Throughout this course, you may have gravitated to certain stages of development and certain research topics. Perhaps you found cognitive development during early childhood particularly appealing. Perhaps you are interested in the process of identity development during adolescence and the influence of culture. Maybe you want to learn more about how older adults cope with Alzheimer’s disease. There are endless questions and endless opportunities to affect change, improve human development, and positively impact the overall quality of life.
Take your curiosities and interests a step further and generate some ideas for positive social change in those areas. Do not limit yourself to what your current resources or capacities are; if you had ample resources at your disposal, what would you want to do to affect positive social change?
 Post about a description of a research topic that involves lifespan development and explain how it could contribute to positive social change. Then, explain the actions you could take to bring about social change for that research topic possibility. Be specific. 

Review the Walden University Social Change website and explore the possibilities for positive social change.
Think about a research topic that involves lifespan development and how it could contribute to positive social change.

Support your Discussion with specific resources used in its preparation. You are asked to provide a reference for all resources, including those in the Learning Resources for this course.
MustDifferences and Deficits in Psychological Research in Historical
Perspective: A Commentary on the Special Section

Michael Cole
University of California, San Diego

This commentary traces discussions of psychological differences and deficits from the mid-1950s to the
current day, positioning the disciplinary discussions in the social–historical context in which they took
place. The challenges of assessing diagnoses of deficit and the potential harms that result when
misdiagnosis is implemented as social policy pervade the discussion over time.

Keywords: academic achievement, cultural deprivation, culture of poverty, nonrepresentative norms,
psychological deficit

I have been invited to comment on the articles in this special
section by virtue of the fact that I began several decades ago to
study psychological tests associated with cultural, ethnic, and
social class variations in psychological development (Cole &
Bruner, 1971; Cole, Gay, Glick, & Sharp, 1971). The question of
how differences in psychological test performance come to be
interpreted as deficits was central to that line of inquiry. I take it
to be my task to bring a historical dimension to the topic of
psychological differences and deficits by contrasting how the
issues were conceived “back in the day” with how they are
conceived of at present.

As the first date for a “then and now” comparison, I have chosen
the debates leading up to 1971 as the starting point. The current set
of articles will provide evidence about the current scene (Summer

Comparing Social and Historical Contexts:
Then and Now

Because we are dealing with issues that clearly arose in highly
charged and tumultuous times, I will begin by sketching the larger
social and historical circumstances within which psychologists
were—and still are—conducting their research on the difference–
deficit issue, before turning to the psychological literature itself.
My account should of necessity be treated as a “thumbnail,” not a
full-blown picture.


A useful starting date for my historical comparison is 1954, the
year that the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Brown v. Board
of Education decision to end racial segregation in schools. What-

ever the flaws in subsequent execution of the will of the Court, the
movement toward racial desegregation changed the developmental
trajectories of millions of children by sending them to integrated
schools. But it did not take long before people began to discover
that no-longer-separate did not mean no-longer-unequal. The in-
equalities of the prior decade may have been displaced into for-
mally integrated schools, but they did not disappear. Instead the
problem was replaced by “the achievement gap.” Poor children,
and particularly poor children of color, continued to lag 30%–40%
behind their middle class, largely European American neighbors in
academic achievement. Something more was needed to achieve the
hoped-for benefits of desegregation, because the sources of in-
equaliLinking Social Change and Developmental Change:
Shifting Pathways of Human Development

Patricia M. Greenfield
University of California, Los Angeles

P. M. Greenfield’s new theory of social change and human development aims to show how changing
sociodemographic ecologies alter cultural values and learning environments and thereby shift
developmental pathways. Worldwide sociodemographic trends include movement from rural resi-
dence, informal education at home, subsistence economy, and low-technology environments to
urban residence, formal schooling, commerce, and high-technology environments. The former
ecology is summarized by the German term Gemeinschaft (“community”) and the latter by the
German term Gesellschaft (“society”; Tönnies, 1887/1957). A review of empirical research dem-
onstrates that, through adaptive processes, movement of any ecological variable in a Gesellschaft
direction shifts cultural values in an individualistic direction and developmental pathways toward
more independent social behavior and more abstract cognition—to give a few examples of the
myriad behaviors that respond to these sociodemographic changes. In contrast, the (much less
frequent) movement of any ecological variable in a Gemeinschaft direction is predicted to move
cultural values and developmental pathways in the opposite direction. In conclusion, sociocultural
environments are not static either in the developed or the developing world and therefore must be
treated dynamically in developmental research.

