Course Syllabus

Lifespan Psychology: Shaping the Self

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Semester & Location:

Summer 2022 (Session 3) - DIS Stockholm

Type & Credits:

Core Course - 4 credits

Core Course Study Tours:


Major Disciplines: Psychology, Human Development, Family Studies
Faculty Members:

Simone Schwank  (current students please use the Canvas Inbox)

Program Director:

Suman Ambwani

Academic support: 

Time & Place:

See calendar for meeting times each day; DIS Stockholm Room 1D-410


 Course description

From a life-span approach, we will consider what influences an individual’s life choices and explore what remains consistent and what changes. How are we shaped by intergenerational transmission? How do we make decisions about friendships, love interests, and careers? This course will explore the psychosocial variables that contribute to selections in, for example, types of relationships, self reflection, reproductive and psychological health choices, parenting skills and family structures across the lifespan. Both constructive and  pathological  consequences  will  be  explored. Emphasis will be given to potential causative psychological variables such as phase of development, personality structure, familial dynamics and cultural influences. This class will also consider variations across cultures, using Scandinavia as a case example. We will also explore issues of self-determination vs genetic and cultural restraints as regards our choices.


Learning Objectives

  1. Learn about different theories of lifespan development and apply them to a cultural perspective. Discuss intercultural differences in developmental lifestyle milestones.
  2. Gain insight into how the self emerges from infancy and into late adulthood. Analyze the interplay of a multitude of factors that define the individual trajectory of the self.
  3. Understand how our environment, family dynamics, society, cultural values, and opportunities interplay with the development and concept of the self.
  4. Understand the concept of intergenerational transmission by making use of the unique Scandinavian environment as an experiential explorative opportunity.
  5. Explore how the environment can contribute to adaptive and maladaptive development of the self and how we can counteract maladaptive trajectory.




Simone Eliane Schwank, PhD 

Public Health fellow at Karolinska Institute Stockholm in Department for Global Public Health and Fellow at Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York. Visiting Researcher at Fudan University, Medical School, Shanghai, China. PhD Karolinska Institute (Stockholm, Sweden 2019). M.S. Psychotherapy (New York City University, 2015), M.A. Linguistics, M.S. in Psychology (University of Gothenburg, 2009), B.A. (University of Zurich 2007). Worked as psychotherapist in Shanghai, New York, Zurich, and Stockholm. With DIS since 2016.



Selected readings from Books

Anzieu, D. (2016). The Skin-Ego. London: Karnac Books.

Kohut, H. (1984). How Does Analysis Cure? London

Miller, A. (1978). The Drama of the Gifted Child, revised in 1995 and re-published by Virago as: The Drama of Being a Child.

Miller, P. H. (2011). Introduction. Theories of Developmental Psychology. (5th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.


Selected readings from articles:

Anzieu-Premmereur, C. (2012). Maternal Functioning and Its Consequences on Early Psychic Life. APM Columbia.

C. Arnett, J. (2013). Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood: A Cultural Approach (5th ed.). New York: Pearson Education Inc.

Bion WR. (1962). Learning from experience. London: Heinema

Erikson, E. H. (1980). Identity and the life cycle. New York: Norton.

Fraiberg S, Adelson E, Shapiro V. (1975). Ghosts in the nursery. A psychoanalytic approach to the problems of impaired infant-mother relationships. J Am Acad Child Psychiatry. pp: 387–421.


Field Studies

Field Study 1: Panel with Young Swedes: Life Trajectory in Sweden

Students will prepare a panel discussion on the theme of psychological challenges and changes in life from a cross-cultural perspective. Aim is to exchange the experience of being a young adult in Sweden vs. the students’ home country. The students are also asked to include their study abroad time in Stockholm in the discussion and describe how it affected their mindset with regards to emerging adulthood. The panelists are invited by the instructor.

Field Study 2: Lifespan psychology interacting with art

Location: Moderna Muséet ( and Östasiatiska Muséet (

Date: July 9th, 2:30pm-4:30pm

Topic: How is identity expressed in art? Aim of the visit is to reflect and discuss lifespan trajectories through the media of art. Students are under 90min in the exhibitions asked to select two art pieces they consider representing a specific phase of their personal or another person’s lifespan milestone for them. During a discussion session each student has to rationalise the decision and argue for his or her decision.

Field Study 3: Crowd-Rising and the Collective Self

Students will collectively (in a group of students) prepare and perform a crowd-rising event in Stockholm. The other groups act as judges and analysts of the crowd-rising phenomenon and its reference to the collective self.


Guest Lecturers

Birgitta Wickberg, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, Senior researcher and clinician at Gothenburg University, Department of Psychology, specialized in perinatal mental health, child and adolescent development.


Approach to Teaching

I have an interactive teaching style, I like to engage students and their experience into the classroom, and provide examples from practical work and research.


Expectations of the Students

I expect you to actively participate in class and to bring your own thoughts to discussions. If you feel more comfortable to contribute in written rather than oral form, this is equally welcomed as ‘engaged participation’. In this course each and every one of us has the equal and unique responsibility to facilitate the most optimal learning outcomes. Students are expected to:

  • Complete all reading assignments prior to coming to class
  • Draw upon your interactions and observations from daily life in Sweden to the theory, research, and practices of self psychology in class
  • Work independently and be active in group work
  • Write down reflections throughout the course
  • Be on time and attend all classes



You will be working on group assignments in class and will be expected to present these to other students in class. If you are not presenting you are expected to contribute with questions and comments about your classmates’ presentations. Your creativity and “thinking outside the box”, new insights, openness to share your opinion and creating a safe and vivid discussion platform are most welcome and are graded as active participation. Very active participation can additionally lift grades that are borderline. Simple completion of the readings without reflection will not be rewarded additionally.


