and Paul Baltes continued to explore life-span development until their deaths in 1999 and 2006, respectively, building both on two large longitudinal studies in Germany and on concepts and research of many scholars worldwide. This particular book is cited for three reasons: (1) it explains selective optimization with compensation, a perspective that is widely used in current life-span development; (2) many of the articles are relatively accessible; and (3) most of the contributors are from Europe, where life-span psychology has flourished.

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  • Bronfenbrenner, Urie. 1977. Toward an experimental ecology of human development. American Psychologist 32:513–531.

    DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.32.7.513Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Bronfenbrenner electrified the field of developmental psychology when he claimed in this article in this flagship journal of the American Psychological Association that study of human development had “a brave beginning, a sad ending, and an empty middle.” He argued that recognizing the social context of development would remedy that. Thousands of scientists in the past decades have heeded his advice.

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  • Erikson, Erik. 1963. Childhood and society. New York: Norton.

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    This is Erikson’s classic work, which includes his eight stages of development (three after adolescence) and several descriptions of the power of culture and child-rearing on adult development. Erikson was a prolific writer; many of his later books expand on these themes.

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  • Fingerman, Karen L., Cynthia Berg, Jacqui Smith, and Toni C. Antonucci, eds. 2011. Handbook of life-span development. New York: Springer.

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    This book, edited by four leading women in life-span research, emphasizes cognition, neuroscience, and social relationships. Sociocultural issues, such as immigration, technology, and fertility, are given special attention.

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  • Lerner, Richard M., ed. 2010. The handbook of life-span development. 2 vols. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

    DOI: 10.1002/9780470880166Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    At more than two thousand, this comprehensive two-volume set, dedicated to Paul Baltes, is edited by Richard Lerner, another pillar of the field. Covers every topic of interest to life-span scholars via articles authored by almost a hundred leading researchers. Quality and coherence varies: some reviews are accessible to novices and others are aimed at advanced researchers. Several insightful articles are cited in later sections of this bibliography. The specifics of memory and learning are recognized as crucial in both handbooks, with thirteen chapters in Lerner and six in Fingerman, et al. 2011.

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  • Rowe, John W., and Robert Kahn. 1998. Successful aging: How the lifestyle choices you make now—more than heredity—determine your health and vitality. New York: Pantheon.

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    Contends that people age successfully if they make the right choices throughout their lives and stay active and social after age 60. Some life-span scholars believe this sets an unfairly high standard, not allowing for the variability and inevitable slowdowns of age. After a career as a geriatric M.D. and academic, Rowe became head of a successful medical insurance company, a fact that some think tarnishes his credibility and others think adds to it.

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  • United Nations. Social Indicators.

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    Reports demographic data that is of great interest to life-span development. Lists the proportion of people over age 60 and under age 15 in every nation, which makes it clear why the study of human development currently emphasizes the life-span perspective. For example, 9 percent of the world’s people are over age 60, but several European nations have more than 20 percent of the population that old, and the rate is 31 percent in Japan. Increases are projected everywhere, as baby boomers age and birthrate decreases.

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    Textbooks

    Every major academic publisher offers at least one life-span textbook for college students. Most are chronological, with a chapter or chapters on each major period of life, but some are topical, organized by research area, such as a chapter on physical growth, one on the family, and so on. College textbooks vary in emphasis, difficulty, design, and targeted audience (e.g., for advanced psychology majors or a more general audience, or for future nurses, teachers, or social workers). Of the more than fifty textbooks in the field, only the top three best sellers (Berger 2011, Berk 2010, and Santrock 2010), one unconventional alternative (Guest 2011), and the leading advanced text (Bornstein and Lamb 2011) are cited here. Potential adopters are encouraged to sample many textbooks.

    • Berger, Kathleen Stassen. 2011. The developing person through the life span. 8th ed. New York: Worth.

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      Organized chronologically and topically, with three chapters—biosocial, cognitive, and psychosocial—on each of the seven main periods of development. This is the best seller in the field because of the writing style, the currency, and the design; the main complaint is that the length (26 chapters, 700+ pages) makes it difficult to teach in one semester.

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    • Berk, Laura. 2010. Development through the lifespan. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Allyn & Bacon.

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      This is the chronological version: Berk also wrote a topical life-span text, which some professors prefer. The strength of Berk’s texts is that they are comprehensive and detailed; the main complaint is that they are less exciting than they might be.

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    • Bornstein, Marc, and Michael Lamb. 2011. Developmental science: An advanced textbook. 6th ed. New York: Psychology Press.

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      This book presents thirteen topical chapters, each written by scholars. Despite the focus on childhood, a life-span perspective is evident. Because of its many authors, the research and conclusions are often more current than in single-author texts; for the same reason, this book is more suitable for graduate students who already know the essentials of life-span development.

