001

Table of Contents
 
Title Page
Copyright Page
Preface
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LIFE-SPAN DEVELOPMENTAL PERSPECTIVE
THE VIEW FROM THE HILLS
CONCLUSIONS
THE GOALS OF THIS HANDBOOK
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
REFERENCES
Contributors
 
CHAPTER 1 - Introduction
 
AN OVERVIEW OF THIS VOLUME
CONCLUSIONS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
REFERENCES
 
CHAPTER 2 - Neurobiological Bases of Social Behavior across the Life Span
 
INTRODUCTION AND CONTEXT
SOCIAL BEHAVIOR IN CONTEXT
THE AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOR
POLYVAGAL THEORY: A NEW BIOBEHAVIORAL CONCEPTUALIZATION OF THE AUTONOMIC ...
THE NEURAL BASIS OF SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT AND COMMUNICATION
INTEGRATED COMPONENTS OF THE SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT SYSTEM AND BEHAVIORAL REGULATION
THE AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM AS A NEURAL PLATFORM FOR SOCIAL BEHAVIOR
NEUROCHEMICAL FACTORS COORDINATE AUTONOMIC STATE AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOR
SUMMARY
REFERENCES
 
CHAPTER 3 - The Development of Emotion Regulation: A Neuropsychological Perspective
 
WHAT IS EMOTION REGULATION AND WHEN DOES IT OCCUR?
NEURAL INVESTIGATIONS OF EMOTION REGULATION
HOW DOES THE NORMATIVE DEVELOPMENT OF EMOTION REGULATION INTERACT WITH ...
DEVELOPMENTAL VERSUS INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IN THE NEURAL UNDERPINNINGS OF ...
WHY DO NEGATIVE EMOTION AND PSYCHOPATHOLOGY INCREASE IN ADOLESCENCE?
WHY DO OLDER ADULTS EXPERIENCE MORE POSITIVE EMOTION?
CONCLUSIONS
REFERENCES
 
CHAPTER 4 - Dynamic Integration of Emotion and Cognition: Equilibrium ...
 
ENERGETICS, STRUCTURE, AND EQUILIBRIUM IN LIFE-SPAN EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
LIFE-SPAN DEVELOPMENT OF EMOTIONAL SYSTEMS
CONCLUSION AND OUTLOOK
REFERENCES
 
CHAPTER 5 - Self-Regulation across the Life Span
 
SELF-REGULATION AND ACTION THEORY
AN ORGANIZING HEURISTIC
SUMMARY OF DEVELOPMENT
SUMMARY OF THE HEURISTIC
LIMITATIONS AND BURNING QUESTIONS
REFERENCES
 
CHAPTER 6 - Self and Identity across the Life Span
 
TRADITIONS OF INQUIRY
THE SELF AS ACTOR
THE SELF AS AGENT
THE SELF AS AUTHOR
CONCLUSION
REFERENCES
 
CHAPTER 7 - Temperament and Personality through the Life Span
 
CONCEPTS
CONSISTENCY AND CHANGE IN TEMPERAMENT AND PERSONALITY
THE LITERATURE ON CONSISTENCY AND CHANGE IN TEMPERAMENT AND PERSONALITY
FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO TEMPERAMENT AND PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT
LINKS BETWEEN PERSONALITY AND ADJUSTMENT
CONCLUSION
REFERENCES
 
CHAPTER 8 - Life-Span Perspectives on Positive Personality Development in ...
 
A LIFE-SPAN APPROACH TO PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT
PERSONALITY ADJUSTMENT AND GROWTH
EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE ON PERSONALITY GROWTH AND ADJUSTMENT TRAJECTORIES
CONTEXTS FACILITATING POSITIVE PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT: UNFOLDING PERSONALITY PLASTICITY
CONCLUSION AND OUTLOOK
REFERENCES
 
CHAPTER 9 - Coping across the Life Span
 
COPING: A BRIEF PRIMER
GENERAL OVERVIEW OF COPING BY LIFE PHASE
TOWARD A LIFE-SPAN DEVELOPMENTAL THEORY
REFERENCES
 
CHAPTER 10 - Gendered Behavior across the Life Span
 
GENDER DEVELOPMENT BEFORE BIRTH: EARLY HORMONAL INFLUENCES
SEX DIFFERENCES IN HUMAN BEHAVIOR
GENDERED BEHAVIOR IN CHILDHOOD
CORE GENDER IDENTITY
SEXUAL ORIENTATION
COGNITION
EMOTION
THE LIFE SPAN AFTER CHILDHOOD
CONCLUSIONS
REFERENCES
 
