Psychology of Adulthood and Aging

(Fall II, 2008)


PSYC 2950: Psychology of Adulthood and Aging


Dr. Linda M. Woolf

Office Hours:


Course Description:

The period from early adulthood to old age constitutes a major portion of an individual's life. In fact, it may constitute 75% of one's life-span. And yet, much of what most individuals know about this period of the life-span is based on myth and stereotype. Additionally, most individuals know very little about the diversity of experience of elders both in the United States and around the globe.

This course will examine this period of the life-span from an interdisciplinary perspective, stressing the interaction of psychological, socio-cultural, and biological aspects of human development. We will place particular emphasis on examining diversity and inequality in the aging experience around the world.

Within this context, the concepts to be covered include:

  1. theoretical models of development
  2. physiological and cognitive development
  3. personality and social development
  4. problems/crises associated with adulthood/old age.

Particular emphasis will be placed upon examining the myths and misconceptions we have in this society concerning this period of the life-span.

Course Objectives and Outcomes:

  1. Objective: To develop an understanding of the life-span developmental perspective and the relevance of this perspective for studying change and continuity in psychological processes over time.

    Outcomes: Students will be able to articulate the life-span developmental perspective and relate the novel features of this perspective relevant to development during the adult years.

  2. Objective: To become familiar with the various metatheories and theories relevant to the study of adult development and aging.

    Outcomes: Students will be able to articulate the three major metatheories used by psychologists to explain human development and will be able to identify the various theories exemplifying each metatheory. Students will be able to articulate the major theories used to explain adult development and be able to articulate and critically evaluate each theory.

  3. Objective: To become familiar with the research methodology commonly used by developmental psychologists.

    Outcomes: Students will be able to differentiate between the major quasi-experimental designs used by developmental psychologists and articulate the benefits and limitations of each. Students will be able to critique various studies and theories based on this information.

  4. Objectives: To explore physiological, cognitive, personality, and social development and their interrelationships during adulthood and old age.

    Outcomes: Students will be able to articulate definitions for each type of development based on the varying theories for each type of development including stage models. Students will be able to critique both positively and negatively these theories and models. Students will be able to discuss the possible impact of context on each type of development.

  5. Objective: To become aware of the various crises and problems sometimes associated with this period of the life-span, such as elder abuse and Alzheimer's Disease.

    Outcomes: The students will be able to identify the major difficulties associated with adulthood and aging and be able to discuss these difficulties in depth.

  6. Objective: To become aware of the diversity of the aging experience and the impact of inequality both within the United States and globally.

    Outcomes: The students will be able to articulate and discuss areas of diversity and inequality in the aging experience and the impact these have on individuals.

  7. Objectives: To become attuned to ageism within our culture and aware of the myths surrounding the aging process.

    Outcomes: Students will be able to differentiate between the myths and realities of aging. Students will be able to define ageism and be able to articulate the impact that ageism and the myths related to aging have on the older adult and on society. Students will be able to differentiate between and discuss normal and non-normal aging related to the various types of development.

  8. Objective: To become familiar with the rapidly growing body of literature on adulthood and aging.

    Outcomes: Students will be able to read current research literature related to a specific adult development/aging topic and based on this literature write a short literature review.

Class Meetings:

The class will meet on Thursdays from 5:30 - 9:30. Attendance is strongly recommended as material will be presented that is not in the book and class discussion will enhance your understanding of the material.

Course Requirements:

Three examinations, and a term paper.

All grades will be assigned on a scale of 0 - 10 with:

90 - 100A-,AExcellent
80 - 89B-,B,B+Above Average
70 - 79C-,C,C+Average
60 - 69D-,D,D+Below Average
Less than 60FFailing

Percent of Grade:

Examinations (3)85%
Term Paper 15%

Examinations: Exams will include multiple choice, matching, short answer, and essay. They will cover material presented in lecture, readings, and discussion. Three exams will be given and together will comprise 85% of your final grade.