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    • Guest, Andrew M. 2011. Taking sides: Clashing views on lifespan development. 3d ed. New York: McGraw Hill.

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      An alternative to a comprehensive text, especially for undergraduates who enjoy debate, this book presents twenty controversies via relatively brief, polarized views by known scholars. Some of the issues relate to the entire life span (e.g., genetics, sex differences) but many are specific to one stage, such as whether adolescent brains promote risk-taking, or whether older adults benefit from civic engagement. For that reason, this text is less suitable as a stand-alone introduction.

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    • Santrock, John W. 2010. Life-span development. 13th ed. New York: McGraw Hill.

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      Students praise this book as clear and easy to read, with charts that make the teacher’s job more straightforward. The main complaint from professors is that it is sketchy, with inadequate current detail.

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    Briefer Textbooks

    All three of the authors cited in Textbooks have briefer texts for life-span science: Berger 2010, Berk 2010, and Santrock 2011. Each of these books reflects the “big” books above, but they are designed for instructors and students who find the larger books overwhelming.

    • Berger, Kathleen Stassen. 2010. Invitation to the life span. New York: Worth.

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      This book is only fifteen chapters, achieved by putting theories into the first chapter, and by having only two chapters on each period of life (and only one on emerging adulthood). As an added feature for struggling students, medial summaries are in list form and concept maps appear after each section.

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    • Berk, Laura. 2010. Exploring lifespan development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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      Berk summarizes life-span development in nineteen chapters, while still including research details that will be of particular interest to students in education.

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    • Santrock, John. 2011. Essentials of lifespan development. New York: McGraw Hill.

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      Santrock includes many summary tables and charts in his nineteen chapters, which makes this book useful for students who want to know exactly what they need to learn.

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    Journals

    Academic journals are the best source for recent, peer-reviewed research. Included in this section are general journals that often include life-span topics, each published by an organization of scholars. For academics in psychology, the Association for Psychological Science (APS) has become a leading publisher of research in several journals, two of which are reviewed here. In addition, the Population Association publishes international studies, and the Society of Family Relations publishes research on many generations and relationships. Students interested in any specific issue are urged to consult other peer-reviewed journals: more than a thousand journals (not only in psychology, not only in English) may include insightful and informative life-span articles. Although all the journals cited welcome submissions from many parts of the world, many nations have their own excellent journals that focus on development, such as the British Journal of Developmental Psychology. Readers should consult those as well.

    • Demography.

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      Demography publishes articles regarding demographic shifts and associations from many disciplines, not only those directly concerned with population changes. Many studies are of particular relevance for life-span development. This journal is interdisciplinary, including the fields of geography, history, biology, statistics, epidemiology, and public health as well as all the social sciences.

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    • Journal of Marriage and Family.

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      “Family” is broadly construed, so that articles about intimate partners, siblings, widows and widowers, aunts and uncles, and single adults are included in this journal. Particularly relevant to life-span development is that most articles focus on relationships, especially intergenerational relationships.

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    • Psychological Science.

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      Recent articles in Psychological Science explore the “reminiscence bump,” the idea that people of all ages focus on early adulthood as a most memorable time; comparing the speed of acculturation of immigrants of various ages and eras; and a worldwide study of happiness.

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    • Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

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      Although all APS journals sometimes contain life-span articles, this journal studies topics in depth, almost always including data from many ages. For example, in 2011 an article titled “Intelligence and Personality as Predictors of Illness and Death: How Researchers in Differential Psychology and Chronic Disease Epidemiology Are Collaborating to Understand and Address Health Inequities” includes reference to seminal life-span research from a cohort in Scotland, first assessed fifty years ago.

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    Life-Span Focus

    Many journals focus specifically on the life span, and thus every article reflects life-span methods and perspectives, as well as content. The leading journal is Developmental Psychology, published by the American Psychological Society, but many other journals also follow a life-span approach.

    • Developmental Psychology.

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      Every article in this journal considers development, often contrasting and comparing changes over time, with some articles focusing on childhood and others on adulthood. For example, in the first issue of the 2011 volume, thirty-five years of longitudinal data are used to trace correlations between spouses on happiness. Many articles compare people of different generations within the same family.

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    • Development and Psychopathology.

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      Developmental psychopathology uses insights from normal development to shed light on the abnormal, and vice versa. This journal unpacks not only well-recognized psychopathology, such as autism and depression, but also maltreatment, aggression, addiction, and many other conditions. A 2011 issue on differential susceptibility explores the links between genetic vulnerability, stage of development, and psychological problems—especially relevant to a life-span development perspective.

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    • Developmental Review.

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      This journal explicitly seeks reviews of various areas within developmental science, and thus often provides overviews of topics that include various ages. For example, recent articles focus on risk, on bullies, on brain development, and on stress at several points in the life span.

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    • Developmental Science.