CHAPTER 11 - Intimate Relationships across the Life Span
 
BASIC QUESTIONS: LOVE AND PAIRBONDING
ADOLESCENT ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
THE RELEVANCE OF EMERGING ADULTHOOD
SETTLING INTO ADULTHOOD: SATISFACTION AND STABILITY
RELATIONSHIP THREATS
INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE
WHEN ALL EFFORTS FAIL: DIVORCE
RELATIONSHIPS, HEALTH, AND PSYCHOBIOLOGY
EMERGING PERSPECTIVES ON A UNIQUE POPULATION: SAME-SEX COUPLES
PROMISING NEW DIRECTIONS IN RELATIONSHIP RESEARCH
CONCLUSION
REFERENCES
 
CHAPTER 12 - Convoys of Social Relations: Integrating Life-Span and Life-Course Perspectives
 
SOCIAL RELATIONS: THE CONVOY MODEL
CONVOY MODEL: UPDATE
LIFE-SPAN AND LIFE-COURSE PERSPECTIVES
DISENGAGEMENT THEORY AND ACTIVITY THEORY
SOCIOEMOTIONAL SELECTIVITY THEORY
SOCIAL INPUT MODEL
EXCHANGE AND RECIPROCITY MODEL
SUBSTITUTION MODELS
FUNCTIONAL MODELS
ROLE THEORY
THE UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION OF THE PATTERN-CENTERED APPROACH WITH LIFE-SPAN SOCIAL ...
OVERVIEW OF PATTERN-CENTERED APPROACH
TRANSITIONS DURING CHILDHOOD AND THEIR EFFECT ON SOCIAL NETWORK TYPES
TRANSITIONS IN ADULTHOOD AND THEIR EFFECT ON SOCIAL NETWORK TYPES
CULTURAL DIFFERENCES IN NETWORK TYPES
FUTURE RESEARCH, SUMMARY, AND CONCLUSIONS
REFERENCES
 
CHAPTER 13 - Achievement Motives and Goals: A Developmental Analysis Goals:
 
COMPETENCE AND MOTIVATION: THE CONCEPTUAL FOUNDATION OF ACHIEVEMENT MOTIVATION
ACHIEVEMENT MOTIVES
MOVING FROM ACHIEVEMENT MOTIVES TO ACHIEVEMENT GOALS
ACHIEVEMENT GOALS
CONCLUDING STATEMENTS
REFERENCES
 
CHAPTER 14 - Developmental Psychopathology
 
HISTORICAL UNDERPINNINGS OF DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOPATHOLOGY
WHAT IS DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOPATHOLOGY?
DEFINITIONAL PARAMETERS AND PRINCIPLES OF DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOPATHOLOGY
CHILD MALTREATMENT: A MULTILEVEL PERSPECTIVE
ILLUSTRATIVE DISORDERS FROM A DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOPATHOLOGY PERSPECTIVE
CONCLUSION
REFERENCES
 
CHAPTER 15 - Developing Civic Engagement within a Civic Context
 
TRENDS IN CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
CIVIC ENGAGEMENT IN AN ECOLOGICAL MODEL OF DEVELOPMENT
INTRAINDIVIDUAL FACTORS RELATED TO CIVIC INVOLVEMENT
THE ROLES OF VARIOUS CONTEXTS IN DEVELOPING CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER: NON-COLLEGE-BOUND YOUTH AS AN EXAMPLE
CONCLUSIONS
REFERENCES
 
CHAPTER 16 - Religious and Spiritual Development across the Life Span
 
DEFINING RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT
THEORIES: EXPLAINING RELIGIOUS-SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT
DEVELOPMENTAL TASKS AND RELIGIOUS-SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT
PROBLEMATIC RELIGIOUS-SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT
CONCLUDING REMARKS
REFERENCES
 
