Drivers of Human Development: How Relationships and Context Shape Learning and Development

Pamela Cantor, Turnaround for Children; Harvard Graduate School of Education
Lily Steyer, Turnaround for Children

This article was published online on January 24, 2018 in Applied Developmental Science.

Positive and negative developmental factors (e.g., stress, attunement, and support) can affect how individuals and contexts come together through relationships. The Developmental Systems Theories perspective offers a framework to integrate the underlying processes of neural malleability and plasticity with the dynamic relational interconnectedness of children and the adults with whom they interact in their social, cultural, and physical contexts. This framework leads to the view that children age as individuals, both in context and in culture, resulting in individual developmental pathways over their lifespans.

This article presents a picture of the macro- and micro-contexts that shape developing brains and their overall development. A companion article, Malleability, Plasticity, and Individuality: How Children Learn and Develop in Context, examines how children learn, change, and grow using the developmental systems theories framework.