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Annu Rev Psychol. 1999;50:471-507.

Lifespan psychology: theory and application to intellectual functioning.

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Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany.


The focus of this review is on theory and research of lifespan (lifespan developmental) psychology. The theoretical analysis integrates evolutionary and ontogenetic perspectives on cultural and human development across several levels of analysis. Specific predictions are advanced dealing with the general architecture of lifespan ontogeny, including its directionality and age-differential allocation of developmental resources into the three major goals of developmental adaptation: growth, maintenance, and regulation of loss. Consistent with this general lifespan architecture, a meta-theory of development is outlined that is based on the orchestrated and adaptive interplay between three processes of behavioral regulation: selection, optimization, and compensation. Finally, these propositions and predictions about the general nature of lifespan development are examined and supported by empirical evidence on the development of cognition and intelligence across the life span.

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