Author Index
Subject Index

001

Preface
Until the early 1960s, the field of human development was dominated by either descriptions of the behavioral or psychological phenomena presumptively unfolding as a consequence of genetically controlled timetables of maturational change (e.g., see the chapters by Hess and by McClearn in the third edition of the Handbook of Child Psychology; Mussen, 1970) or by descriptions of the behaviors presumptively elicited in response to stimulation encountered over the course of early life experiences (e.g., see the chapters by Stevenson or by White in the same edition of the Handbook). Framed within a Cartesian dualism that split nature from nurture (Overton, 2006), developmental science focused in the main on the generic human being (Emmerich, 1968) and on the earliest years of life or, at most, the years surrounding the stages of pubertal change. These periods were regarded as the portions of ontogeny in which the fundamental processes of human development emerged and functioned to shape the subsequent course of human life (Brim & Kagan, 1980).
Today, the study of development has evolved from a field embedded within the domain of developmental psychology to an area of scholarship labeled developmental science (Bornstein & Lamb, 2005, 2010; Magnusson & Stattin, 1998, 2006). Substantively, developmental science is a field that conceptualizes the entire span of human life as potentially involving developmental change. The possibility of developmental change across life exists because the basic process of development is seen as involving mutually influential relations between an active organism and a changing, multilevel ecology, a relation represented as individual ↔ context relations (Lerner, 2006). These relations provide the fundamental impetus to systematic and successive changes across the life span (Brandtstädter, 1998; Overton, 1973, 2003; Lerner, 2006).
Thus, the contemporary study of human development involves placing postmodern, relational models at the cutting edge of theoretical and empirical interest (Overton, 2006). These models consider all levels of organization—from the inner biological through the physical ecological, cultural, and historical—as involved in mutually influential relationships across the breadth of the entire life course (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006; Riegel, 1975, 1976). Variations in time and place constitute vital sources of systematic changes across ontogeny—even into the 10th and 11th decades of life—and, as such, human life is variegated and characterized by intraindividual change and interindividual differences (Baltes, Lindenberger, & Staudinger, 2006; Elder, Modell, & Parke, 1993). Accordingly, because ontogenetic change is embodied in its relation to time and place (Overton, 2006), contemporary developmental science regards the temporality represented by historical changes as imbued in all levels of organization, as coacting integratively, and as providing a potential for this systematic change—for plasticity—across the life span.
In short, as a consequence of the relational coactions of changes at levels of organization ranging from the biological and the psychological and behavioral to the sociocultural, designed and natural physical ecological, and through the historical (see Gottlieb, 1997; Overton, 2006), processes of development are viewed in contemporary developmental science through a theoretical and empirical lens that extends the study of change across the human ontogenetic span and, as well, through generational and historical time (Elder, 1998; Elder et al., 1993). The variations in the actions of individuals on their contexts and contexts on individuals integratively propel and texture the course of life (Baltes, Freund, & Li, 2005; Brandtstädter, 2006; Freund & Baltes, 2000 Freund, Li, & Baltes, 1999). As a result, the breadth of the life span and all levels of organization within the ecology of human development must be considered to fully describe, explain, and optimize the course of intraindividual change and of interindividual differences in such change (Baltes et al., 2006; Baltes, Reese, & Nesselroade, 1977).
There exist both historical (Baltes, 1979, 1983; Cairns & Cairns, 2006), philosophical, and theoretical (Lerner, 1984; Overton, 1973, 1975, 2006) accounts of the nature and bases of the evolution of developmental science. These accounts document that the field changed from one dominated by psychological, environmental, or biological reductionist, split, and age-period-restricted conceptions of human development processes to become a field focused on relational, systems, and life-span developmental models. As Edwin G. Boring (1950, p. ix) noted, Hermann Ebbinghaus once remarked that “psychology has a long past, but only a short history.” In many ways, the same statement may be made about the evolution of the life-span view of human development.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LIFE-SPAN DEVELOPMENTAL PERSPECTIVE

