The Developmental Tasks and Education*

The Developmental Task Concept*

From examining the changes in your own lifespan and reading about the events in Colin powell's life, you can see that critical tasks arise at certain times in our lives. Mastery of these tasks is satisfying and encourages us to go on to new challenges. Difficulty with them slows progress toward future accoplishments and goals. As a mechanism for understanding the changes that occur during the lifespan. Robert Havighust(1952, 1972, 1982) has identified critical developmental tasks that occur throughout the lifespan. Although our interpretations of these tasks naturally change over the years and with new research findings. Havighurst's developmental tasks offer lasting testimony to the belief that we continue to devlop throughout our lives.
Havighurst (1972) defines a developmental tasks as one that arises at a certain period in our lives, the successful achievement of which leads to happiness and success with later tasks; while leads to unhappiness, social disapproval, and difficulty with later tasks. Havighurst uses lightly different age groupings, but the basic divisions are quite similar to those used in this book. He identifies three sources of developmental tasks (Havighurst, 1972)

* Tasks that arise  from physical maturation. For example, learning to walk, talk, and behave acceptablly with the opposite sex during adolescence; adjusting to menopause during middle age.

* Tasks that from personal sources. For example, those that emerge from the maturing personality and take the form of personal values and aspirations, such as learning the necessary skills for job success.

* Tasks that have their source in the pressures of society. For example, learning to read or learning the role of a responsible citizen.

According to our biopsychosocial model, the first source corresponds to the "bio" part of the model, the second to the "psycho," and the third to the "social" aspect.

Havighurst has identified six major age periods: infancy and early childhood(0-5 years), middle childhood (6-12 years), daolescence (13-18 years), early adulthood (19-29 years), middle adulthood (30-60 years), and later maturity (61+). Table presents typical developmental tasks for each of these periods.

The developmental tasks concept has a long and rich tradition. Its acceptance has been partly due to a recognition of sensitive periods in our lives and partly due to the practical nature of Havighurst's tasks. Knowing that a youngster of a certain age is encountering one of the tasks of that period(learning an appropriate sex role) helps adults to understand a child's behavior and establish an environment that helps the child to master the tasks. Another good example is that of acquiring personal independence, an important task for the middle childhood period. Youngsters test authority during this phase and, if teachers and parents realize that this is a nomal, even necessary phase of development, they react differently than if they see it as a personal challenge(Hetherington and Parke, 1986)

For example, note Havighurst's developmental tasks for middle adulthood, one of which is a parent's need to help children become happy and responsible adults. Adults occasionally find it hard to "let go" od their children. They want  to keep their children with them far beyond any reasonable time. For their own good, as well as that of their children. Once they do, they can enter a happy time in their own lives if husbands and wives are not only spouses but friends and partners as well.
Havighurst is not alone in the importance he places on the developmental task concept (Cole, 1986; Goetting, 1986; Cristante & Lucca, 1987; Cangemi and Kowalski, 1987). For example, Goetting (1986) has examined the developmental tasks of siblings and identified those that last a lifetime, such as companionship and emotional support. Other tasks  seem to be related to a particular stage in the life cycle, such as creataking during childhood and later the care of elderly parents.
Identifying and mastering developmental tasks help us to understand the way change affects our lives. Another way to understand lifespan changes is to identify those needs that must be satisfied if personal goals are to be achieved. To help you recognize the role that needs play in our lives, let's examine the work of Abraham Maslow and his needs hierarchy.

Needsn Across the Lifespan

Assume that Amy, a high school senior, is concerned that her English class is not helping her to prepare for college work. In other words, this student believes that her needs are not being met; there is a lack of need satisfaction. One of Maslow's most famous concepts is that of self-actualization, which means that we use our abilities to the limit of our potentialities (Maslow & others, 1987). If people are convinced that they should ¡ªand can¡ªfulfill their promise, they are then on the path to self-actualization. Self-Actualization is a growth concept. and individuals move toward this goal (physical and psychological health) as they satisfy their basic needs.

                                Needs for
                              Esteem needs 
                        Love and belongingness needs 
                                Safety needs
                        Physiological needs      

Figure; Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Source: Data for diagram based on Hierarchy of Needs, in "A Theory of Human Motivation" in Motivation and Personality, 2d ed., 1970, by Abraham H. Maslow.

