At this writing, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the study of human development is framed by theoretical models that stress that dynamic, integrated relations across all the distinct but fused levels of organization involved in human life. The relations among these levels constitute the basic process of development. The levels include biology, individual psychological and behavioral functioning, social relationships and institutions, the natural and designed physical ecology, culture, and history.
Indeed, from the beginning of the last century to the present one, the history of developmental psychology has been marked by an increasing interest in the role of history. Scholars have been concerned with how temporal changes in the familial, social, and cultural contexts of life shape the quality of the trajectories of change that individuals traverse across their life spans. Scholars of human development have incorporated into their causal schemas about ontogenetic change a nonreductionistic and synthetic conception about the influence of context—of culture and history—on ontogenetic change. In contrast to models framed by a Cartesian split view of the causes of change, cutting-edge thinking in the field of human development has altered its essential ontology. The relational view of being that now predominates the field has required epistemological revisions in the field as well. Both qualitative understanding and quantitative understanding have been legitimized as scholars have sought an integrated understanding of the multiple levels of organization comprising the ecology of human development.
The integrated relations studied in contemporary scholarship are embedded in the actual ecology of human development. As a consequence, policies and programs represent both features of the cultural context of this ecology and methodological tools for understanding how variations in individual-context relations may impact the trajectory of human life. As such, the application of developmental science (through policy and program innovations and evaluations) is part of—synthesized with—the study of the basic, relational processes of human development.
In essence, then, as we pursue our scholarship about human development at this early part of a new century, we do so with an orientation to the human life span that is characterized by (a) integrated, relational models of human life, perspectives synthesizing biological-through-physical ecological influences on human development in nonreductionis-tic manners; (b) a broad array of qualitative and quantitative methodologies necessary for attaining knowledge about these fused, biopsychoecological relations; (c) a growing appreciation of the importance of the cultural and historical influences on the quality and trajectory of human development across the course of life; and (d) a synthesis of basic and applied developmental science.
These four defining themes in the study of human development are represented in contemporary developmental systems theories, perspectives that constitute the overarching conceptual frames of modern scholarship in the study of human development. We believe that the chapters in this volume reflect and extend this integrative systems view of basic and applied developmental scholarship.
Part I of this volume, "Foundations of Development Across the Life Span," describes the ontological and episte-mological features of this synthetic approach to developmental science. The following four parts of the volume provide evidence, within and across successive portions of the life span, of the rich scholarship conducted to describe and explain dynamic relations between developing individuals and their complex contexts. The final part of the volume, "Applied Developmental Psychology Across the Life Span," extends the age-specific discussions of basic person-context relational processes to multiple portions of the life span. Chapters in this section focus on the use of concepts and research associated with developmental systems thinking in applied efforts aimed at enhancing relational processes and promoting positive, healthy developmental trajectories across life.
In sum, by focusing on the four themes of contemporary human development theory and research just described, chapters in this volume reflect and offer a foundation for continued contributions to developmental scholarship aimed at understanding the dynamic relations between individuals and contexts. As we believe is persuasively demonstrated by the chapters in this volume, contemporary human developmental science provides rigorous and important scholarship about the process of human development and applications across the life span. Together, these advances in the scholarship of knowledge generation and knowledge application serve as an invaluable means for advancing science and service pertinent to people across the breadth of their lives.
There are numerous people to thank in regard to the preparation of this book. First and foremost we are indebted to the volume's contributors. Their scholarship and dedication to excellence and social relevance in developmental science and its application enabled this work to be produced. The contributions serve as models of how scholarship may contribute both to knowledge and to the positive development of people across their life spans. We also owe a great debt to editor-inchief Irving Weiner, both for giving us the opportunity to edit this volume of the Handbook and for his unflagging support and superb scholarly advice and direction throughout the entire project. We are especially indebted to our colleague in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts University, Professor David Elkind, for his generous and insightful foreword to this volume.
Our colleagues and students in Eliot-Pearson were great resources to us in the development of this volume. We thank Karyn Lu, managing editor of the Applied Developmental Science Publications Program in Eliot-Pearson, for her expert editorial support and guidance. Jennifer Simon, our publisher at Wiley, was a constant source of excellent advice, encouragement, and collegial support, and we are pleased to acknowledge our gratitude to her.
Finally, we deeply appreciate the love and support given to us by our families during our work on this volume. They remain our most cherished developmental assets, and we gratefully dedicate this book to them.
Richard M. Lerner M. Ann Easterbrooks Jayanthi Mistry
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