Term Paper: The purpose of the term paper is to provide you with the opportunity to explore an area of adult development in depth. The paper is to be a 7 - 10 page literature review (2300-3000 words) of some topic pertinent to adult development and aging and will constitute 15% of your final grade. Policy: Topics must be approved by the instructor. Directions for topic submission will be discussed during the first week of class. Topics that have not been approved will not be accepted. Topics must be approved via email ( ) by November 13, 2008. Deadline for acceptance of papers is December 12, 2008. Note: These deadlines are not suggestions; papers accepted following the deadline will experience a drop in grade(s) except in cases of emergency discussed with the instructor.

All papers must reference a minimum of five references from refereed journals (not Psychology Today or Newsweek, for example). Of course to do most topics justice, more than five journal references are needed. Additionally, minimum performance on a paper equates to "average" performance in the grading scale provided above. Note: Do not rely heavily on popular literature, for example, a book you happen to see at Borders Books. Often, these books are not empirically based. Also, do not take the bulk of your paper from one source or from secondary sources. Use of information in your paper that is not empirically based will impact the grade negatively. I want an integration, analysis, and critique of the current research literature relevant to your paper topic.

Click here for some rules of thumb regarding literature reviews/papers

Papers must be submitted electronically in Word format to

All papers must be typed, double-spaced, have 1 inch margins and in APA format. If you are in doubt as to what this means, see me for details.


Policy Statements:

Use of Electronic Devices in the Classroom: Please respect others in the class by turning off all cell phones and pagers before entering the room. Text messaging during class is not acceptable. Laptops may be used in class but are only to be utilized for class related activities (e.g., taking notes). If it becomes apparent you are using the computer for non-class activities (e.g., checking your email, playing games) then you may be asked to turn off your computer and refrain from bringing it into class in the future. Laptop use is restricted to the back or sides of the classroom so that other students are not distracted during lecture.

Plagiarism (attempting to pass off the work of another as one's own) is not acceptable. Plagiarism includes copying all or part of another's writings (even a single sentence), inappropriate paraphrasing, using another student's paper as your own, submitting a paper for more than one class. All papers will be submitted to the university's plagiarism database for review. Plagiarism, either intentional or unintentional, will result in a grade of 0 for that assignment and will be turned over to the appropriate university source for disciplinary action. In addition, cheating on exams will also result in the same fate.

Here are some Web sites that will help you avoid the problem of plagiarism particularly plagiarism resulting from paraphrasing too closely to the original source. -

It should be noted that, as is common in many university courses, little time will be spent lecturing on topics adequately addressed by the text. Students are expected to arrive at class meetings having already read the material assigned, and to ask questions to clarify any areas that remain unclear. While every attempt will be made to explain or expand upon particularly difficult areas, the primary purpose of classroom lecture is to enhance, rather than to duplicate, the textbook material.

Late withdraws from this class will not be approved by the instructor except in cases of emergency discussed with the instructor. No late withdraws will be approved on the basis of poor class performance.

This syllabus is subject to change at the instructor's discretion. All changes concerning course requirements will be provided in writing. Changes concerning exam dates may be made at the instructor's discretion and communicated verbally to the class.

It is understood that remaining in this course (not dropping or withdrawing from this course) constitutes an agreement to abide by the terms outlined in this syllabus and an acceptance of the requirements outlined in this document. No grade of Incomplete will be issued for this course.





October30 Introduction to class
What is Adult Development?
Research Methods
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Physiology of Aging
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
13Exam I (Chapters 1-4)
Chapter 6
November20Mature Thought
Work and Retirement
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
November27Thanksgiving - No ClassRent and View Trip to Bountiful - Also available through the library
December4Exam II (Chapters 6-8)
Kinship and Relationship
Chapters 9-10
Mental Health
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
December18Exam III (Chapters 9-12)

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