Need Satisfaction

Growth toward self-actualization requires the satisfaction of a hierarchy of needs. In Maslow's theory there are five basic needs: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Figure illustrates the hierarchy of needs, with those needs at the base of the hierarchy assumed to be more basic relative to the needs above them in the hierarchy.

* Physiological needs. Physiological needs, such as hunger and sleep, are doinant and are the basis of motivation. Unless they are satisfied, everything else recedes. For example, students who frequently do not eat breakfast or suffer from poor nutrition generally become lethargic and withdrawn; their learning potential is severely lowered. Note: This is particularly true of adolescents who can be extremely sensitive to their weight.

* Safety needs. Safety needs represent the importance of security, protection, stability, freedom from  fear and ansiety, and the need for structure and limits. For example, individuals who are afraid of school, of peers, of a superior, or of a parent's reaction have their safety needs threatened and their well-being can be affected.

* Love and Belongingness needs. Love and belongingness needs refers to the need for family and friends. Healthy, motivated people wish to avoid feelings of loneliness and isolation. People who feel alone, not part of the group, or who lack any sense of belongingness usually have poor relationships with others, which can then affect their achievement in life.

* Esteem needs. Esteem needs refer to the reactions of others to us as individuals and also to our opinion of ourselves. We want a favorable judgment from others, which should be based on honest achievement. Our own sense of competence combines with the reactions of others to produce a sense of self-esteem. Consequently, we must acquire competence and find the opportunities that permit us to achieve and to secure reinforcement, both from others and our own sense of satisfaction in what we have done.

* Needs for Self-actualization. By self-actualization needs, Maslow was referring to that tendency, in spite of the lower needs being satisfied, to feel restless unless we are doing what we think we are capable of doing. As Maslow noted (Maslow & others, 1987), musiccians must make music, artists must paint, and writers must write. The form that needs take isn't important: one person may desire to be a great parent: another may desire to be an outstanding athlete. Regardless of professions, what human beings can be, they must be (Maslow & others, 1987, p. 22).

Closely allied to these basic needs are cognitive needs (the desire to know and understand) and aesthetic needs. But as Maslow noted, we must be careful not to make too sharp a distinction between these and the basic needs; they are tightly interrelated (Maslow & others, 1987). As you can see, Maslow's remarkably perceptive analysis furnishes us with rich general insights into human behavior, especially those needs that lead to developmental changes during the lifespan.

Using these ideas in the following pages, we'll attempt to identify those factors that lead to success and adjustment (high self-esteem, parental warmth and love, family support). We must also attempt to discover how self-esteem develops and why parental love and support are so significant; that is, what mechanisms are involved. In your reading and in your search for answers to the important questions raised throughout this book, don't let yourself be lulled into an easy acceptance of age as the solution. Remember that individuals mature at quite different rates, and that various aspects of development (physical, cognitive, psychosocial ) proceed at different rates within the same individual. Here once again you can see the usefulness of the biopsychosocial model. If you understand it, you'll not be content with merely identifying one cause of a person's behavior. you'll search for the interaction of factors and thus acquire a deeper and richer explanation of that behavior. Look for the causes, search for the processes, and you'll discover the excitment of studying the lifespan!

A developmental task is a task which arises at or about a certain period in the life of the  individual, successful achievement of which leads to his happiness and to success with later tasks, while filure leads to unhappiness in the individual, disapproval by the society, and difficulty with later tasks.

1. Infancy and Childhood(0-5)

1) Learning to walk: Once the basic skills are mastered, he learns during later years to run, jump, and skip.

2) Learning  to take solid  foods: The way the child is treated during the weaning period, the schedule on which he is fed, and the age and suddenness of weaning, all have profound effects upon his personality.

3) Learning to talk: Between ths ages of twelve and eighteen months, the great moment of speech arrives. The two theories agree to this extent, namely (1) that the human infant develops a repertory of speech - sounds without having to learn them, and (2) that the people around him teach him to attach certain   meanings to these sounds.

4) Learning to control the elimination of body waste: To learn to urinate and defecate at socially acceptable times and places. Toilet training is the first moral training that the child receives. The stamp of this first moral training probably persists in the child's later character.