Keywords: social change, culture, cognitive development, social development, learning

The goal in this article is to develop a theory that links social
change with developmental change. It therefore deals simulta-
neously with two scales of development: change within a lifetime
and change across succeeding generations. In the field of devel-
opmental psychology, one normally thinks of developmental tra-
jectories as a constant across historical time. Indeed, a theoretical
problem is that theory and research in cultural psychology, includ-
ing cultural developmental psychology, assume that cultures are
static rather than dynamic. This article, in contrast, presents a

theory that, paradoxically, sees change in developmental trajec-
tories as the constant. A major goal of the theory of social
change and human development is to explain how, as sociode-
mographic conditions change, cultural values and developmen-
tal patterns are transformed across generations. Because socio-
demographic conditions are changing throughout the world—in
the direction of greater urbanization, higher levels of formal
schooling, increasing commercialization, and ever higher levels
of technology—the influence of social change on developmen-
tal patterns is an important domain in which theory is needed to
guide empirical research and to understand children and youths
in the United States and around the world.

A major strength of the theory of social change and human
development is thaSerpell, R., & Marfo, K. (2014). Some long-standing and emerging research lines in Africa. In
R. Serpell & K. Marfo (Eds.), Child development in Africa: Views from inside. New Directions
for Child and Adolescent Development, 146, 1–22.


Some Long-Standing and Emerging
Research Lines in Africa
Robert Serpell, Kofi Marfo


Early research on child development in Africa was dominated by expatriates
and was primarily addressed to the topics of testing the cross-cultural validity
of theories developed “in the West,” and the search for universals. After a brief
review of the outcome of that research, we propose two additional types of mo-
tivation that seem important to us as African researchers begin to take the lead
in articulating research agendas for the study of child development in Africa:
articulating the contextual relevance and practical usefulness of developmental
psychology in Africa; and making developmental psychology intelligible to lo-
cal audiences. We highlight two major challenges for African societies in this
era that call for attention by the emerging field of African child development
research: linguistic hegemony and its effects on research and schooling; and the
process of indigenization. We end with a preview of chapters in the rest of the
volume. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

NEW DIRECTIONS FOR CHILD AND ADOLESCENT DEVELOPMENT, no. 146, Winter 2014 © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Published online in Wiley Online Library ( • DOI: 10.1002/cad.20070 1


This volume is dedicated to showcasing research on child develop-ment in Africa by African scholars based on the continent. Re-searchers on child development in Africa have often originated from
outside the continent, and previous commentaries have highlighted vari-
ous ways in which this has colored their approach to the topic. Douglas
Price-Williams (1975), Gustav Jahoda (1980), and Pierre Dasen (1977b),
each of whom conducted pioneering research on aspects of child develop-
ment in Africa, have all acknowledged two major types of motivation for
cross-cultural research in the region: testing the cross-cultural validity of
theories developed “in the West,” and searching for universals. These for-
mulations have persisted in slightly modified form in more recent reviews
of the field of cross-cultural psychology (e.g., Berry, Poortinga, Segall, &
Dasen, 2002; Segall, Dasen, Berry, & Poortinga, 1999). On the other hand,
the discipline of anthropology, which informed somewhat earlier studies of
African childhood (e.g., Erny, 1972; Fortes, 1938), was often motivated by a
search for cross-cultural contrasts, seeking through interpretation “to make
the strange familiar,” and thus reflexively “to make the familiar strange”
(Shweder, 1990). As Jahoda (1982) and Cole (1996) have shown, these dis-
ciplines of the Western academy emerged from common roots in the 19th
century, only gradually diverged, and h

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