Baltes Life Span Approach

Friedrich Nietzsche is quoted to have said, “He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying” (Guillemets, 1998). Nietzsche is talking about developing oneself to obtain an ultimate goal. We can apply this idea from a human development standpoint by thinking about how we grow and develop as individuals, how that process takes place, and what influences our development, with the ultimate goal of living our life: to fly.

These questions of how, why and what affects us as we grow and develop are large and looming; seemingly shadowed in mystery by permutations of variables that affect the development of an individual. Isn’t every individual, in fact, unique? How can we even begin to research and study human development when, seemingly, the only thing that is patterned with any consistency is inconsistency? That is where Paul Baltes and his colleagues come in to help.

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Developmentalists, who asked themselves the same questions at one point in their research, founded a conceptual framework with seven key principles that can be used to break down these questions surrounding the study of human development into easier to understand portions. They call it the Baltes’ Life-Span Developmental Approach (Papalia, Feldman & Martorell, 2012). The principles of the Baltes’ Life-Span Developmental Approach are the following: 1. Development is a lifelong process of change, affects, and effects. 2.

Development is multidimensional, meaning we must take biological, physiological, psychological and social concepts into consideration. 3. Development is multidirectional, meaning that not everything that we learn or gain is constantly maintained; we have heightened abilities at some point during our development more than others. 4. The influences of biology and culture shift over the life span, meaning that at times they have greater sway over a person’s life at certain points in their development than other times in their life. . Development involves changing allocation of resources, meaning individuals will make choices regarding resources available to them: time, money, education, health, recreation that will affect their ability to encourage individual growth, to maintain oneself, and to cope with loss. 6. Development shows plasticity, which means most abilities can be improved with practice and training. 7. Development is influenced by the context of the culture and time.

Individuals’ development is affected by the time and the place that they develop, often adopting similar attitudes and opinions of their cohorts (peers within the construct of the time and place that the individual lives). (Papalia, Feldman & Martorell, 2012). By using this framework, we can look at all the influences on an individual and begin to fold them all into each other, creating an overall understanding of a person’s life; how and why that individual developed into who they are, or to put it as Nietzsche might have: how they learned to fly.

To demonstrate and apply this concept, I am going to use some of my, personal life experiences, apply them into the Baltes framework, and show how, when all folded together, how these influences affected my development as a whole. Please go to the next two pages.


Guillemets, T. (1998, March 18). The quote garden. Retrieved from www. quotegarden. com/flying. html Papalia, D. , Feldman, R. , & Martorell, G. (2012). Experience human development. (12 ed. , p. 18&19). NY, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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Baltes Life Span Approach. (2017, Jan 05). Retrieved from