The life-span ideas that we today summarize as “the” lifespan perspective began to emerge in the United States in the mid-1960s and early 1970s. However, the conception that was forwarded was neither a newly created perspective of human development nor the only extant conception of lifespan development present at the time (or even now). To a great extent, the history of the emergence and refinement of this life-span perspective arose through the discussions at, and the subsequent edited volumes derived from, a series of conferences held in the late 1960s and early to mid-1970s at the University of West Virginia in Morgantown. The conferences were held under the aegis of the Department of Psychology, which was chaired by K. Warner Schaie. As Baltes (1979, 1983) and Cairns and Cairns (2006) explained, the roots of the approach that began to crystallize in Morgantown can be traced to 19th-century scholarship in the United States and to philosophical ideas forwarded about 200 years earlier in Europe. In turn, although there was a different concentration of empirical attention paid to successive portions of human ontogeny (with most attention paid to infancy and childhood and comparatively less work devoted to studying people as they aged into the adolescent and adult periods), many U.S. developmental psychologists might argue that the study of human life within the social and behavioral sciences has always included a focus on behavior across the breadth of ontogeny. Despite the fact that the label life-span developmental psychology was not used, there was, at least since G. Stanley Hall’s work on senescence (1922), attention paid in some way to periods of life beyond childhood and adolescence.
Nevertheless, despite any claims made that developmental science has been concerned for at least 90 years with development across life, the structure and function of academic work would contradict such assertions. Indeed, it was not until the 1970s and early 1980s, when the term life-span developmental psychology became popular in developmental psychology (e.g., Baltes & Schaie, 1973; Goulet & Baltes, 1970; Nesselroade & Reese, 1973), that many departments began offering life-span development courses.
Moreover, most people involved in teaching these courses were trained in infancy, childhood, or, in a few cases, adolescence. They taught what they knew most and, as such, courses were mostly modestly revised child development courses with a few lectures at the end of the course devoted to “adult development and aging.” The textbooks that were written for use in these courses—in the main by colleagues also not involved in the study of developmental change across the breadth of human ontogeny—reinforced the approach taken by classroom instructors. Texts were in fact slightly revised child development books with a couple of chapters (and in some cases only one chapter) added about adult development and aging; at the time, the late adult years were still not seen as a part of the process of development. In short, authors wrote these books, and publishers structured them, to meet the “needs” of the instructors, which were to present mostly infancy and childhood, perhaps a chapter on adolescence (puberty, the identity crisis, and problem behaviors were in large part the focus of such chapters) and, finally, “adulthood and aging.”
When the work of the key scholars studying the latter portion of the life span, for instance, developmental scientists such as Paul B. Baltes, James Birren, John R. Nesselroade, or K. Warner Schaie, among others, were cited, this scholarship was reduced to the fact that these scholars had promoted the idea of studying development across the life span. Therefore, because the existence of such life-span work required some treatment in the textbook, the author of the textbook would commence to present such topics as the life tasks of adulthood (as discussed, for instance, by Robert Havighurst, 1951), some ideas about intellectual decline with aging, and “death and dying.” What was wrong with such approaches to life-span human development?