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      More than 90 percent of the articles in this journal focus on infants and young children, and hence life-span development is not the usual topic. Nonetheless, this journal has three things to recommend it for this review: (1) concern with accurate, longitudinal methods, (2) emphasis on neuroscience, and (3) recognition of the critical role of social context.

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    • Human Development.

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      This journal includes many thoughtful articles about life-span development. The editors explicitly seek articles from many nations and disciplines, including anthropology, biology, education, history, philosophy, psychology, and sociology. For example, a 2011 issue focuses on the impact of immigration on child development, touching on psychological, educational, and health aspects.

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    • Research in Human Development.

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      Studies published in this journal consider long-term development, usually within Western Europe and the United States, often over decades, from adolescence through late life. One strength of this journal is that it attempts to describe gains and resilience at various ages as well as liabilities. The intent is to be “inclusive, integrative, and interdisciplinary.”

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    Specific Developmental Period Focus

    The life-span perspective includes all of life, from conception through death, but many of the themes and methods are evident in research that emphasizes one part of the life span. The following journals each center on one age period, yet many articles within them are longitudinal and reach conclusions that reflect a comprehensive, decade-long view.

    Research Measurements and Methods

    Given that life-span psychology seeks to understand the processes of development, even decades ago the limitations of traditional social science research measurements were apparent, as described in Baltes, et al. 1977. A model that combines the best of cross-sectional and longitudinal design was developed and repeatedly updated by K. Warner Schaie, recently reported in detail in Schaie 2005. Current attempts to use statistics to grasp the variability of individual trajectories over the life span are discussed in Sliwinski 2011 and in Newell and Molenaar 2010, both of which are best understood by those familiar with statistics. Innovative measurements and designs continue to be sought, because it is challenging to simultaneously reflect the multidimensional individual changes over time and the broad patterns that transcend cultural and contextual variations. Dynamic measures, involving structural equations, latent constructs, growth curves, and factor analysis are all used. Hofer and Alwin 2008 discusses factors that affect cognitive aging lifelong—health, culture, and education among them—in detail, explaining the need for caution and care, of particular importance to the serious scholar. Elder and Giele 2009 is more accessible, with a wealth of ideas regarding qualitative and quantitative methods as well as some of the excitement when research leads to discovery. Thus Elder and Giele 2009 merits perusal by those new to the field as well as by established scholars.

    • Baltes, Paul B., Hayne Waring Reese, and John R. Nesselroade. 1977. Life-span developmental psychology: Introduction to research methods. Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.

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      The first major description of the research methods of developmental science. Statistical techniques have advanced since 1977, but the need for longitudinal, multifaceted research is as relevant now as it was then.

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    • Elder, Glen H., and Janet Z. Giele. 2009. The craft of life course research. New York: Guilford.

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      With insights from their own work, such as Elder’s longitudinal studies of Iowa farm families during and after the Great Depression, which were seminal for scholarship regarding social contexts and the life span, as well as with essays by several other leaders in the field, this book explains ways to link generations, historical periods, international research, behavior genetics, and so on.

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    • Hofer, Scott M., and Duane F. Alwin. 2008. Handbook of cognitive aging: Interdisciplinary perspectives. Los Angeles: SAGE.

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      By the title, one might think this book is about cognition in late adulthood, not research methods and measurements in life-span development. However, many articles discuss the problems of research and measurement in depth, with insights that apply to all life-span research. For instance, the inadequacies of “linear,” “average,” and “significant” results are noted, with suggestions as to how to measure dynamic intraindividual and interindividual change.

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    • Newell, Karl M., and Peter C. M. Molenaar, eds. 2010. Individual pathways of change: Statistical models for analyzing learning and development. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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      For the scholar, this book describes advantages and disadvantages of advanced techniques for describing change, with an emphasis on repeated measures necessary to trace the process of development and intraindividual variation avoiding the problem of hasty averaging, which obscures variability among and within individuals over time. Throughout this work, many scholars reiterate that scientists need to measure, systematically, both observed and latent variables within each person.

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    • Schaie, K. Warner. 2005. Developmental influences on adult intelligence. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

      DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195156737.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Describes designs, methods, and data from Schaie’s classic Seattle Longitudinal study of adult intelligences through the life span. Some of Schaie’s original participants are in their eighties, providing not only age data on various components of cognition but also cohort, context, and gender variables.

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    • Sliwinski, Martin. 2011. Approaches to modeling intraindividual and interindividual facets of change for developmental research. In Handbook of life-span development. Edited by Karen L. Fingerman, Cynthia Berg, Jacqui Smith, and Toni C. Antonucci, 1–25. New York: Springer.

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      Sliwinski challenges every social scientist to consider the critical role of time, both moment-by-moment and in longer-term chronology, because time is always a powerful variable in studying people.

