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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

3 - Individual development: Childhood, adolescence and adulthood

from Part I - Similarities and differences in behavior across cultures


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.

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Further reading
Bjorklund, D. F., and Pellegrini, A. D. (2002). The origins of human nature: Evolutionary developmental psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
This introductory textbook on evolutionary developmental psychology gives a thorough and readable synopsis of this new emerging field with explicit implications for the study of culture.
Dasen, P. R., and Akkari, A. (eds.) (2008). Educational theories and practices from the majority world. New Delhi: Sage.
A valuable critique on western ethnocentrism in educational research.
Kağitçibaşi, C. (2007). Family, self, and human development across cultures: Theory and application (2nd edn.). Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum.
An integration of ideas, findings and applications in child development and societal development, from the perspective of the “majority world.”
Voland, E., Chasiotis, A., and Schiefenhövel, W. (eds.) (2005). Grandmotherhood: The evolutionary significance of the second half of female life. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.
An interdisciplinary overview of anthropological, evolutionary and psychological approaches on old-age in women.