Children's Development within Social Context: Research and Methodology - Vol. 2

By Lucien T. Winegar; Jaan Valsiner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
THE HERMENEUTIC INVESTIGATION OF PEER RELATIONS

Martin J. Packer University of Michigan

Bonnie Scott City University of New York

This book deals with development within social contexts, and it will be evident to the reader that there is a variety of ways in which this theme can be approached. Without wishing to tilt at windmills or confute straw men, we think that there is an unacknowledged presupposition that runs through most of these approaches to the relation of context and development. Insofar as developmental theory borrows from structuralist cognitive-developmentalism and procedural cognitive science (which is far indeed) it inherits the view that development is a matter of change in mental structures, of improved competence, whereas context provides the domain within which competence is expressed, a domain from which competence draws factual grist to be assimilated and processed, and by which it is constrained. The result of this constraint is that performance is only a sloppy manifestation of its hidden inner source: lower in level than competence, reduced in complexity, and punctuated by errors and slips, hesitations and false starts. In this view the child brings fixed cognitive characteristics--a cognitive structure that defines a stage of development; cognitive contents in the form of beliefs and preferences--to a setting that, in turn, has objective factual features.

This is not the place to document the prevalence of such a view. Instead we intend here to describe a research project that has been conducted within a theoretical and methodological framework that appears if one replaces this presupposition with a different one. The replacement is one that we would claim, of course, proves to be not just different but also more adequate, though

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