Developmental Psychobiology: The Significance of Infancy

By Lewis P. Lipsitt | Go to book overview
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5 Developmental Psychobiology Comes of Age: A Discussion

Lewis P. Lipsitt

Brown University

The field of developmental psychology has strong roots in the science of biology. The Darwinian tradition, delivered to us through "the father of child psychology," G. Stanley Hall, urged that we heed the similarities between ontogenetic development, on one hand, and phylogenetic history, on the other. Our robust biological heritage comes from the extensive influence on our methodologies of developmental anthropometry, which was itself closely derived from embryology and anatomy. Developmental psychology has emerged from a felicitous coupling of two major characteristics of the biological science tradition: first, a striving for greater precision of measurement, and second, twentieth century man's intensive search for his place among species. These overriding concerns have led to the developmental psychologist's closer inquiry into how the child becomes man or woman.

Infants and children change with age. That is the first and least interesting law of human development. It is relatively uninteresting not only because it is obvious but because it is essentially descriptive and nonexplanatory. Nevertheless, the law has served the field well. It has yielded the developmental testing "movement," and it has impelled us to look more carefully for "the causes of behavioral change."

Developmental testing became early, and still remains, one of the major concerns of our field. Undeniably interesting issues have arisen in the context of psychometric work, such as whether developmental test performance in the first 18 months of life has anything to do with the proficiency of children on later intelligence tests or, more importantly, with the learning and performance capabilities of children in real-life pursuits.

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