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    Theories

    Some psychologists believe that if scientists do not begin their research with theory and then hypotheses they are just “fishing,” interpreting ex post facto what they have caught. Certainly every life-span study implicitly has theoretical roots, and many of the works cited elsewhere in this review are explicit about their theoretical base. This is particularly apparent in the Personality Development section. Listed here are selections that focus specifically on theory, beginning with a general work in Miller 2009, and then a more specific work in Bengston, et al. 2009. Several other works are also pertinent: Bengston, et al. 2009 includes several detailed articles on biological aging; Bornstein, et al. 2011 explains socialization theories over the life span; and Lang, et al. 2011 shows how a prominent theory on gains and losses throughout life can be used. These three provide a good beginning for scientists contemplating their own research in life-span development.

    • Bengston, Vern L., Daphna Gans, Norella M. Putney, and Merril Silverstein, eds. 2009. Handbook of theories of aging. 2d ed. New York: Springer.

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      Although this handbook ostensibly covers the later years of life, several theories are relevant for the life span, such as those regarding immunology and oxidative stress in the biology of development. Furthermore, this book includes social theories that are relevant lifelong, such as theories of culture and of public policy.

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    • Bornstein, Marc H., Jeylan T. Mortimer, Karen Luteky, and Robert H. Bradley. 2011. Theories and processes in life-span socialization. In Handbook of life-span development. Edited by Karen L. Fingerman, Cynthia Berg, Jacqui Smith, and Toni C. Antonucci, 27–55. New York: Springer.

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      This article discusses the many ways to interpret social processes. Socialization is crucial for life-span development, and here students learn there are several ways to consider such processes.

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    • Lang, Frieder R., Margund K. Rohr, and Bettina Willinger. 2011. Modeling success in life-span psychology: The principles of selection, optimization and compensation. In Handbook of life-span development. Edited by Karen L. Fingerman, Cynthia Berg, Jacqui Smith, and Toni C. Antonucci, 57–85. New York: Springer.

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      The theory of selection, optimization, and compensation (SOC) is now often considered the most comprehensive theory of life-span development. It stresses the dynamic relationship between the individual and the changing temporal world. Although SOC is sometimes presented as fact in this article, note that it is a model, not necessarily a reality.

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    • Miller, Patricia. 2009. Theories of developmental psychology. 5th ed. New York: Worth.

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      In this latest edition, developmental theories are presented as part of the life-span development. Even the classic theories of Freud and Erikson are shown to be relevant for adulthood as well as childhood.

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    Systems and Relationships

    A major emphasis in life-span development is that individuals do not develop in isolation, but rather in relationship to other people and as part of the social systems in which they find themselves. One leader in this perspective was Urie Bronfenbrenner, already mentioned in General Overviews, who described the bioecological systems that guide each person. Two Bronfenbrenner works are presented here: Bronfenbrenner 1979, the author’s master work, and Bronfenbrenner and Morris 2006, which provides a detailed yet introductory explanation of dynamic systems. Current research on systems, such as Lang and Fingerman 2004 or more succinctly in Levitt and Cici-Gokaltun 2011, are accessible to everyone. An important concept in relationships is the social convoy (the people who travel through life together) as explained by Antonucci, et al. 2010. Especially for those more interested in social institutions and policies (exosystems), Hoffman 2008 provides transnational data and interpretation.

    • Antonucci, Toni, Katherine Fiori, Kira Birditt, and Lisa Jackey. 2010. Convoys of social relations: Integrating life-span and life-course perspectives. In The handbook of life-span development. Vol. 2, Social and emotional development. Edited by Richard Lerner, Michael Lamb, and Alexandra Freund, 434–473. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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      This article concerns the social contexts that sustain people throughout their lives. Note that the title of the article includes both “life-span” and “life-course,” which signifies that the authors try to integrate research in psychology and sociology. Such integration is essential for consideration of social systems.

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    • Bronfenbrenner, Urie. 1979. The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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      In this book, Bronfenbrenner describes five major systems of development: microsystems (small and immediate groups, such as the family), macrosystems (larger systems, such as the community), exosystems (overarching cultural, economic, and political systems), chronosystems (historical conditions), and mesosytems (systems that connect other systems to each other, such as ways employment patterns affect families).

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    • Bronfenbrenner, Urie, and Pamela Morris. 2006. The bioecological model of human development. In Handbook of child psychology. 6th ed. Editor-in-chief: William Damon. Vol. 1, Theoretical models of human development. Edited by Richard M. Lerner, 793–828. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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      Bronfenbrenner describes his ecological model, adding a sixth system, the bioecological, which recognizes the importance of genetics. His life-span perspective appears here as an article within the Handbook of Child Psychology, a reference work in many editions first published in 1931. This inclusion reflects the reality that, instead of child psychology as the sole foundation of later life, the life-span approach infuses current conceptualization of infant, child, and adolescent development.

