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Developmental Tasks

Childhood And Adolescence, Adulthood And Old Age

A developmental task is one that arises predictably and consistently at or about a certain period in the life of the individual (Havighurst, 1948, 1953). The concept of developmental tasks assumes that human development in modern societies is characterized by a long series of tasks that individuals have to learn throughout their lives. Some of these tasks are located in childhood and adolescence, whereas others arise during adulthood and old age (see also Heckhausen, 1999). Successful achievement of a certain task is expected to lead to happiness and to success with later tasks, while failure may result in unhappiness in the individual, disapproval by the society, and difficulty with later tasks.

Developmental tasks arise from three different sources (Havighurst, 1948, 1953). First, some are mainly based on physical maturation (e.g., learning to walk). Another source of developmental tasks relates to sociostructural and cultural forces. Such influences are based on, for instance, laws (e.g., minimum age for marriage) and culturally shared expectations of development (e.g., age norms; Neugarten, Moore, and Lowe, 1965), determining the age range in which specific developmental tasks have to be mastered. The third source of developmental tasks involves personal values and aspirations. These personal factors result from the interaction between ontogenetic and environmental factors, and play an active role in the emergence of specific developmental tasks (e.g., choosing a certain occupational pathway).

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