THE VIEW FROM THE HILLS

These early textbooks in life-span development missed the points being made by the scholars who were gathering in Morgantown, West Virginia, and who were shaping quite a different approach to the study of development across the life span. The work of Baltes, Schaie, Nesselroade, and other major contributors (e.g., scholars such as Nancy Datan, Lawrence Goulet, Willis Overton, Hayne Reese, and Klaus Riegel) to the foundation of the approach to life-span development that has evolved to frame developmental science had, at best, been misinterpreted and, at worst (and in fact most of the time), trivialized. What, then, were the ideas being developed by the scholars meeting in Morgantown? Answering this question is central to the present work: The ideas that began to be developed in the West Virginia hills provide the foundation of the scholarship represented in this Handbook. Indeed, one cannot overestimate the impact on developmental science theory and methodology of the books that were derived from the West Virginia conferences (Baltes & Schaie, 1973; Datan & Reese, 1977; Goulet & Baltes, 1970; Nesselroade & Reese, 1973) and from a subsequent series of “annual” advances volumes, Life-Span Development and Behavior, first edited by Paul Baltes (1978); then by Baltes and Orville G. Brim, Jr. (1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984); by Baltes, David L. Featherman, and Richard M. Lerner (1986, 1988a, 1988b, 1990); and by Featherman, Lerner, and Marion Perlmutter (1992, 1994). These works pushed the study of human development beyond the split and reductionist conceptual boundaries to which the field had accommodated (Overton, 2006).
As Baltes (1987; Baltes et al., 2006) explained, the life-span view of human development was associated with the integration of a set of ideas, each of which could be found as “stand-alone” concepts within the developmental literature; however, when taken as an integrated or, in fact, a fused, or relational, whole, these ideas changed the conceptual landscape of the field. As such, the set of concepts introduced in the late 1960s and early 1970s at the University of West Virginia life-span development conferences embodied an approach to the study of the human life span that stood in sharp contrast to the simplistic, additive approach to development found in the early textbooks and associated courses in life-span development. Although these “West Virginian” ideas have of course evolved across the ensuing decades and were refined and extended by the their originators and by those who were influenced or trained by them, the fundamental character of these ideas remains the same and constitutes at least a sea change, if not a true paradigm shift, in the nature of thinking about human development.
First, development was seen as a process, one that began at conception and continued through the end of life. For example, developmental processes were conceptualized as involving systematic and successive changes in the organization of relations within and across the levels of organization comprising the ecology of human development (e.g., Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006; Lerner, 2002, 2006; Overton, 1973, 1978, 2006; Overton & Reese, 1981; Reese & Overton, 1970). There were both qualitatively and quantitatively continuous and discontinuous facets of this process. Accordingly, mutidirectionality of development (increases, decreases, curvilinearity, smooth or abrupt change, etc.) were all possible forms for a developmental process, and the shape or form of a developmental trajectory for an individual or group was a matter of theory-predicated empirical inquiry (Wohlwill, 1973).
In addition, because variation in the form of developmental trajectories may occur for different people (e.g., people who vary with regard to age, sex, race, birth cohort, etc.), living in different settings, or in different historical eras, developmental process may take a different form at different points in ontogeny, generational time, or history across individuals or groups. Thus, diversity—with regard to within-person changes but also to differences between people in within-person change—rose to the level of substantive significance (as opposed to error variance) within the life-span view. For instance, as explained by Bornstein (1995), in regard to his “specificity principle” of infant development “specific experiences at specific times exert specific effects over specific aspects of infant growth in specific ways” (p. 21). In turn, a similar idea was advanced by Freund, Nikitin, and Ritter (2009), albeit one focused at the other end of the life span. Underscoring the importance of viewing the developmental process across the breadth of ontogeny, Freund et al. noted that a person’s development during a historical period of extended life expectancy is likely to have important implications for development during young and middle adulthood.
Accordingly, although it would make sense from a life-span developmental perspective to study individuals and groups within (as well as across) ontogenetic “age periods,” an age period-specific focus should not be adopted because of the mistaken belief that the developmental process that occurs in childhood or adolescence is somehow a different developmental process than the one that occurs in adulthood and late adulthood. Rather, the life-span developmental scientist has the task of describing and explaining and, as noted again later in this preface, optimizing the form of such change across life. He or she must detail the ways in which changes within one period are derived from changes at earlier periods and affect changes at subsequent periods.
As well, explanations of continuities and discontinuities across life, and of the form (the shape) of the developmental trajectory and of its rate of change, involve a very different theoretical frame than the ones that had been dominant in other approaches to the study of development (i.e., the split and reductionist approaches of past eras). As explained by Overton, both in his prior work (e.g., 1973, 2006) and in the chapter that introduces Volume 1 of the present Handbook, a relational metamodel frames the contemporary, cutting-edge study of human development within and across all portions of ontogeny. The use of this relational perspective emerged through the influence of Overton and other developmental scientists (e.g., Sameroff, 1975), including those studying infancy (e.g., Bornstein, 1995; Lamb, 1977; Lewis, 1972; Lewis & Rosenblum, 1974; Thelen & Smith, 1998), as well as through the contributions of comparative scientists (e.g., Gottlieb, 1997; Greenberg & Tobach, 1984; Kuo, 1976; Schneirla, 1957) and biologists (e.g., Novikoff, 1945a, 1945b; von Bertalanffy, 1933, 1968). This scholarship resulted in the elaboration of several variants of a developmental systems theoretical model of development (e.g., Ford & Lerner, 1992; Lerner, 2002); more recently, by explicitly incorporating a relational perspective, these models have been termed relational developmental systems models of development (Lerner, 2006; Lerner & Overton, 2008).
Because it may seem counterintuitive that the scholarship of developmental scientists studying infancy was integral in the foundation of the life-span approach to human development, it is useful to illustrate briefly the contributions of such work to the life-span approach. The scholarship of Michael Lewis (e.g., 1972; Lewis & Lee-Painter, 1974) built on the insights of Bell (1968), about the potential presence in correlational data about socialization, of evidence for the bidirectional influences between parents and children. Lewis and his colleagues launched a program of research that provided a new, relational model of infant-parent interaction. In The Effect of the Infant on Its Caregiver (Lewis & Rosenblum, 1974), a volume that represents a watershed event in the history of the study of human development through the use of person↔context relational models, Lewis and colleagues argued that “Not only is the infant or child influenced by its social, political, economic and biological world, but in fact the child itself influences its world in turn” (Lewis & Rosenblum, 1974, p. xv) and maintained that “only through interaction can we study, without distortion, human behavior (Lewis & Lee-Painter, 1974, p. 21). Envisioning the relational, developmental systems models that would come to the fore in the study of human development a quarter century later, Lewis noted that a