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    • Hoffman, Rasmus. 2008. Socioeconomic differences in old age mortality. New York: Springer.

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      Social systems, such as those of culture, religion, and social class, are basic to sociology and anthropology, but are also part of life-span psychology. This book details the components of socioeconomic differences, including income and education, as they affect human development from conception to death. Detailed statistics and event analysis use data from many nations. Despite the implications of the title, the focus is not on death: SES effects on health throughout the life span are analyzed.

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    • Lang, Frieder R., and Karen L. Fingerman, eds. 2004. Growing together: Personal relationships across the life-span. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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      In fifteen chapters, this book covers the crucial importance of social relationships over the life span. In addition to the usual topics (parent-child, husband-wife), chapters on siblings, friends, and strangers, as well as discussion of technology and both physical and mental health, make this resource a comprehensive discussion of the social aspects of development.

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    • Levitt, Mary J., and Ayse Cici-Gokaltun. 2011. Close relationships across the life span. In Handbook of life-span development. Edited by Karen L. Fingerman, Cynthia Berg, Jacqui Smith, and Toni C. Antonucci, 457–486. New York: Springer.

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      This article covers much of the same material as Lang and Fingerman 2004, albeit much more briefly. Special emphasis is given to the role of culture, affecting many aspects of relationship, nature, and function.

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    Neuroscience

    There is no doubt that brain areas and neurological activity are influential throughout the life span, with varied specifics depending partly on the age of the individual. Stiles 2008 and Johnson 2010 both explain the basics of brain development, with Stiles somewhat easier to grasp for the novice and Johnson providing more specifics regarding early life. The focus of both works is on the brain relatively early in development, but both include implications for brain functioning in adulthood and old age. Together, Schlagger and Barnes 2011 and Reuter-Lorenz, et al. 2011 provide caution and hope, as they describe the changes in neurological functioning over the life span. Two other articles focus on the later years of life, with Zelazo and Lee 2010 including details of specific brain matter and Greenberg and Partridge 2010 taking a broader view. Finally, Barnes 2010 describes the importance of a life-span perspective for several genetic conditions that include brain abnormalities.

    • Barnes, Marcia A., ed. 2010. Genes, brain, and development: The neurocognition of genetic disorders. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511770708Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      By taking a life-span perspective, articles within this book describe both child and adult development of individuals with various conditions. Many disorders are reported to change over time: recent longitudinal data often corrects earlier cross-sectional studies.

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    • Greenberg, Gary, and Ty Partridge. 2010. Biology, evolution, and psychological development. In The handbook of life-span development. Vol. 1, Cognition, biology, and methods. Edited by Willis F. Overton, 115–148. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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      The relationship between brain development and human evolution is described. An understanding of changes in human physiology and social interactions over centuries and millennia is part of life-span development, which makes this article particularly relevant for a comprehensive understanding of the field.

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    • Johnson, Mark H. 2010. Developmental cognitive neuroscience. 3d ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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      This book is excellent in detailing brain development in the months immediately before and after birth, with lifelong implications.

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    • Reuter-Lorenz, Patricia A., Johas Persson, and Kristen Flegel. 2011. Cognitive neuroscience of the aging mind and brain. In Handbook of life-span development. Edited by Karen L. Fingerman, Cynthia Berg, Jacqui Smith, and Toni C. Antonucci, 387–406. New York: Springer.

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      Changes over the years of adulthood, including loss of some neurological connections and varied shrinkage of certain areas, are described, and their implications noted. The differences between normal aging and pathology are clarified, with hopeful signs regarding exercise and training.

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    • Schlagger, Bradley L., and Kelly Anne Barnes. 2011. Developmental cognitive neuroscience: Infancy to young adulthood. In Handbook of life-span development. Edited by Karen L. Fingerman, Cynthia Berg, Jacqui Smith, and Toni C. Antonucci, 363–385. New York: Springer.

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      This article focuses on brain structures in the first twenty years of life, acknowledging the difficulty of such research and that growth is neither linear nor smooth. Cautions apply to much of the research in life-span development, particularly regarding neuroscience.

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    • Stiles, Joan. 2008. The fundamentals of brain development: Integrating nature and nurture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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      Written for a general audience, this book describes the relationship between maturation and experience, stressing the interaction within the brain between the two.

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    • Zelazo, Philip David, and Wendy S. Lee. 2010. Brain development: An overview. In The handbook of life-span development. Vol. 1, Cognition, biology, and methods. Edited by Willis F. Overton, 89–114. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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      This article is quite specific about the many changes in overall volume, white and grey matter, and activation of the brain over the life span, with increases and decreases at various ages that are partly the result of genetic patterns but also are related to experiences.

