Chapter 1 - Theory selection and cohort effects

Theory Selection

Development is defined as the continual change that occurs from conception to death, including growth, plateaus, and decline (Santrock, 2019). Development is multi-faceted, and the psychoanalytic, cognitive, behavioral/social cognitive, ethological and ecological theories have been established to best capture the essence of human development. My personal development is most clearly described by Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological theory which focuses on the effects of one’s social and physical environment on their development. The ecological theory takes into account many systems (micro-, meso-, exo-, macro- and chrono-) that shape an individuals’ behaviors (Santrock, 2019). The image used below to demonstrate this theory centers around the individual (sex, gender, age, health, etc.) and then uses concentric rings outwards to add the encompassing systems that act upon and influence the individual. This theory encourages one to think of development as both about me (the central ring), but also about all of the social factors surrounding me (micro-, meso-, exo- and macro-systems), and the changes that occur in myself and my environment over time (chrono-system). It pictures a dynamic, interconnected, ever-evolving structure.

I have personally been very shaped by my culture, schooling, race, gender, language, and family. I noticed extreme changes in happiness and my vision of self when moving between many different schools and countries. For example, growing up in the US, I have learned that as a woman I have the right to be intelligent, and be physically able. When we lived in Wales, girls did not belong on soccer fields and were encouraged to do manual crafts. With no athletic female role models, I would not have believed that I could be the athlete that I am today, I would not have pursued my career, and I would not have considered leaving the village. I strongly believe that what we are exposed to allows us to access the biological capacities that we have within us. Over time and in different contexts, different central parts of ourselves will be challenged and stimulated, and we as individuals will evolve and grow accordingly.

Cohort Effect

A cohort is a group of people that was born in a specific time period, who experienced similar social pressures unique to that time period (Santrock, 2019, p.34). My parents were born in 1958 and 1960, which makes them “Baby boomers”. I was born in 1991, making me a “Millennial”. As Bronfenbrenner suggested, our development and sense of self in the world is largely influenced by the people around us and our environment (Santrock, 2019). For example, my grandma and her friends, who lived through the Great depression, would never throw away food unless it was absolutely covered in mold. Young adults nowadays often throw away the unneeded/undesirable food scraps without flinching. This comes from a different internalized lived reality about the importance of food and resources due to the time in history that we have grown up.

My parents were raised by my grandparents, who had lost many of their loved ones during WWII and had suffered through the Great Depression. My grandparents, part of the “Silent Generation”, who had experienced much death, loss and oppression in their lives, broke conformity in attempts to stop injustice and bask in the freedom of being alive. My dad was raised in a British blue-collar household where pride and feeling of self-worth came through political activism and rebellion. My mom was raised in a US household where art and self-expression were tickets to liberation and free-speech. Both of my parents, growing up without computers, cell phones, or much other technology, learned to live and work primarily with their hands. Neither felt a particular pressure to complete an advanced education or to make considerable amounts of money.

I grew up in the 90’s when individual access to technology started taking off, people could have cell phones and could be accountable and connected anywhere anytime, and when the price of living in the Bay Area inflated considerably. The cohort effects of my generation are different from my parents’ in that we experience a different relationship to the speed at which life can go. My parents’ expectations about what an individual should be able to manage in the course of a day is much lower than the expectation that I see in many of my peers. The social relationship to others is also different. My parents have few connections and they are solid and deep. Many people in my generation tend to have hundreds of connections. We have been conditioned with technology to have virtual access to everyone. We get to choose to engage with people who are similar to us, instead of engaging with the people who are present around us and growing together.

Santrock, J. W. (2019). Lifespan development (17th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

© 2016 by Aviva Rose-Williams.

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