Developmental Paths in Adolescence: Commentary
Lisa J. Crockett The Pennsylvania State University
The chapters by Huizinga (chap. 2), Cairns, Leung, and Cairns (chap. 3), and Caspi (chap. 4) raise several issues integral to an understanding of developmental pathways in adolescence. These issues include the choice of metaphors for describing developmental paths, the impact of turning points on pathways, mechanisms contributing to continuity (or discontinuity) in behavior, and the role of the social context in shaping pathways. Each of these issues is discussed in turn.
The first issue involves the conceptualization of an individual's journey through adolescence and the selection of metaphors for describing it. Two common metaphors in the developmental literature are pathway and trajectory. Although similar in some respects, these terms reflect different assumptions about development. Pathway typically refers to a course that is already laid out, which the individual simply follows. Thus, this metaphor emphasizes the role of forces outside the person in setting that person's developmental course. Trajectory refers to the curve of a projectile in flight, which implies momentum and movement in a specified direction. Thus, this metaphor connotes a more active role for the organism; it also implies that development follows a fairly predictable course.