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    Personality Development

    Life-span development centers on the sweep of life, as people age from conception to death. Thus the descriptions of each age—such as that infants do not talk, that school children learn to read, that vocabulary increases throughout adulthood—are dynamic, not static, because characteristics of one age morph into the next age (talking leads to reading leads to vocabulary, and so on). Underlying those transformations is personality, once thought to be set by early childhood or even by genes inherited at conception, but now seen as plastic, as explained in an accessible overview, McAdams and Olsen 2010. For psychologists who seek to understand personality theory from a life-span perspective, Dumont 2010 is a comprehensive source. A controversy within personality development research over the life span is whether inherited traits or social contexts are more influential. This controversy is the subtext of two back-to-back articles, Lode-Smith, et al. 2011 and Charles and Luong 2011.

    • Charles, Susan T., and Gloria Luong. 2011. Emotional experience across the life span. In Handbook of life-span development. Edited by Karen L. Fingerman, Cynthia Berg, Jacqui Smith, and Toni C. Antonucci, 531–559. New York: Springer.

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      Although noting some continuity from early childhood to late life, the research summarized includes that personality and emotional regulation and expression can and do change at every point, including throughout adulthood. Context, especially the environments chosen by people, are influential, with the later years described as usually lower in stress and higher in stability than the earlier ones.

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    • Dumont, Frank. 2010. A history of personality psychology: Theory, science, and research from Hellenism to the twenty-first century. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511676093Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This book is infused with the life-span perspective, including a chapter that explicitly describes the historical shift from youth-based to life-span models of development. Tracing personality research from the ancient Greeks to the present, Dumont values individuality, idiosyncrasy, and diversity via two traditions that no longer dominate psychological theory, specifically psychoanalysis (emphasizing Adler, Jung, and Erikson more than Freud) and humanism (stressing Allport more than Rogers and Maslow).

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    • Lode-Smith, Jennifer, Nicholas Turiano, and Dan Mroczek. 2011. Personality trait development over the life span. In Handbook of life-span development. Edited by Karen L. Fingerman, Cynthia Berg, Jacqui Smith, and Toni C. Antonucci, 513–529. New York: Springer.

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      This article examines the temperamental aspects of development head-on, citing research that shows general personality shifts, and sometimes marked change, over the life span.

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    • McAdams, Dan P., and Bradley D. Olson. 2010. Personality development: Continuity and change over the life course. Annual Review of Psychology 61:517–542.

      DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.093008.100507Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Focusing specifically on the life span, McAdams and Olson reflect the trait perspective, using descriptions that people narrate of themselves as participants and observers in the drama of their lives. As people tell their life stories, what they do and do not say indicates their ongoing development, according to these researchers.

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    Special Populations

    The life-span view of development includes the recognition that seeking an average characteristic, typical pattern, or normal person does not fairly reflect the diversity of humans as they age. Accordingly, many books in life-span psychology focus on particular populations or circumstances that affect some people but not all of them. Four exemplars are cited here: Horowitz, et al. 2009 on the gifted; Park, et al. 2009 on chronic illness or the sequelae of acute illness; Rubin and Coplan 2010 on social withdrawal; and Miklowitz and Ciccetti 2010 on bipolar disorder. These books are accessible and informative to readers interested in these topics, and helpful for those who are interested in patterns of all of life. Those without special interests in these topics might have a more difficult time with these books, but everyone who is interested in any other special population should be able to find a life-span perspective in a recent book, since the prenatal stage, childhood, and adulthood are linked for every human condition.

    • Horowitz, Frances Degen, Rena F. Subotnik, and Dona J. Matthews. 2009. The development of giftedness and talent across the life span. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

      DOI: 10.1037/11867-000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      About half of this book focuses on giftedness at one age, while acknowledging that being gifted in one period of life does not guarantee giftedness earlier or later. The other half of the book explicitly discusses cultures and social systems—how identification of unusual potential should occur, what forces amplify or limit special qualities, and so on. This book is thus provocative regarding the human aging process overall.

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    • Miklowitz, David, and Dante Cicchetti. 2010. Understanding bipolar disorder: A developmental psychopathology perspective. New York: Guilford.

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      Throughout this book, a developmental psychopathology perspective (multifinality, equifinality, age changes) is emphasized. Those concepts are relevant for every psychological condition, as explained in the lead article, with bipolar disorder only the most recent example of an adult disorder that is now seen in children. Links between generations are also described.

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    • Park, Crystal L., Suzanne C. Lechner, Michael H. Antoni, and Annette L. Stanton. 2009. Medical illness and positive life change: Can crisis lead to personal transformation? Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

      DOI: 10.1037/11854-000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Not everyone experiences cancer, or heart disease, or adolescent diabetes, and not all who do are transformed by it. Although illness may be limiting, it sometimes triggers positive change—in human relationships, in self-understanding, and in life-meaning—that echoes throughout the rest of people’s lives. This book acknowledges variations, recognizing the effect of age on medical crises. Implicitly and often explicitly, this book reflects life-span development.

