Defining Age with Different Perspectives: Definitions & Examples

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  • 0:54 Chronological Age
  • 1:43 Biological Age
  • 2:29 Psychological Age
  • 3:47 Functional Age
  • 4:51 Social Age
  • 6:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

If you think there is only one way to count how old you are, then this lesson is for you. We will look into several ways that people can determine your age, both in a relative and an absolute kind of way.


Brandi is 45, and Steve is 20, and they are dating. Is age really just a number? Merely a mechanical tick as the earth passes the location where it was when you were born, making your age one number higher? If we only count the number of times the earth has gone around the sun, then isn't age really just a number?

Since nobody is born with a clicker planted in their chest or arm that tells us how old they are, we have several different perspectives on how to classify someone's age. They are chronological, biological, psychological, functional, and social. I didn't want to throw a whole bunch of definitions at you all at once, but instead, I want to go through each one on its own.

Chronological Age

Chronological age is defined as the number of years a person has lived. Years, of course, being Earth revolutions around the sun. This is the one we're all very familiar with.

How old are you? I am so many years, months, and days old. Because of the ease and familiarity everyone has with chronological age, many tests and programs are based around it. Most 5-year olds are ready for kindergarten. Most 16-year olds have matured enough to drive. Many 65-year olds are ready to retire.

When looking at chronological age, is 45 different than 20? Yes, but that number on its own fails to inform us of anything else. All it says is that they were born 25 years, or Earth-Sun revolutions, apart.

Biological Age

Biological age is defined as a description of an individual's development based on biomarkers. A biomarker is a recordable molecular or cellular event. Here, we're looking at the individuals as they are, not necessarily when they were born.

Humans, in most cases, follow the same biological path. For example, the easiest one that comes to mind is the beginning of puberty and the increase of sex hormones. More complicated ones exist, such as increases and decreases in human growth hormone, myelination events in the brain, and the degradation of certain tissues as one gets older. So, it's like a continuum. What if we aren't interested in the body?

Psychological Age

Psychological age is defined as a subjective description of one's experience using non-physical features. Now, we're trying to say how old a person is without markers. We used the earth's revolutions and biomarkers before, now we have to rely on something that's a little more ephemeral: experience, logic, and emotions.

Psychological age has been attempted by many psychologists in the form of stage theories, which are developmental steps that every person goes through. Some of the more famous ones include Freud, Erikson, and Piaget. What they attempted to do is define a person by how they think, act, and reason without worrying as much about your chronological age.

Getting away from stage theories, we will instead say that Brandi and Steve took psychological tests to determine their psychological ages. Brandi scored as 25, which indicates a lower psychological age, emotional maturity, and logic level than her chronological age, while Steve, as a 20-year old, has an appropriate level of emotional maturity and logic for his age. This would mean that their experiences and thought processes are more alike than their biological age would suggest.

Functional Age

Functional age is defined as a combination of chronological, biological, and psychological ages. What is happening is, instead of focusing on one aspect at a time, we are summarizing them to create a more holistic picture of a person. Functional age would give you the clearest understanding of a person.

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