5) Learning sex differences and sexual modesty:  The kinds of sexual behavior he learns and the attiitudes and feelings he develops about sex in these early years probably have an abiding effect upon his sexuality throughout his life.

6) Achieving physiological stability: It takes as many as five years for the child's body to settle down to something like the physiological stability of the child.

7) Forming simple concepts of social and physical reality: And, when his nervous system is ready, he must have the experience and the teachers to enable him to form a stock of concepts and learn the names for them. On this basis his later mental development is built.

8) Learning to relate oneself emotionally to parents, siblings, and other people: The way he achieves this task of relating himself emotioanlly to other people will have a large part in determining whether he will be friendly or cold, outgoing or introversive, in his soical relations in later life.

9) Learning to distinguish right and wrong and developing a conscience: During the later years of early childhood he takes into himself the warning and punishing voices of his parents, in ways that depend upon their peculiar displays of affection and punishment toward him. Thus he develops the bases of his conscience, upon which a later structure of values and moral character will be built.

2. Childhood(6-12)

1) Learning to physical skills necessary for ordinary games: To learn the physical skills that are necessary for the games and physical activities that are highly valued in childhood--such skills as throwing and catching, kicking, tumbling, swimming, and handling simple tools.

2) Building wholesome attitudes towards oneself as a growing organism: To develop habits of care of the body, of cleanliness and safety, consistent with a wholesome, realistic attitude which includes a sense of physical normality and adequacy, the ability to enjoy using the body, and a wholesome attitude toward sex. Sex education should be a matter of agreement between school and parents, with the school doing what the parents feel they cannot do so well. The facts about animal and human reproduction should be taught before puberty.

3) Learning to get along with age-mates: To learn the give-and-take of social life among peers. To learn to make friends and to get along with enemies. To develop a "social personality."

4) Learning an appropriate masculin or feminine social role: To learn to be a boy or a girl--to act the role that is expected and rewarded. The sex role is taught so vigorously by so many agencies that the school probably has little more than a remedial function, which is to assist boys and girls who are having difficulty with the task.

5) Developing fundamental skills reading, writing, and calculating: To learn to read, write, and calculate well enough to get along in society.

6) Developing concepts necessary for everyday living: A concept is an idea which stands for a large number of particular sense perceptions, or which stands for a number of ideas of lesser degrees of abstraction. The task is to acquire a store of concepts sufficient for thinking effectively about ordinary occupational, civic, and social matters.

7) Developing conscience, morality, and a scale of values: To develop an inner moral control, respect for moral rules, and the beginning of a rational scale of values. Morality, or respect for rules of behavior, is imposed on the child first by the parents. Later, according to Piaget, the child learns that rules are necessary and useful to the conduct of any social enterprise, from games to government, and  thus learns a "morality of cooperation or agreement" which is a true moral autonomy and necessary in a modern democratic society.

8) Achieving  personal independence: To become an autonomous person, able to make plans and to act in the present and immediate future independently of one's parents and other adults. The young child has become physically independent of his parents but remains emotionally dependent on them.

9) Developing attitudes toward social groups and institutions: To develop social attitudes that are basically democratic. Attitudes, or emotionalized dispositions to act, are learned mainly in three ways; (1) by imitation of people with prestige in the eyes of the learner; (2) by collection and combination of pleasant or unpleasant experiences associated with a given object or situation; (3) by a single deeply emotional experience--pleasant or unpleasant--associated with a given object or situation.

3. Adolescent(13-18)

1) Achieving new and more mature relations with age-mates of both sexes: The goal: to learn to look upon girls as women and boys as men; to become an adult among adults; to learn to work with others for a common purpose, disregarding personal feelings; to learn to lead without dominating.

2) Achieving a masculine or feminine social role: To accept and to learn a socially approved adult masculine or feminine social role.

3) Accepting one's physique and using the body effectively: The goal: to become proud, or at least tolerant, of one's body; to use and protect one's body effectively and with personal satisfaction.

4) Achieving emotional independence of parents and other adults: The goal: to become free from childish dependence on parents; to develop affection for parents without dependence upon them.

5) Achieving assurance of economic independence: The goal: to feel able to make a living, if necessary. This is primarily a task for boys, in our society, but it is of increasing importance to girls.

6) Selecting and preparing for an occupation: The goal: to choose an occupation for which one has the necessary ability; to prepare for this occupation.

