Concepts and Theories of Human Development

By Richard M. Lerner | Go to book overview

PREFACE to the Second Edition
Ten years have passed since the publication of the first edition of Concepts and Theories of Human Development. During that time there has been considerable activity among developmentalists in regard to the philosophical, conceptual, and theoretical issues pertinent to human development. Although the basic organization and orientation of the second edition of Concepts and Theories of Human Development remain consistent with those found in the first edition, the revision has profited immensely from the literature of the last decade.The goals of the book remain the same: to discuss the philosophical and historical bases of the key ideas found in the study of human development; to indicate how these bases relate to the core conceptual issues of development -- the nature-nurture controversy, the continuity-discontinuity issue, and the issue of stability-instability in development; to discuss how these issues influence the formulation of different theories of development; to present overviews of instances of the major types of developmental theories, in order to indicate the links among philosophy, concepts, theory, and research; to evaluate research associated with different theories of development in order to appraise the usefulness of a given theory and the soundness of its stance on core issues of development; and to discuss the implications of philosophy, concepts, and theory for the research methods and research designs employed in the study of human development.Moreover, my orientation toward these presentations remains the same. In both editions it is clear that I favor an approach to development which in the first edition was labeled organismic-interactional, or probabilistic-epigenetic, and which in the second edition is additionally denoted by such terms as organismic-contextual and developmentalcontextual.The introduction of these new terms may suggest that my thinking has evolved. I hope that it has, and that the changes are evident in the second edition.In the ten years since the publication of the first edition I have spent considerable time thinking and writing: about the usefulness of a contextual philosophy for developmental theory; about the nature of developmental processes across the lifespan; and about the usefulness of the life-span view of human development as a general orientation in trying to understand the character of developmental processes and the relations between individuals and contexts that may underlie these processes. These interests are reflected throughout the second edition, and have led to broadened discussions of:
the philosophical and historical bases of the study of human development (Chapters 1 and 2);
the nature-nurture controversy (Chapter 3), its manifestation in the debate about the heritability of intelligence and of racial differences in IQ (Chapter 4), and its possible "resolution" in regard to developmental theory through the adoption of a probabilistic-epigenetic, or developmental-contextual, orientation (Chapter 5);
the continuity-discontinuity issue, its relationship to the issue of stabilityinstability in development, and the issue of the nature of plasticity across the life span (Chapter 6);
the character of the different theoretical

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