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    • Rubin, Kenneth H., and Robert J. Coplan. 2010. The development of shyness and social withdrawal. New York: Guilford.

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      This book details many variations in social withdrawal, with changing behaviors as people grow older. One article is specifically about life-span differences: Jen Asendorpf’s “Long-Term Development of Shyness: Looking Forward and Looking Backward” (pp. 157–175).

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    Aging

    Life-span development is about all of life, not only the second half. The classic works on aging are described in the Handbook of Aging (see Binstock and George 2011) in three volumes (biology in Masoro and Austad 2011, psychology in Schaie and Willis 2011, and social sciences in Binstock and George 2011), which have been a reliable reference work since the first edition in 1976. Currently this trio is in the seventh edition, edited by Laura Carstensen and Thomas Rando, and the current volumes all reflect a life-span perspective, including the years long before aging. Each of the three current volumes is described separately here.

    • Binstock, Robert H., and Linda K. George, eds. 2011. Handbook of aging and the social sciences. San Diego, CA: Academic Press/Elsevier.

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      The twenty-five articles in this volume approach aging from a social perspective, and thus discuss social structure, institutions, and politics—all of which impact human development throughout life. Indeed, many articles are directly life-span-focused in content, as befits a volume that has been revised over the past three decades. For example, an article discusses molecular genetics and another focuses on ethnicity over the life course.

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    • Masoro, Edward J., and Steven N. Austad, eds. 2011. Handbook of the biology of aging. San Diego, CA: Academic Press/Elsevier.

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      Contains twenty-three articles on physical aspects of the aging process, such as the benefits of stem cells, myelination, and calorie restriction, and the hazards of obesity, oxidative stress, and inflammation. Many of the research subjects are non-human, usually mice. When the articles refer to humans, prenatal and infancy effects are often noted, with life-span impacts that vary depending on the stage of life.

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    • Schaie, K. Warner, and Sherry L. Willis, eds. 2011. Handbook of the psychology of aging. San Diego, CA: Academic Press/Elsevier.

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      In twenty-four articles, researchers acknowledge the complexity of life-span development, with the interplay of genes, experiences, culture, and age. Examples include six articles that detail neurological aging, including the interaction of specific brain structures and diverse cognitive functions such as episodic memory, control processes, frequent reference to culture in intergenerational relationships, stressors, and ageism.

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    Prevention of Late-Life Problems

    A major concern in life-span development is how to prevent late-life problems by understanding precursors early in life. As explained for students in Cohen, et al. 2010, with a life-span perspective, prevention is not just tertiary (after the fact) but also primary (for the entire society) and secondary (for high-risk people). With this as a proper preventive perspective, late-life problems need not occur. For instance, as Kones 2011 explains in strong terms accessible to all, adult heart disease is linked to childhood obesity, which makes prevention of childhood obesity more urgent, including primary preventions such as nutritious school meals and safe playgrounds. Very specific understanding of life-span connections for cancer is described by Alberts and Hess 2008. Since cancer is the leading killer of adults, this book is especially recommended for those in the medical profession. For the general public, Langer 2009 describes how mindfulness can slow many of the changes of aging, a controversial hope that Hsu, et al. 2010 reiterates with details of research. Another take on prevention comes from Carstensen 2009, which describes ways that society’s age expectations and patterns might be restructured so that people are happy and productive lifelong.

    • Alberts, David S. and Lisa M. Hess, eds. 2008. Fundamentals of cancer prevention. 2d ed. New York: Springer.

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      This book summarizes research on preventing cancer, including the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, staying physically active, avoiding sunburn, and quitting smoking. Details differentiate one kind of cancer from another and include the mixed and “muddy” research on specific vitamins, genes, and ethnic factors. Practices in childhood and early adulthood are shown to affect cancer incidence in middle and late adulthood.

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    • Carstensen, Laura L. 2009. A long bright future: An action plan for a lifetime of happiness, health, and financial security. New York: Broadway Books/Random House.

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      Carstensen is a noted researcher, cited often in life-span books and journals. Here she writes for the lay audience, hoping for restructuring of cultural norms and recognizing that prenatal practices affect old age. One idea is that life’s first thirty years should be time for study, family formation, and part-time work, and then adults should work full-time for decades, with salary, Social Security, and pension policies that encourage older adults to stay in the work force—gradually retiring if and when they wish.

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    • Cohen, Larry, Vivian Chavez, and Sana Chehimi, eds. 2010. Prevention is primary: Strategies for community well-being. 2d ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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      This series of essays emphasizes primary prevention, not only of physical diseases but also mental health disorders, via collaboration and organizing among many sectors of the community. The theme is to be proactive, working “upstream” on issues such as the built environment, corporate policy, and pollutant elimination before serious damage is done. Access to care, social assumptions, and public laws are addressed.