relational position not only requires that we deal with elements in interaction but also requires that we not consider the static quality of these interactions. Rather, it is necessary to study their flow with time….Exactly how this might be done is not at all clear. It may be necessary to consider a more metaphysical model, a circle in which there are neither elements nor beginnings/ends. (Lewis & Lee-Painter, 1974, pp. 46-47).
Lewis’s scholarship fostered an intellectual climate among other infancy researchers that resulted in a re-conceptualization of phenomena of infant development within the sorts of relational, individual ↔ context relational models he forwarded. I noted earlier in this preface the contributions of Marc Bornstein (1995) in this regard. Here, too, however, we should point out another, foundational instance of the contributions of infancy researchers to the life-span perspective, found in the work of Michael Lamb. For instance, Lamb and his colleagues (e.g., Lamb, 1977; Lamb, Thompson, Gardner, & Charnov, 1985; Thompson & Lamb, 1986) approached the study of infant attachment within the context of the assumptions that (a) children influence their “socializers” and are not simply the receptive foci of socializing forces, (b) early social and emotional/personality development occurs in the context of a complex family system rather than only in the context of the mother-infant dyad, and (c) social and psychological development are not confined to infancy or childhood but involve a process that continues from birth to death (Lamb, 1978, p. 137; cf. Riley, 1979).
Within this conceptual framework, Lamb and his colleagues found that prior interpretations of infant attachment, which included “an emphasis on the formative significance of early experiences, a focus on unidirectional influences on the child, a tendency to view development within a narrow ecological context, and a search for universal processes of developmental change” (Thompson & Lamb, 1986, p. 1), were less powerful in accounting for the findings of attachment research than an interpretation associated with person↔context relational models. Accordingly, in a review of attachment research conducted through the mid-1980s, Lamb and colleagues concluded that “reciprocal organism-environment influences, developmental plasticity, individual patterns of developmental change and broader contextual influences on development can better help to integrate and interpret the attachment literature, and may also provide new directions for study” (Thompson & Lamb, 1986, p. 1).
Lamb’s work challenged the field of infancy to move the study of the early years of life beyond the use of narrow, split, or reductionist conceptions of the exclusive influences of heredity or early experiences or of simplistic views of proximal dyadic relationships acting in isolation from the fuller and richer ecology of human development. He provided instead a relational vision for the understanding of infancy as part of the entire life span, of the life-span development of the other people in the infant’s world, and of the complex set of infant ↔ social context relations as reciprocal exchanges in and with a multilevel and dynamic context (e.g., see Lamb, 1977; Lamb et al., 1985).
In short, as exemplified by the work embedding the study of infancy within a life-span approach to human development, the theoretical approaches that emerged in the 1970s from the impetus given developmental science by the scholars gathering in the hills of West Virginia constituted an integrative approach to variables across the levels of organization within the relational developmental system. As such, these models rejected as counterfactual the split conceptions, theories, and metatheories that partitioned the sources of development into nature and nurture. Rejected as well were “compromise” views that, although admitting that both of these purportedly separate sources of influence were involved in development, used problematic (i.e., additive) conceptions of interaction (conceptualized much as are interaction terms in an analysis of variance or in other instantiations of the general linear model; see Gottlieb, Wahlsten, & Lickliter, 2006). Instead, the theoretical models promoted by the scholars contributing to the foundation and evolution of the life-span perspective stressed that the basic process of human development involves developmental regulations—that is, individual ↔ context relations that link all levels of the ecology of human development within a thoroughly integrated, or “fused” (Tobach & Greenberg, 1984), dynamic, relational system.
For instance, these levels of the ecology involve ecological systems within the person (i.e., biosocial influences) or most proximal to him or her (what Bronfenbrenner [1979] termed the microsystem), extend to the set of contexts within which the individual interacts (the mesosystem; Bronfenbrenner, 1979) and to the systems in the ecology within which components of the mesosystem (e.g., parents) interact (e.g., the workplace) that may not directly involve the person but nevertheless may have an impact on him or her. In addition, the ecology includes the macrosystem —the broadest level of the ecology; the macrosystem influences all other systems and includes social policies, major intuitions of society (such as education, health care, and the economy), the designed and natural physical ecology, and, ultimately, history. As noted, this latter level of organization within the relational, integrated developmental system provides a temporal component for all other facets of the developmental system and creates the potential for systematic change, for plasticity, in individual ↔ context relations.
One recent instantiation of such relational, developmental systems thinking in regard to the dynamics of the person’s exchanges with his or her ecology involves the work of Freund and colleagues in regard to the nature of the goals that individuals pursue within their changing context (e.g., Freund, 2007; Nikitin & Freund, 2008). Freund argues that the interplay of different levels of organization is important not only at the levels of person, family, and society (or other nested levels) but also for understanding the role of specific constructs—in this case, goals—for development. Extending action-theoretical concepts that have tended to view goals as primarily personal constructs, Freund explained that goals are located at multiple levels of the developmental system and that mutually influential relations among these levels need to be assessed to understand fully the nature and role of goals in human development. These levels involve social norms and expectations that inform about age-related opportunity structures and goal-relevant resources; personal beliefs about the appropriate timing and sequencing of goals; personal goals that are influenced by social norms, personal beliefs, the individual’s learning history, and external (e.g., social and physical environment) and internal (e.g., talent) resources; and nonconscious goals and motives that might be particularly influential in times of transition or in times of routine.

