The Psychology 216 (Lifespan Human Development) Term Paper
Bernard S. Gorman, Ph.D.
The goal of the term paper is for you to be able to demonstrate how well you
understand the themes, vocabulary, and theories introduced in this course. You will
choose a famous person from the lists here and get biographical and autobiographical
information about this person. Your task will then be to interpret the concrete events in a
person’s life and then place them into more abstract theories and research findings
concerning lifespan development. In doing so, you are expected to use the technical
vocabulary of this course. If your paper merely repeats the facts in the biography and
does little or nothing in the way of interpretation, it will get a grade of “F”. You are
expected to write in your own words. Any evidence of plagiarism will receive an
1. Pick a person from the lists on the next pages. I got the list from the web and
looked up lists like Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of the Century,
etc. There should be plenty of biographical and autobiographical material on each
one. If you find somebody who is interesting to you but not on my list, you must
check with me. Make sure to correctly reference your source material using APA
2. Take first two pages of your report to summarize the main events of the person’s
life. You probably would want to do this in chronological order and a timeline
would probably be very useful.
3. Try to answer a good deal of the following questions in the remaining six to eight
pages. Make sure to provide detailed references for your material.
How does your subject’s life fit in the stages (if at all) of theorists like Freud, Erikson,
Levinson, Gould, Fowler, Kubler-Ross? Where would you place this person in terms of
these stages? Are there any things that helped or hindered the person’s growth through
Using Alfred Adler’s Individual Psychology, can you see a life theme that runs through
this person’s life? Does birth order (Adler) have anything to do with your subject’s life?
Are there any Jungian themes that show up in his/her life? Can you classify him/her in
terms of Jungian personality type theory?
As per ecological and dialectical theories such as those proposed by Bronfenbrenner and
Riegel, how did cultural, cohort, ethnic, and historical factors affect his/her life?
Does this person’s behavior display typical gender traits and/or roles and/or challenges?
Did his/her life reflect traditional, sex-typed forms of masculinity or femininity or is this
person androgynous? If so, how and why? Does this help or hinder him/her?
What (if any) was this person’s family’s parenting and/or discipline style? How did this
affect this person?
Can you consider your subject’s life transitions to be normative or idiosyncratic? Does
the concept of “age-grading” fit this person?
Using Piaget’s and Kohlberg’s theories and related research, what can you say about this
person’s levels of cognitive and moral development? Where’s your evidence?
Given Vaillant’s work (The Grant Study) of “good outcome” and “poor outcome people”,
how did your subject’s coping and defense strategies help him/her to cope with life’s
Can you describe aspects of your subject’s life in terms of the concept of the family life
cycle? How did he/she or the family handle these stages?
Physical health, social networks, and psychological health are important factors in aging.
How did these factors play a role in your subject’s life?
What is this person’s attachment style? Provide evidence.
Considering his/her love life, which factors of attraction (if any), led to finding mate(s)?
Given work on marriage and divorce, which factors, if any, led to a happy or unhappy
What (if any) is this person’s parenting style?
Taking his/her work life, does his/her work history reflect themes of important
developmentalist approaches (for example, Super, or van Maanen and Schein, or Roe)?
How would he/she fit in John Holland’s occupational scheme? Given a classification
system, such as O*NET, how would you classify their careers?
Can you detect any themes of “generativity” in this person’s life?
How have losses played a role in his/her life? Does he/she show any pattern of dealing
with loss that fit with known research on loss and grieving?
How does this person approach the death of other people? How does this person approach
the eventual death of him/herself?
Don’t just give your opinions. Cite textbook and class material and other
professional sources. Since my questions take up almost four pages, you shouldn’t
have too much trouble giving me another eight pages of interpretation.
If you wish to do so, you can give me an early draft of your paper and I’ll look it
over without giving it a grade. I’ll try to suggest any needed areas for improvement
and/or help you with interpretation. I expect this to be a learning experience. There’s no
reason why you can’t get an excellent grade. However, to be fair, give me enough time to
read your paper. The week that the paper is due is a hectic one for me and if it comes at a
late date, I can’t promise to read your paper. Therefore, give me drafts considerably
ahead of time.
You have plenty of time for the project. Your paper is due on the assigned date.
People to Consider
Leaders and Revolutionaries
Mary Harris ‘Mother’ Jones
Ho Chi Minh
King George (any one of them) of England
Mao Tse-tung (Zedong)
Entertainers, Athletes, and Artists
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Billy Jean King
Edgar Allen Poe
Builders and Titans
Thomas Watson, Jr.
Scientists and Philosophers
Erik H. Erikson
Amos Tversky and/or Daniel Kahneman
J. Craig Venter
John B. Watson