Assignment Due Date


Participation Ongoing



Analysis Paper: Journey of the Self 

July 8th



Presentation: The Self: Research Presentation

July 11th


Reflection Paper: Study Tour

July 24th


Final Presentation

July 26th




Active participation and engagement in class, field studies, and guest lectures are important because they show that you are taking responsibility for your own learning. It also demonstrates that you are keeping up with the readings and understanding the theoretical perspectives discussed in class. It is imperative that you show development in your knowledge and grasp of psychological theory and research relating to Emerging Adulthood, as well as improvement in your reflection and analytical skills during the course. Active participation and engagement includes asking questions related to readings and material presented in  class and taking part in discussions, enriching the class experience for everyone and being active in case analysis. During presentations in class, all students have to actively engage in answering questions and participate in discussion. Grading of this course component will also include evaluation of teamwork when it occurs in class. Attendance is mandatory.


Analysis paper: Journey of the Self from Early Life to Adulthood

This paper will allow you to demonstrate your ability to critically reflect on the topic of the development of the self. The aim of the paper is to discuss your thoughts on the phenomenon of the self, based on your own personal experience and key articles that encourage you to elaborate on a subtopic of your choice. It should be 4-5 pages long. The topic of your choice has to be approved by the lecturer. You will be required to use APA reference style and cite four readings (research articles and maximum two book chapters - no textbooks). Further guidelines will be posted on Canvas.


Presentation: The Self: Research Presentation

The aim of the presentation is to discuss and explain a theorist and his/her specific characteristic contribution to the of emergence of the self. The presentation should be given in groups. Each group suggests a theorist to the instructor and upon approval will present it in class. The presentation has to include theoretical and research elements related to the chosen theorist. There should be 2-4 research articles cited. The selected research articles can be from interdisciplinary fields and shall provide the class with additional insight into the multiple theorists dealing with the self. You will also provide a reading list and abstract on which your presentation is based and this will be included in your grade for this assignment. The presentation is given in groups in class.

Presentation Details:

  • 15 minutes in length (PowerPoint)
  • All students must have a significant role in the presentation
  • Engagement of the class in a discussion of your topic is essential to the success of your presentation
  • 3-4 discussion questions
  • If you decide to use a different presentation method, this has to be approved by the instructor prior to the presentation.

Reflection paper: Study Tour

The aim of this paper is to write a report on the objective of the study tour: exploring the self in a new environment. Clearly delineate your choice of the chosen site during the study tour that associates with the most significant aspect of the emergence of your own self. Rationalize your choice of the selected site and integrate the content of the peer discussion after the end of the study tour (selecting and motivating the choice of your site). Your reflection paper should be 2-3 pages long. Further guidelines will be posted on Canvas.


Final Presentation

The aim of the final oral presentation is to unite the learning experience and development throughout the course supported by 2-4 research articles. Your presentation should be based on or linked to your reflection paper. However, include research that supports your reflections. You are asked to critically reflect on how the course has impacted your concept and interpretation of self, how you have gained insight into different facets of yourself and how you consider to continue your self development after the course. What has changed, what has remained the same, and what has been the most mind provoking aspect with respect to your own cultural, social, and personal beliefs regarding your own self? Present your trajectory of self for the class and end your presentation with 3 analytical questions for the class to discuss. You will also provide a reading list and abstract on which your presentation is based and this will be included in your grade for this assignment.


Presentation Details:

  • 15 minutes in length (PowerPoint)
  • All students must have a significant role in the presentation
  • Engagement of the class in a discussion of your topic is essential to the success of your presentation
  • 3-4 discussion questions
  • If you decide to use a different presentation method, this has to be approved by the instructor prior to the presentation.




You are expected to attend all DIS classes when scheduled. If you miss a class for any reason please contact the

faculty no later than the day of the missed class. If you miss multiple classes the Office of Academic Support and the Director of Student Affairs will be notified and they  will  follow-up  with you  to  make  sure  that  all  is well. Absences will jeopardize your grade and your standing at DIS. Allowances will be made in cases of illness, but in the case of multiple absences you will need to provide a doctor’s note.


Academic Honesty: Plagiarism and Violating the Rules of an Assignment

DIS expects that students abide by the highest standards of intellectual honesty in all academic work. DIS assumes that all students do their own work and credit all work or thought taken from others. Academic dishonesty will result in a final course grade of “F” and can result in dismissal. The students’ home universities will be notified. DIS reserves the right to request that written student assignments be turned in electronic form for submission to plagiarism detection software. See the Academic Handbook for more information, or ask your instructor if you have questions.


Policy on late papers: Late papers will be accepted, but your grade for the paper will be reduced by half a letter grade for each day that it is late.


Policy for students who arrive late to class: Class will start on time; it is up to the student’s responsibility to arrive accordingly.


Use of laptops or phones in class: Laptops are accepted in class if students consider it to be beneficial for their learning to type their notes.


Class Representatives: Each semester DIS looks for class representatives to become an official spokesperson for their class group, addressing any concerns that may arise (in academic or related matters), suggesting improvements and coming up with new ideas. Class representatives are a great way for DIS faculty to ensure better and timelier feedback on their courses, assessments and teaching styles, and as such perform an invaluable role in connecting student needs with faculty instruction during term time. Class Representatives will be elected in class at the beginning of the semester.


Disability and resource statement: Any student who has a need for accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact Mark Peters ( to coordinate this. In order to receive accommodations, students should inform the instructor of approved DIS accommodations within the first two weeks of classes.


Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:



DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -


Course Summary:

Date Details Due