Here is a book that challenges the very basis of the way psychologists have studied child development. According to Urie Bronfenbrenner, one of the world’s foremost developmental psychologists, laboratory studies of the child’s behavior sacrifice too much in order to gain experimental control and analytic rigor. Laboratory observations, he argues, too often lead to “the science of the strange behavior of children in strange situations with strange adults for the briefest possible periods of time.” To understand the way children actually develop, Bronfenbrenner believes that it will be necessary to observe their behavior in natural settings, while they are interacting with familiar adults over prolonged periods of time.This book offers an important blueprint for constructing such a new and ecologically valid psychology of development. The blueprint includes a complete conceptual framework for analysing the layers of the environment that have a formative influence on the child. This framework is applied to a variety of settings in which children commonly develop, ranging from the pediatric ward to daycare, school, and various family configurations. The result is a rich set of hypotheses about the developmental consequences of various types of environments. Where current research bears on these hypotheses, Bronfenbrenner marshals the data to show how an ecological theory can be tested. Where no relevant data exist, he suggests new and interesting ecological experiments that might be undertaken to resolve current unknowns.Bronfenbrenner’s groundbreaking program for reform in developmental psychology is certain to be controversial. His argument flies in the face of standard psychological procedures and challenges psychology to become more relevant to the ways in which children actually develop. It is a challenge psychology can ill-afford to ignore.
This book is an intellectual tour de force: a comprehensive Darwinian interpretation of human development. Looking at the entire range of human evolutionary history, Melvin Konner tells the compelling and complex story of how cross-cultural and universal characteristics of our growth from infancy to adolescence became rooted in genetically inherited characteristics of the human brain.All study of our evolution starts with one simple truth: human beings take an extraordinarily long time to grow up. What does this extended period of dependency have to do with human brain growth and social interactions? And why is play a sign of cognitive complexity, and a spur for cultural evolution? As Konner explores these questions, and topics ranging from bipedal walking to incest taboos, he firmly lays the foundations of psychology in biology.As his book eloquently explains, human learning and the greatest human intellectual accomplishments are rooted in our inherited capacity for attachments to each other. In our love of those we learn from, we find our way as individuals and as a species. Never before has this intersection of the biology and psychology of childhood been so brilliantly described."Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution," wrote Dobzhansky. In this remarkable book, Melvin Konner shows that nothing in childhood makes sense except in the light of evolution.
So many questions, such an imagination, endless speculation: the child seems to be a natural philosopher--until the ripe old age of eight or nine, when the spirit of inquiry mysteriously fades. What happened? Was it something we did--or didn't do? Was the child truly the philosophical being he once seemed? Gareth Matthews takes up these concerns in The Philosophy of Childhood, a searching account of children's philosophical potential and of childhood as an area of philosophical inquiry. Seeking a philosophy that represents the range and depth of children's inquisitive minds, Matthews explores both how children think and how we, as adults, think about them.Adult preconceptions about the mental life of children tend to discourage a child's philosophical bent, Matthews suggests, and he probes the sources of these limiting assumptions: restrictive notions of maturation and conceptual development; possible lapses in episodic memory; the experience of identity and growth as "successive selves," which separate us from our own childhoods. By exposing the underpinnings of our adult views of childhood, Matthews, a philosopher and longtime advocate of children's rights, clears the way for recognizing the philosophy of childhood as a legitimate field of inquiry. He then conducts us through various influential models for understanding what it is to be a child, from the theory that individual development recapitulates the development of the human species to accounts of moral and cognitive development, including Piaget's revolutionary model.The metaphysics of playdough, the authenticity of children's art, the effects of divorce and intimations of mortality on a child--all have a place in Matthews's rich discussion of the philosophical nature of childhood. His book will prompt us to reconsider the distinctions we make about development and the competencies of mind, and what we lose by denying childhood its full philosophical breadth.
Katherine Nelson re-centers developmental psychology with a revived emphasis on development and change, rather than foundations and continuity. She argues that children be seen not as scientists but as members of a community of minds, striving not only to make sense, but also to share meanings with others.A child is always part of a social world, yet the child's experience is private. So, Nelson argues, we must study children in the context of the relationships, interactive language, and culture of their everyday lives.Nelson draws philosophically from pragmatism and phenomenology, and empirically from a range of developmental research. Skeptical of work that focuses on presumed innate abilities and the close fit of child and adult forms of cognition, her dynamic framework takes into account whole systems developing over time, presenting a coherent account of social, cognitive, and linguistic development in the first five years of life.Nelson argues that a child's entrance into the community of minds is a slow, gradual process with enormous consequences for child development, and the adults that they become. Original, deeply scholarly, and trenchant, Young Minds in Social Worlds will inspire a new generation of developmental psychologists.
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