CONCLUSIONS

A relational developmental systems model of human development constitutes the approach to studying the life span that evolved from the ideas developed among the scholars gathering in the formative conferences at the University of West Virginia (Baltes & Schaie, 1973; Datan & Reese, 1977; Goulet & Baltes, 1970; Nesselroade & Reese, 1973). It is this dynamic, relational perspective that constitutes a radical departure from approaches that study nature, or nurture, or additive, linear (or even curvilinear) combinations (even if cast as “interactions”) between the two. Because of the emphasis on the dynamics of relations between the multiple levels of organization involved in the individual and the multiple levels of organization that are part of the ecology of human development, we need to adopt an ontogenetically all-encompassing—a fully life-span—approach to studying relational developmental processes. Such a conceptual frame is required if we are to understand the import of individual ↔ context relations for fostering specific changes, for a specific individual or group, living in a specific context, at a specific point in history (Bornstein, 1995). Clearly, such scholarship requires a multidisciplinary integrative (truly interdisciplinary) approach to the study of human development. Indeed, this need for collaboration across disciplines is in large part why developmental psychology has been transformed into developmental science (Lerner, 2006).
In addition, the concepts of developmental regulation and plasticity integral to a developmental systems framing of the study of development across the life span have another quite important implication for the conduct of developmental science. These concepts in combination afford optimism about the possibility of finding or instantiating individual ↔ context relations that may increase the probability of positive developmental change. Indeed, the life-span approach to developmental science suggests that applications of relational, theory-predicated research findings (in the form of policies or programs) may promote more positive courses of development across life. Efforts to optimize the course of human life through the application of relationally framed developmental science provide, then, an opportunity to test developmental systems ideas about the impact of changes in individual ↔ context relations. As well, such applied efforts constitute a way for developmental scientists to contribute to the improvement of human life among diverse people and their settings. Ultimately, then, such applications of developmental science may contribute to the enhancement of social justice (Lerner & Overton, 2008).

