life-span development

Autobiographical Developmental Essay Assignment Guide


The Autobiographical Developmental Essay is designed to assist you with identifying, integrating, and applying key concepts from developmental psychology to your own experience as a human. This assignment may also help spark ideas and/or prepare you for the Theory Essay assignment and/or Research Paper assignment later in this course. Please read through this document in its entirety before beginning your work on this assignment. Your Autobiographical Developmental Essay should be approximately 500 words double-spaced, using 12-point font and 1-inch margins. If you are using external research to support your claims, you must cite your
sources with APA citations and an APA reference page.


Read Chapter 1 (Santrock) and reflect on key periods of development, theories of development, and methods for conducting developmental research.

To complete this assignment, you will:

Step 1: Select a developmental period of interest and consider the associated set of prompting questions (see Choosing an experience for your essay, below). You may wish to read through the entire list of developmental periods and consider all questions before choosing. You may also benefit from letting your mind float to different periods of your life, honing in on the developmental periods to which your curiosity and attention are drawn.

Step 2: Decide if you would like to focus on yourself as the subject, someone you know (or knew) well, or a public figure about whom you’ve read a biography or autobiography. If you choose yourself, you may disclose that you are writing about your own experiences and write from a first-person narrative perspective, or you may give yourself a pseudonym and discuss your experiences from a third-person perspective. If you choose someone you know/knew well, please give them a pseudonym. If you choose a public figure, you may disclose who you are writing about and please include the full reference of the biography or autobiography you read.

*Note: Steps 1 and 2 may be iterative, in that you may need to consider both the developmental period and subject (you or someone else) in tandem before choosing a focus for your paper.

Step 3: Write about an event from your life or someone else’s life that occurred during one of these developmental periods. Provide enough information and detail for the reader to understand the event in developmental context. (approximately 1 page)

Step 4: Discuss each of the 3 key developmental issues below (see Chapter 1, Santrock) as each relates to the event you described in Step 3. You should briefly (1-2 sentences) define each developmental issue before discussing how each issue is related to the event. (approximately 1 paragraph each, for a total of approximately 1 page)

Nature and nurture

Stability and change

Continuity and discontinuity

*Note: To complete this step thoroughly, you may need to briefly bring in information from other developmental periods (e.g., when discussing stability and change regarding an event that occurred in early childhood, you may reference the person’s experiences later in adolescence).

Step 5: Choose one of the developmental theories below (as discussed in your text; see Chapter 1, Santrock). Briefly describe the key components of the theory, and discuss in detail how the theory applies to the event you discussed in Step 3. (approximately 1 page)

Psychoanalytic theories (Freud, Erikson)

Cognitive theory (Piaget, Vygotsky, Information-processing theory)

Behavioral theory (Skinner)

Social cognitive theory (Bandura)

Ethological theory (Bowlby)

Ecological theory (Bronfenbrenner)

Choosing an experience for your essay:

Remember: Although a key component of this assignment involves you reflecting on your own experiences throughout your development thus far, you may tailor your response to this assignment to ensure you are both in control of and comfortable with the information you share about your experiences. Thus, you may discuss your personal experiences, your experiences of someone you know well (e.g., friend, relative), or a public figure you’ve read about in a biography or autobiography.

BIOLOGICAL BEGINNINGS (prenatal development/family structures):

Was this person raised by biological or adoptive parents? Is this person a twin? Do they have siblings? What traits appear to “run” in the family (or not)?

INFANCY (approximate ages 0-2):

What do you know about this person’s birth and first year of life (e.g., complicated birth, low birth rate, a stay in the NICU)? Any interesting or unusual circumstances in or around their infancy (early or late to walk/talk)?

EARLY CHILDHOOD (approximate ages 2-6):

What was early family life like for this person? Who lived in the home, and how were they related to one another? Did they attend daycare or were they cared for in the home? What was this person’s earliest memory? What was special in their life at this time?

MIDDLE AND LATE CHILDHOOD (approximate ages 6-11):

What was it like for this person to begin school? How did they get along with other children? What kinds of activities, foods, games, did they enjoy? What did they want to be when they grew up? Any type of pretend play that they especially enjoyed?

ADOLESCENCE (approximate ages 12-18):

What was the transition to adolescence like? Did this person change schools? Were they involved in activities? What did their friendship group look like, and did they have a best friend, a romantic partner? How did friendships change at adolescence, as compared to childhood? How did this person feel about themselves, others, and the world around them?

EARLY ADULTHOOD (approximate ages 18-40):

What course did this person’s life take after reaching the age of majority (18)? Did this person need or have to work? Did they pursue additional training or education? What did their friendships look like as they entered into early adulthood? Any patterns in their romantic relationships? At what age did they begin to take on traditional adult roles (career worker, partner, parent), if at all?

MIDDLE ADULTHOOD (approximate ages 40-65):

Were there any “big” mid-life events that characterized this person’s middle adulthood? How did this person balance responsibilities they may have had (child-raising, taking care of aging parents)? How did physical changes impact their quality of life? What accomplishments did they achieve? Any setbacks or challenges?

LATE ADULTHOOD (approximate ages 66+):

Describe this person’s experiences with aging (cognitively, emotionally, relationally, physically). Were they connected to others? Lonely? If the person worked previously, when did they stop? How did they see themselves with regard to their identity (or various identities) at this stage? What meaning did they make about life and living?

END OF LIFE (any age):

What were the circumstances of this person’s end of life / death? Were there any decisions to be made? How did culture impact the way this person and those around them approached death and dying, or the aftermath?