A History of Systems in
Roger A. Dixon
Richard M. Lerner
Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Education
The Pennsylvania State University
A student beginning the advanced study of developmental psychology is probably all too aware of the vast array of theories, methods, and ideas present in the field. Such an array may suggest a picture of formidable complexity, or even anarchy. Closer inspection, however, reveals that there are some identifiable clusters of these theories, methods, and ideas and that, although these clusters differ in important ways, they also share certain foci, themes, and—most important for the purposes of this chapter—their historical roots. Accordingly, we examine some of the key historical bases of the major modern systems of developmental psychology. In considering this history we trace early connections among what have evolved into major theoretical orientations toward development ; in addition, we specify some major similarities and differences in these approaches to understanding development. By referring to the field's history, we are able to understand much of the contemporary scene in developmental psychology.
Today there are two major conceptual features in developmental psychology that can be identified by an analysis of the field's history. First, more than ever (Lerner, 1983), developmental psychologists are now concerned with the explanation of developmental change (i.e., with the specification of the causes or antecedents of development) as opposed to just the description of development (i.e., the depiction or representation of change). Second, and based on the recognition that one's explanation of development derives from one's theory of development, developmental psychologists have recently begun to attend to one