7) Preparing for marriage and family life: The goal: to develop a positive attitude toward family life and having children; and (mainly for girls) to get the knowledge necessary for home management and child rearing.

8) Developing intellectual skills and concepts necessary for civic competence: The goal: to develop concepts law, government, economics, politics, geography, human nature, and social institutions which fit the modern world; to develop language skills and reasoning ability necessary for dealing effectively with the problems of a modern democracy. Individual differences in mental development show themselves principally as differences in: (a) acquiring language and meanings, (2) acquiring concepts, (3) interests and motivation.

9) Desiring and achieving socially responsible behavior: The goal: to participate as a responsible adult in the life of the community, region, and nation; to take account of the values of society in one's personal behavior.

10) Acquiring a set of values and an ethical system as a guide behavior: The goal: to form a set of values that are possible of realization; to develop a conscious purpose of realizing these values; to define man's place in the physical world and in relation to other human beings; to keep one's world picture and one's values in harmony with each  other. Definition: a value is an object or state of affairs which is desired.

4. Early Adulthood(19-30)

This simple age-grading stops in our culture somewhere around sixteen to twenty. It is like reaching the end f the ladder and stepping off onto a new, strange cloud-land with giants and whiche to be circumvented and the goose that lays the golden egges to be captured if only one can discover the know-how.

1) Select ing a mate: Until it is accomplished, the task of finding a marriage partner is at once the most interesting and the most disturbing of the tasks of early adulthood.

2) Learning to live with a marriage partner: After the wedding there comes a period of learning how to fit two lives together. In the main this consists of learning to express and control one's feeling--anger, joy, disgust, live --so that one can live intimately and happily with one's spouse.

3) Starting a family: To have a first child successfully.

4) Rearing children: With the gaining of children the young couple  take over a responsibility far greater than any responsibitily they have ever had before. Now they are responsible for human life that is not their own. To meet this responsibility they must learn to meet the physicial and emotional needs of young children.  This means learning how to manage the child, and also learning to adapt their own daily and weekly schedules to the needs of growing children.

5) Managing a home: Family life is build around a physical center, the home, and depends for its success greatly upon how well-managed this home is. Good home management is only partly a matter of keeping the house clean, the furniture and plumbing and lighting fixtures in repair, having meals well-cooked, and the like.

6) Getting started in an occupation: This task takes an enormous amount of the young man's time and energy during young adulthood. Often he becomes so engrossed in this particualr task that he neglect others. He may put off finding a wife altogether too long for his own happiness.

7) Taking on civic responsibility: To assume responsibility for the welfare of a group outside of the family--a neighborhood or community group or church or lodge or political organization.

8) Finding a congenial social group: Marriage oftne imvolves the breaking of soical ties for one or both young people, and the forming of new friendships. Either the man or the woman is apt to move away from former friends. In any case, whether old friendships are interrupted by distance or not, the young couple faces something of a new task in forming a leisure-time pattern and finding others to share it with. The young man loses interest in some of his former bachelor activities, and his wife drops out of some of her purely feminine associations.

5. Middle Age(30-60)

In the middle years, from about thirty to about fifty-five, men and women reach the peak of their influence upon society, and at the same time the society makes its maximum demands upon them for social and civic responsibility. It is the period of life to which they have looked forward during their adolescence and early adulthood. And the time passes so quickly during these full and actvie middle years that most people arrive at the end of middle age and the beginning oflater maturity with surprise and a sense of having finished the journey while they were still preparing to commence it.

The biological changes of ageing, which commence unseen and unfelt during the twenties, make themselves known during the middle years. Espectally for the woman, the latter years of middle age are full of profound physiologically-based psychological change.

The developmental tasks of the middle years arise from changes within the organism, from environmental pressure, and above all from demands or obligations laid upon the individual by his own values and aspirations.

Since most middle-aged people are members of families, with teen-age children,it is useful to look at the tasks of husband, wife, and children as these people live and grow in relation to one another. Each family member has several functions or roles.

The Man of the Family     The Woman of the Family     The Teen-Ager

   a man                             a woman                      a person

   a husband                       a wife                          a family member

   a father                            a mother    

   a provider                        a homemaker and

   a homemaker                      family manager

Unless the man performs well as a provider,  it will be difficult for the  moman to perform well as a homemaker. Unless the woman performs well as a mother, it will be difficult for the teen-age child to meet the tasks of adolescence. The developmental tasks of family members then, are reciprocal; they react upon one another.

