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Introduction: A leap into Life Span Psychology.

My leap towards understanding development is dedicated to someone who has already come and gone.

Lifespan Goals and Developmental Psychology DOMAINS

I come to this class to learn more about the interconnectedness of developmental stages throughout life. How can your development as a child still define your relationship to the world in old age? I would like to identify a framework through which to help future clients understand and assess their own lives, by being able to share this information with them in an accessible way. And I would love to find meaning and be able to grow as a person by taking a dive into my own developmental history.

1. Learn how dreams act as good indicators of our current subconscious emotional states. Can mapping dreams over a life be interesting from a developmental perspective?

The psychoanalytic orientation would be concerned with dreams and the unconscious.

2. Learn how socially appraised behavior and gain of status within a group alters/encourages an individual's behavior.

The behavioral and social cognitive orientation would be concerned with behavioral responses to reward/punishments.

3. Learn how the development of a young child changes if their environment is changed (change in country, parent's divorce, gain in wealth, change in climate, etc).

The ecological orientation would be concerned with the relationship to one's development and their environment.


Aviva was born 3 minutes before her twin Molly in a safe hospital birth in Oakland, California. She was raised by her US-born mother and UK-born father in the Bay Area. She had a good childhood full of exercise and healthy food, in a lower class family. She was lucky to live in an area surrounded by extended-family and was greatly supported by her grandmother (who was a third parent figure in her life), aunts, uncles, and cousins. Her physical development slowed when she was 7, due to her over-sized tonsils. She had a surgery to remove them when she was 8, and began eating correctly again and sleeping soundly.

Her youth was incredibly active. She played soccer competitively from the time she was 5. She began recreational circus when she was 9, and flourished.

When she was 10, her family moved to a small town/hamlet in Wales to be with her dying grandad and to support her granny in the transition after his death. She lived with her parents, her aunt, her cousin, and her sister in a small cottage. She was confronted for the first time with a very different culture, and was challenged to question her identity as a girl, an american, a sexual being, and many of her unconscious cultural values. Academically, she was expected to learn Welsh within a year, and reach a new level of academic rigor than she had ever experienced. She was also exposed to the normalization of sex, drugs, alcohol and the idea of abduction and rape, and teen pregnancy.

Aviva was first confronted with a deep reflection on race when she moved back to the US and attended her first public school. She noticed for the first time that she had grown up in a white bubble. Her blindness to her white privilege and the values that it encouraged did not belong in public school, and she was bullied (slammed into lockers, insulted, spit on, etc). She became more and more aware of her social ineptitudes (language, fashion, access to technology). At the end of middle school, her father accepted a job at Pixar and the family's income grew considerably, changing the family's relationship to wealth.

At age 15, she saw a circus show that changed her life. She left the theater knowing that she would become a professional circus artist. She stopped playing soccer competitively and began her training under the strict traditional Chinese trainer, Master Lu Yi.

Her high level of training delayed her physical development, and she began her period when she was 17. Though she ventured into many close relationships with potential romantic partners, she did not engage sexually, feeling that her underdeveloped body was not ready. It largely colored her self esteem in highschool.

In a culture that highly values education, and graduating in the economic crisis, Aviva felt the need to fulfill cultural expectations of attending university. She enrolled in full-time nursing school at USF and full-time acrobatics school. She slept very little and felt as if she did not belong. This year marked the first time she spent more than 1 week away from her twin, and it began the long process of learning how to individuate, and deeply accept lonliness.

She was accepted to the Quebec circus school the next year. She moved to francophone Canada. She completed the rigorous training program, developing her motor-sensory abilities, and growing as a performer, athlete, artist, and business woman. She learned to support herself financially, upkeep a house, drink and party, discovered sex, drugs, etc. She was exposed to anorexia, extreme injury, depression, abuse, schizophrenia, etc. She grappled with finding a deep connection with her family from a distance. The student body was extremely international, and she felt at home. She took a first dive into questioning what defines humanity, and what is culture? She also began her first longterm relationship with a french man. They would stay with together for 7.5 years, form a company, and tour the world.

In 2012, she formed the company with her partner-of-the-time and a group of friends. They moved to Europe, self-taught business techniques, and expanded the company over the coming years to tour their shows successfully throughout Europe. She learned how to let go of physical belongings and a sense of solid home while on tour. Aviva spent these years with her partner predominantly in a small, conservative french town, and tested what it felt like to fully assimilate to another culture that did not resonate deeply with her sense of self. Whereas Canada had presented the question as a transient home, France was the consideration of more permanent readiness to adapt. She embodied new foreign expectations around child-rearing, the role of a woman, manners, food, achievement, belonging, class, race, body language, humor, etc. She also played with what it felt like to never entirely belong, and always be seen as being different.

While on tour, she was challenged to learn a high level of adaptability and sociability with a wide range of people (age, culture, language, race, gender, etc) . She also used the skills that she had developed to stay in touch with her family, to find ways of extending it to keep in touch with a whole community while away.

When she and her partner separated in 2018, she moved to Brussels, excited to integrate into a more diverse community and begin a deeper search for self, exploring pleasure, freedom, indulgence, mindfulness, desire, etc. As a dear friend recently died unexpectedly, she became more clearly aware of the beauty of life. In early 2020, Aviva's grandma died suddenly of a stroke, and Aviva did not get back to the US in time to see her, arriving hours late. She returned to Europe but weeks later, when covid hit, Aviva left her European life in under 48 hours, sure on a deep level that family is the most important thing to her well-being and happiness. She recreated a life, readjusted and re-assimilated to US customs and culture after 10 years abroad, started a new self-taught career, and began academic education again at CCC.

