A Pioneer for Naturalistic Research “Much of developmental psychology,

A Pioneer for Naturalistic
Research

“Much
of developmental psychology, as it now exists, is the science of the strange
behaviour of children in strange situations with strange adults for the
briefest possible periods of time” (1979, p. 19). This famous quote aptly
captures Bronfenbrenner’s assertion that, empirically, assessments of development
must be conducted with the recognition that contexts are complex, denoted by Bronfenbrenner’s
(2005) notions of the micro-, meso-, exo- and macro-systems). With that said,
the PPCT model has made some of its greatest contributions to human development
research by acting as the impetus behind the reorientation of developmental research
towards context into the family, peer group, school neighbourhood and wider
community and society. Importantly, the PPCT model was not a causal model, and
was not predictive. Rather, Bronfenbrenner advocated empirical testing in
particular instances to see cause in context. He believed that there was
potential relevance of all the factors in his model to be discovered at each
level of social context and encouraged researchers to extricate within an
across the various levels of his framework. Concluding that development is not
as predictable and universal as once thought, he surmised that individuals
cannot necessarily act in ways that benefit all levels and all components of
the context at all times and places (Elder et al., 2015). Thus, one may need to
treat adaption not as a multivariate concept that is determined by the
interaction of multiple factors over time. composed of ordinal or interval
dimensions. He also emphasised acknowledgement of the impact of culture human
development. Understanding and promoting these culturally sensitive adaptive
developmental regulations can provide, as Bronfenbrenner (2005) argued, the knowledge
base for making human beings human.

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Contribution to the Nature
Nurture Debate -65.% unique lol lol lol

Bronfenbrenner
was also among the first theoreticians to underscore the need to take into
account both the complex, reciprocal and subtle interactions among each
individual’s biological and personal characteristics and also the significant
social and ecological contexts that influence development (Rosa & Tudge,
2013). In addition, he identified the intricate interrelations between person,
process, context, and time, arguing that more important than the various
ecological systems per se, are the transactions and synergies among them.

This
understanding contributed greatly to the enduring “nature-nurture” controversy
over human development (Sameroff, 2010). 
Before 1970, the main concerns of many researchers in the field of human
development was to discover the extent of nature and nurture’s specific
influences. The 1980’s however saw the nurturist shift, induced by three
advances in the social science – the war on poverty, the concept of a social
ecology, and cultural deconstruction. Where behaviourist research focused on
proximal connections between reinforcements and performance, scientists in
other social disciplines were arguing that economic circumstance was a major
constraint on the availability of reinforcements, such that the developmental
environments of the poor were deprived in contrast with those of the affluent. Bronfenbrenner
(1977) offered a more differentiated model than provided by economics alone. He
identified the distal influences of family, school, work, and culture, providing
a more comprehensive empirical model for predicting individual differences in
development. The emphasis here was on studying how people accommodate
throughout their lives to the changing environments where they grow and live
(Clarke-Steward et al., 1985).  His
contextual model delineated the ways in which dimensions of experience can
augment or constrain human development. Although we may have a strong desire
for straightforward explanations of life, Bronfenbrenner understood that development
is complicated and models for explaining it need to be complicated enough to
usefully inform our understanding. 

Proximal
Processess

Time

One
of the most enduring contributions this bioecological model has made to the
developmental field is the consideration that the human life span is marked by
the presence of relative plasticity and that this element of change is
imperative to understanding development. The element of time (micro, meso and
macrotime) was highlighted increasingly during the 1980s, until being formally
attached to the PPCT model in the final phase of the theory’s development.  Bronfenbrenner stressed that human
development involves both continuity and progressive in the person’s
characteristics over time and space (1975, 1978, 1979), which signifies
continuity both in the person and in the environment (1975). This is a
significant contribution to the field of developmental research as he
incorporated both proximal and distal ecological systems, including historical
time (Tudge, Mokrova, Hatfield, & Karnik, 2009). Further, he identified the
key role of temporal variables (both in ontogenesis and throughout history) in
developmental processes, highlighting the need for researchers to carry out
longitudinal studies. This emphasis on time within the PPCT saw a shift within
the field of developmental research, adopting the longitudinal research design,
which has since become the mainstay and gold standard design in research.

Confused with mechanistic
paradigm

The
PPCT model is particularly prone to misrepresentation and lack of appropriate
evaluations in the literature, given that it is a contextualist theory that is
too often treated as though it fits within a mechanist paradigm (Tudge et al.
2009). Overton (Overton, 1984; Overton & Reese, 1973) has argued that
contextualism, lacking the idea of a developmental end point, is not an appropriate
paradigm for developmental science, and that in its “strict contextualist” form,
it should be linked with mechanism or linked with organicism -“relational
organicism-contextualism,” (e.g., Overton, 2013; Overton & Ennis, 2006). Overton
has thus treated the PPCT model as thought it is a mechanistic model, although providing
no direct evidence supporting his placement. In addition, hat Overton (2013)
termed the “five defining features” of the development process are
(non-linearity , order and sequence, direction, relative permanence and
relative irreversibility, and epigenesist and emergence) (p.53,originalemphasis)
are not included in Bronfenbrenner’s theories and he consigned it to the
mechanist camp. As Tudge et al. (2009) and Rosa and Tudge (2013) made clear, particularly
with the introduction of proximal processes into the PPCT model, there is no reason
to view the theory as one of independent effects (as required by mechanist
theories). Furthermore, Overton (2013, 2015)