THE GOALS OF THIS HANDBOOK

The innovative ideas associated with a developmental systems-framed approach to the study of life-span development is coupled with an admittedly ambitious agenda of basic and applied developmental science devoted to studying and optimizing processes of individual ↔ context relations across the life span. Nevertheless, despite the methodological complexities of adopting this relational approach to developmental science, the past 40 years have provided depth and breadth of empirical evidence in support of the usefulness of these ideas in framing methodologically rigorous and substantively significant developmental science.
As such, one might think that numerous scholarly references exist for scholars to draw on to understand the state-of-the art of the study of life-span development. However, such resources have not existed before the present Handbook . Because of this absence, there was no single reference work that developmental scientists or their students could consult to find a thorough, integrative presentation of the breadth of scholarship documenting the use of the relational, developmental systems ideas that frame the life-span study of human development. There was no single high-level reference that provided discussions of the usefulness of relational concepts in integrating and extending the range of substantive areas involved in studying development across the life span.
Instead, to date, the key reference works available to developmental scientists and their students about the nature and scope of life-span change processes have been—paradoxically—age-segmented resources (e.g., Damon & Lerner, 2006; Lerner & Steinberg, 2009). In short, despite the important and rich theoretical and substantive work that is framed by perspectives on human development that encompass the life span, there has been no single reference work that presents the top-tier developmental science work pertinent to such processes.
The goal of this Handbook is to provide such a scholarly resource. It is the first-ever reference work to present—through the top-tier scholars in developmental science—the accumulated knowledge about the description, explanation, and implications for optimizing applications (i.e., applications that have the potential to maximize the chances for positive human development) of development across the life span. My fellow editors and I have the aspiration that this Handbook will constitute a watershed event in the development of life-span developmental scholarship. With the publication of this Handbook, we believe a compelling scholarly alternative will exist to counter both split depictions of developmental processes (e.g., studying childhood and adulthood as if they were composed of distinct, completely discontinuous processes) and split explanations of the changes that occur across the life span.
We hope that this first edition of the Handbook will serve as a touchstone for current and future researchers and instructors. As such, future editions of the Handbook may provide an even richer depiction of the course of development across the breadth of the life span than is possible in this edition. Given that developmental science has had for so long an age-specific focus, several topics discussed across the two volumes of this Handbook remain underexplored, perhaps particularly with respect to the later adult years. When the literature was not available to discuss a particular topic in depth with regard to a portion of the life span, the authors point to this situation and suggest ways to expand the topic more fully across the life span. We believe that their ideas for future scholarship are persuasive—indeed, compelling. As such, our ultimate hope is that future editions of the Handbook will reflect the continued theoretical, methodological, and empirical refinement of the concepts about development that began to coalesce in the hills of West Virginia more than four decades ago.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

There are numerous people to whom the editors of this Handbook owe enormous thanks for their contributions. Clearly, we are deeply grateful to the colleagues who contributed to this work, both for their superb scholarly contributions and for their commitment to working collaboratively to produce this Handbook. We also appreciate greatly the unflagging support of our superb editor at John Wiley & Sons, Patricia Rossi. Her commitment to the vision of this Handbook and her support for the quality of contribution we sought to make to developmental science were essential, indeed invaluable, assets throughout our work. We are also grateful to Leslie Dickinson and Jarrett M. Lerner, successive Managing Editors at the Institute for Applied Research at Tufts University, for their superb editorial work. Their commitment to quality and productivity, and their resiliency in the face of the tribulations of manuscript production, are greatly admired and deeply appreciated. I am also grateful to the National 4-H Council, the Philip Morris Smoking Prevention Department, the John Templeton Foundation, the Thrive Foundation for Youth, and the National Science Foundation for supporting my work during the development of this project.
Finally, my co-editors and I dedicate this Handbook to Paul B. Baltes, one of the pillars of 20th century developmental science and, across the last third of the 20th century, the key intellectual and professional force involved in establishing and enabling the flourishing of theory and research about life-span development. His intellect, leadership, generosity, kindness, and wisdom are warmly remembered and sorely missed.
Richard M. Lerner
Medford, MA
October 1, 2009

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