Aging and Adult Development in the Developing World: Applying Western Theories and Concepts

Aging and Adult Development in the Developing World: Applying Western Theories and Concepts

Aging and Adult Development in the Developing World: Applying Western Theories and Concepts

Aging and Adult Development in the Developing World: Applying Western Theories and Concepts

Synopsis

Most studies of human development in developing societies have focused on the childhood stage, and in a few cases, adolescence, since this age group represents about half the population in developing societies. The developed world, however, is experiencing a surge in the elderly population and this has spurred its study. There is growing recognition that studies are needed in order to understand aging in all contexts, and to discover how the experience may differ in developing and developed societies. In this book, the authors discuss the appropriateness or inappropriateness of applying Western theories and perspectives to studies of aging in the developing world.

Excerpt

This book came about as a result of the experiences of both authors who grew up and worked in a developing society but are now living and working in a developed society. For those of us who have lived in and experienced both worlds, there is that feeling of burden—or call it responsibility—to explain each side to the other, and sometimes to serve as a [moderator.] We have seen tour guides serve as interpreters to visitors. We have also witnessed in the literature indigenous non-Western intellectuals trying to play the roles of [tour guides] and [interpreters] to their Western colleagues. Because most theories and perspectives on human behavior are developed in the West, the interpretation of these theories and perspectives by non-Western intellectuals in their local contexts is sometimes perceived as defensive. Therefore, we have not seen much of the role of a [moderator,] someone who acknowledges the strengths and weaknesses that both sides bring to the understanding of human behavior. Given our experiences in both worlds, we hope we have attempted to serve in the role of [moderators.] We have tried to do this, by first presenting Western theories and concepts and then discussing their appropriateness or inappropriateness in the developing world—a term we carefully chose instead of non-Western because of our desire to emphasize common global developmental objectives in human development and aging while also acknowledging cultural relativity.

According to the United Nations, the developing world comprises Asia (excluding Japan), North America (excluding Canada and the United States), South America, Africa, and Oceania (excluding Australia and New Zealand). All the nations of the developing world are not at the same level of development and neither are those of the developed world. For example, within the developing world, there is the category of the least developed countries (LDCs) made up of nations like Afghanistan, Cambodia, Samoa, Sao Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, and Uganda. Likewise, within the developed world category there are the most developed nations—the United States, Japan, Canada, Germany, France, England, and Italy. Thus, there is a hierarchy and a continuum of development from the least to the most developed nations but . . .

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