Today, Aviva is headed back to Europe to begin touring again while pursuing her education.

Life through the lens of Developmental Psychology Theories

Developmental contexts

Santrock proposes that an individual's development occurs within contexts (i.e. families, schools, churches, etc) and that the influence of these contexts can be presented in 3 foundational categories: normative age-graded influences, normative age-graded influences, and normative history-graded events (Santrock, 2019).

  1. A normative age-graded influence is a biological or cultural event that occurs for individuals of a certain age group (Santrock, 2019). Examples of normative age-graded influences in my life would be starting school around 5 years old, and societal encouragement to leave home at 18. A way in which my history deviated from the expectations around normative age-related developments was starting my menstrual cycle at age 17, much later than what is typically expected.

  2. A normative age-graded influence occurs to all people of a certain generation (Santrock, 2019). A few of the large world events that directly affected my life and shaped my generation was the experience of growing up with cell phones and the internet, Obama's presidency, the economic crash in 2008, Covid, etc. The experience of growing up with access to Youtube allowed me to see and believe that being a circus performer was a viable career elsewhere in the world, and gave me access to the information necessary to apply to the schools. The economic crash largely influenced my decision to go to USF, recognizing that a degree might help gain financial independence and resilience in face of the economic situation. Obama's presidency allowed me to feel adventurous and accepted internationally, largely influencing my capacity to connect with people around the world (which has greatly shifted since Trump has become president). Covid inspired my move to the US and reconsider my life, pushing me to consider going to school once again.

  3. The third influence discussed in the textbook is a non-normative life event. They are "unusual occurrences that have a major impact on the lives of individual people" (Santrock, 2019, p.7). For example, these events can include a home burning down, a family member suddenly dying, a surprise pregnancy, etc. Some non-normative life events in my own life include my grandma suddenly passing of a stroke, my family moving to Wales for a year, a year-long shoulder injury during circus school, a friend suddenly dying of an undiagnosed heart condition, etc. My grandma dying has made me more nervous and protective about staying close to those that I love. I will likely end my touring/travelling lifestyle soon to be sure that I can be present with my family while we are alive. My friend's death has inspired me to slow down and remember that life is a gift. It helped kindle a relationship with the metaphysical world, and I have become more mindful of my own existence. The family's move to Wales largely influenced my ability to assimilate, make friends, learn language, and integrate another culture's values to my own.


Culture comes into play often in my life as a major influence. My parents come from different cultures. Our household was a medley, and learning to identify elements of the non-US culture and adapt outside of the house was important. Going through many schools that were public/private, varied religious affiliations, and in various countries, meant that the culture around education, student-teacher relationship, interpersonal relationships with other students were always up for negotiation. Living in the US, Wales, Canada, France and Belgium, and travelling worldwide has meant that my identity and role in relation to the culture that I exist within also needs to be very flexible.


Ethnicity has played a huge role in my life. As a white american woman, travel has been very accessible, and my privilege has been abundantly clear. It has been easier to integrate into cultures like Quebec and Wales where there is little racial diversity, and racism is intense. (I have a memory of my school teacher in Wales openly teasing an asian girl in our class for the shape of her eyes). In places like France and Belgium, I look like the colonial ideal, and benefit daily from my skin-color and appearance. If I do not open my mouth, people believe I belong, and emotionally, when living in a foreign place, that is a huge advantage. After 5 years of visa requests in France, I have noticed that if I dress like a rich french woman, adopt french mannerisms, and speak few words, I am more likely to have my visa requests approved. When working as an artist in the US, I notice that I have fewer job opportunities, as the dance world is making an effort to promote voices of color and non-conforming gender identities. I notice the power that politics has on my national identity internationally. It was easy to make connection while Obama was president, and now is more challenging. If I meet someone in a café, I used to get a warm first response, ready for engagement, and now it is colder and more held back.


Gender plays a large role in my life. In France and Belgium, standards and expectations around gender are far less advanced than in the US. Radio shows that talk about sex still focalize on heterosexual relationships, words to recognize non binary pronouns are only just starting to exist, being lesbian is still considered shocking... As a woman, I am expected to be "feminine" and socially engage as a "woman", which by french standards means being softer spoken, physically being less assertive than men, and being submissive with eye contact if challenged. Gender roles are still incredibly strong here. I get to experience myself differently in the states. The role of gender in the Bay Area allows me to be seen as more competent, reliable, and human. When I speak with authority, I often am listened to and respected. Approaching a more androgynous presentation of myself actually earns me more respect in certain circles in the US currently. In Europe, it is isolating. There is a current push to have more women artists on stage, so I benefit in my work in Europe by being a woman.


Santrock defines resilience as being a "triumph over ... other adversities," meaning that despite challenging factors in one's environment that would normally inhibit easy development, the individual is still managing to be successful (Santrock, 2019). It is clearly flattering to think of oneself as resilient. I think that I have developed many adaptive qualities in my life that make me more resilient than others who have similar backgrounds to me. However, I acknowledge that I have some basic privileges in this world from being a US citizen, a european citizen, white, from a middle class family, both parents who graduated from college, no drugs or outright abuse in the family, no physical or mental disabilities... I have a very blessed and lucky life.



Santrock, J. W. (2019) Lifespan development (17th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.


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