At this writing, at the beginning of the twenty-first eenlury, the study of human development is framed by theoretical models that stress that dynamic, integrated relations aeross all the distinet 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 (he 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 inllu-ence 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 seholars 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-lhrough-physical ecological influences on human development in nonrcductionis-tie 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.
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