1) Achieving adult civic and social responsibility
2) Establishing and maintaining an economic standard of living
3) Assisting teen-age children to become responsible and happy adults
4) Developing adult leisure-time activities
5) Relating onself to one's spouse as a person
6) Accepting and adjusting to the physiological changes of middle age
7) Adjusting to ageing parents 

6. Later Maturity(60-  )

The fact that man learns his way through life is made redically clear by consideration of the learning tasks of older people. They still have new experiences ahead of them, and new situations to meet. At age sixty-five when a man often retires from his occupation, his changes are better than even of living another ten yeras.  During this time the man or his wife very likely will experience several of the followoing things: decreased income, moving to a smaller house, loss of spouse by death, a crippling illness or accident, a turn in the business cycle with a consequent change of the cost of living. After any of these events the situation may be so changed that the old person must learn new ways of living.

The developmental tasks of later maturity differ in only one fumdemental respect from those of other ages. They involve more of a defensive strategy--of holding on the life rather than of seizing more of it. In the physical, mental and economic spheres the limitations become especially evident;  the older person must work hard to hold onto what he  already has. In the social sphere there is a fair chance of offsetting the narrowing of certain social contacts and interests by the broadening of others.  In the spritual sphere there is perhaps no necessary shrinking of the boundaries, and perhaps there is even a widening of them.

1) Adjusting to decreasing physical strength and health
2) Adjusting to retirement and reduced income
3) adjusting to death of spouse
4) Establishing an explicit affiliation with one's age group
5) Meeting social and civic obiligations
6) Establishing  satisfactory physical living arrangements: The principal values that older people look for in housing, according to studies of this matter, are: (1) quiet, (2) privacy, (3) independence of action, (4) nearness to relatives and friends, (5) residence among own cultural group, (6) cheapness, (7) closeness to transportation lines and communal institutions --libraries, shops, movies, churches, etc.

   *******   The Development Tasks    *******

Infancy and Early
   Childhood (0-5)

Middle Childhood


1. Learning to walk

 2. Learning to take solid

 3. Learning to talk

 4. Learning to control the
   elimination of body wastes

 5. Learning sex differences
   and sexual modesty

 6. Acquiring concepts and
   language to describe social
   and physical reality

 7. Readiness for reading

 8. Learning to distinguish
   right from wrong and
   developing a conscience





1. Learning physical skills
   necessary for ordinary

 2. Building a wholesome
   attitude toward oneself

 3. Learning to get along with

 4. Learning an appropriate
   sex role

 5. Developing fundamental
   skills in reading, writing,
   and calculating

 6. Developing concepts
   necessary for everyday

 7. Developing conscience,
   morality, and a scale of

 8. Achieving personal

 9. Developing acceptable
   attitudes toward society

1. Achieving mature relations
   with both sexes

 2. Achieving a masculine or
   feminine social role

 3. Accepting one's physique

 4. Achieving emotional
   independence of adults

 5. Preparing for marriage and
   family life

 6. Preparing for an economic

 7. Acquiring values and an
   ethical system to guide

 8. Desiring and achieving
   socially responsible




 Early Adulthood

Middle Adulthood

 Later Maturity

 1. Selecting a mate

 2. Learning to live with a

 3. Starting a family

 4. Rearing children

 5. Managing a home

 6. Starting an occupation

 7. Assuming civic




1. Helping teenage children
    to become happy and
    responsible adults

 2. Achieving adult social and
    civic responsibility

 3. Satisfactory career

 4. Developing adult leisure
    time activities

 5. Relating to one's spouse
    as a person

 6. Accepting the
    physiological changes of
    middle age

 7. Adjusting to aging parent

1. Adjusting to decreasing
    strength and health

 2. Adjusting to retirement
    and reduced income

 3. Adjusting to death of

 4. Establishing relations with
    one's own age group

 5. Meeting social and civic

 6. Establishing satisfactory
    living quarters



Source : From Robert Havighurst, Developmental Tasks and Education, 3d ed. Copyright ¨Ï 1972
David McKay Company, Inc., a division of Random House, New York. N.Y. Reprinted by permission.