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    • Hsu, Laura M., Jaewoo Chung, and Ellen J. Langer. 2010. The influence of age-related cues on health and longevity. Perspectives on Psychological Science 6:632–648.

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      This article cites research that shows that a person’s self-image of how old they think they appear affects physiological aging. Since correlation is not causation, alternate explanations are possible, and these results are controversial as well as provocative.

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    • Kones, Richard. 2011. Is prevention a fantasy, or the future of medicine? A panoramic view of recent data, status, and direction in cardiovascular prevention. Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease 5:61–81.

      DOI: 10.1177/1753944710391350Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Kones bewails the state of prevention of heart disease, finding the roots in childhood and early adult behavior, leading to heart attacks and death in later life.

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    • Langer, Ellen J. 2009. Counter clockwise: Mindful health and the power of possibility. New York: Ballantine.

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      Langer is a prime proponent of “mindfulness,” a “psychology of possibility” which contends that much of what people believe about their own aging is discouraging, and that this mindset speeds up the onset of frailty far more than the biological processes of senescence. If humans could rid themselves of the depressing social construction of late life, Langer contends, the elderly would have more active, healthy, and happy decades.

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    Longevity/Life Extension

    Peripheral to mainstream life-span psychology, but of great interest to scientists in many disciplines and to the general public, is the quest to prolong human life, past the average in the healthiest nations of about 80 years, or the verified maximum of 122 years. Research on ways to slow, reverse, or halt aging is intriguing yet controversial for ethical, scientific, and economic reasons. An introduction to the topic is provided by Weiner 2010, and then radical extension is described by de Grey and Rae 2007. Critics are many: Weintraub 2010 fears that economic gains are the real motivation underlying the search for longer life, and Maher and Mercer 2009 examines radical life extension from the perspective of many of the world’s religions, some of which accept it as already possible while others religions fear it. A balanced and research-based view is that adding a few healthy years to life is possible for everyone, as described by Butler 2008 and Friedman and Martin 2011.

    • Butler, Robert N. 2008. The longevity revolution: The benefits and challenges of living a long life. Philadelphia: Public Affairs/Perseus.

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      This book by a leading gerontologist provides a thoughtful discussion of the psychological and sociological aspects of longevity. Butler describes later life as a period with many joys and strengths, and thus allows the possibility that life extension would not necessarily mean decades of frailty, dependence, and senility. Butler is credited with coining the term “ageism,” as prejudice against the aged is called, and then combating the ideas underlying that concept.

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    • de Grey, Aubrey D. N. J., and Michael Rae. 2007. Ending aging: The rejuvenation breakthroughs that could reverse human aging in our lifetime. New York: St. Martins.

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      De Grey believes that scientists are on the brink of discovering the biological causes of aging, finding methods to allow people to live five hundred years or more. Here and in his other writings, de Grey contends that irrational fears slow down radical life extension, as aging is a disease that scientists should understand and prevent.

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    • Friedman, Howard S., and Leslie R. Martin. 2011. The longevity project: Surprising discoveries for health and long life from the landmark eight-decade study. New York: Hudson Street.

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      Early in the 20th century, a forward-thinking scientist named Lewis Terman asked teachers to help choose more than a thousand gifted young children. Terman then followed them lifelong, dispelling the myth that geniuses were likely to become mentally ill and finding benefits for marriage, at least for that cohort. In this book, researchers trace the original subjects, learning why some lived much longer than others.

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    • Maher, Derek, and Calvin Mercer. 2009. Religion and the implications of radical life extension. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

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      Scholars of the major religions of the world discuss the implications of extending the human life span by hundreds of years. Western religions, including Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, tend to be more fearful about postponing death than Eastern religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Daoism, in which spirituality is thought to increase in late adulthood. This book is recommended in part because it provides multicultural views of the life span.

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    • Weiner, Jonathan. 2010. Long for this world: The strange science of immortality. New York: Ecco.

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      Beginning with a wary description of radical life extension, Weiner describes several leading scientific efforts to understand and slow down cell aging and thus extend the human life span. This book is written for a general audience, but the author is respectfully skeptical—neither convinced nor dismissive of the possibility that humans can live longer than they now do. He raises the crucial philosophical question: Why would humans want to extend the life span?

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    • Weintraub, Arlene. 2010. Selling the fountain of youth: How the anti-aging industry made a disease out of getting old, and made billions. New York: Basic Books.

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      Weintraub is critical of the notion that youth and life can be prolonged, contending that the profit motive in corporations and within the medical profession has promoted false hope, hormone replacement therapy, anti-aging drugs called “potions,” and other measures.

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    LAST MODIFIED: 11/29/2011

    DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199828340-0079

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