The ninth significant fact about development is that there are social expectations for every stage of development. Every cultural group expects its members to master certain essential skills and acquire certain approved patterns of behaviour at various ages during the life span. Havighurst has labelled them developmental tasks. According to him, 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 happiness and to success with later tasks, while failure leads to unhappiness and difficulty with later tasks.” Some tasks arise mainly as a result of physical maturation, such as learning to walk; others develop primarily from the cultural pressures of society, such as learning to read; and still others grow out of the personal values and aspirations of the individual, such as choosing and preparing for a vocation. In most cases, however, developmental tasks arise from these three forces working together. The important developmental tasks for different phases in the life span as outlined by Havighurst are shown below:

Babyhood and Early Childhood
  • Learning to take solid foods
  • Learning to walk
  • Learning to talk
  • Learning to control the elimination of body wastes
  • Learning sex differences and sexual modesty
  • Getting ready to read
  • Learning to distinguish right and wrong and beginning to develop a conscience
Late Childhood
  • Learning physical skills necessary for ordinary games
  • Building a wholesome attitude toward oneself as a growing organism
  • Learning to get along with age-mates
  • Beginning to develop appropriate masculine or feminine social roles
  • Developing fundamental skills in reading, writing, and calculating
  • Developing concepts necessary for everyday living
  • Developing a conscience, a sense of morality, and a scale of values
  • Developing attitudes toward social groups and institutions
  • Achieving personal independence
  • Achieving new and more mature relations within age-mates of both sexes
  • Achieving a masculine or feminine social role
  • Accepting one’s physique and using one’s body effectively
  • Desiring, accepting, and achieving socially responsible behavior
  • Achieving emotional independence from parents and other adults
  • Preparing for an economic career
  • Preparing for marriage and family life
  • Acquiring a set of values and an ethical system as a guide to behavior – developing an ideology
Early Adulthood
  • Getting started in an occupation
  • Selecting a mate
  • Learning to live with a marriage partner
  • Starting a family
  • Rearing children
  • Managing a home
  • Taking on civic responsibility
  • Finding a congenial social group
Middle Age
  • Achieving adult civic and social responsibility
  • Assisting teenage children to become responsible and happy adults
  • Developing adult leisure, time activities
  • Relating oneself to one’s spouse as a person
  • Accepting and adjusting to the physiological changes of middle age
  • Reaching and maintaining satisfactory performance in one’s occupational career
  • Adjusting to aging partners
Old Age
  • Adjusting to decreasing physical strength and health
  • Adjusting to retirement and reduced income
  • Adjusting to death of spouse
  • Establishing an explicit affiliation with members one one’s age group
  • Establishing satisfactory physical living arrangements
  • Adapting to social roles in a flexible way

Purposes of Developmental Tasks. Developmental tasks serve three very useful purposes. First, they are guidelines that enable individuals to know what society expects of them at given ages. Parents, for example, can be guided in teaching their young children different skills by the knowledge that society expects the children to master these skills at certain ages and that their adjustments will be greatly influenced by how successfully they do so. Second, developmental tasks motivate individuals to do what the social group expects them to do at certain ages during their lives. And, finally, developmental tasks show individuals what lies ahead and what they will be expected to do when they reach their next stage of development.

Adjustment to a new situation by varying degrees of emotional tension. However, much of this difficulty and stress can be eliminated if individuals are cognizant of what will come next and gradually prepare for it. Children who absorb social skills needed for the new social life of adolescence will find adjustment to members of the opposite sex easier when they reach adolescence, and young adults will find transition into middle age easier and less stressful if they gradually cultivate leisure-time activities as their parental responsibilities lessen.