At virtually the same time as the rise in cross-cultural studies of development, there has been a dramatic increase in interest in life span development, which covers not only the period from birth to maturity, but also continues through maturity to eventual demise (Baltes, Lindenberger and Staudinger, 2006). In this chapter, we examine cross-cultural variations in the developmental stages beyond the ones that were discussed in Chapter 2; these are childhood, adolescence and adulthood. After discussing cultural notions of childhood and adolescence, we will present evidence on how childhood experiences can explain cross-cultural variations in adulthood. In the section on adulthood, we will deal with mating, partnership and parenting across cultures. In the final section, we will discuss life span developmental and evolutionary approaches to late adulthood. The chapter concludes with reflections on the cross-cultural applicability of the developmental issues raised in the last two chapters.
Childhood and adolescence
As we have seen in the previous chapter, human development can be described in stages. There, we dealt with the first decade of life, comprising the two earliest stages, infancy and early childhood. While infancy is the period from birth to two years, childhood is mainly defined as the period after infancy and before sexual maturation.