Theoretical Perspectives Relevant to Developmental Psychology

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A discussion of the structural, information processing, and developmental dimensions approaches to the analysis of age/development/life course trends.
Developmental psychology, as a discipline, is currently undergoing a paradigmatic/world view change. Consequently, several different theoretical approaches to the study of development and the life course have been proposed and advocated. The three primary approaches currently being debated include the structural, information processing/cognitive, and life-span developmental/developmental dimensions approaches. The purpose of this paper is to examine the differences and similarities between these three broad approaches. However, this exposition would be incomplete without a discussion of the
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The contextual world view represents the third world view which is relevant to the field of developmental psychology (Baltes, Reese, & Lipsitt, 1980; Datan & Reese, 1977). This world view uses the historic event or the dialectic as its metaphor. One is reminded of Heraclitus's maxim of "One can never step in the same river twice". The contextual world view defines reality as an ongoing and dynamic event. Therefore, the event is active. However, the event is also reactive; it occurs within the context of other events that are also dynamic and ongoing. In this sense, they share a reciprocally active and reactive interrelationship. Thus, one can not examine a single isolated event; an organism can only be understood by examining the parts of the organism within the context of the entire system within which the organism is a part.

The influence of the contextual world view on the conceptualization of the individual in relation to developmental psychology can be described as follows: First, the individual is seen as constantly changing. In addition, the change that occurs is viewed as an interaction of the individual and the context within which they live. Thus, a developmental psychologist operating from this perspective would examine the interaction of biological, psychological, historical, and sociological factors on an individual's development; the gestalt including not only the
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