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  • Print publication year: 2002
  • Online publication date: September 2009

16 - Epilogue: conceptions of ontogenetic development; integrating and demarcating perspectives


The chapters of this book are based on the idea that the relation between biology and culture is essential for understanding ontogenetic development. Moreover, it is agreed that this relation is an essential part of one's orientation and needs to be grounded theoretically, rather than being postulated as some unspecified interaction. Still, the conceptualizations of the authors assembled in this volume vary widely; the volume hosts an array of different, often complementary and sometimes mutually exclusive approaches.

Developmental psychology, like no other area in psychology, has long maintained links to both biology and cultural sciences. For example, early theories of maturation in the foetal phase of the human life cycle drew heavily on evolutionary knowledge of that time (Haeckel, 1866). Likewise, Hall‘s (1883) conception of development recapitulated not biological but cultural evolution. As informative and stimulating as these links into neighbouring fields were, little progress has been made to specify our conception of the relationship between biology and culture when considering development. Until today, most developmental psychologists can be counted as belonging to one of two camps, one focusing on mind in culture and the other on development of brain structure and evolutionary pressures.

Our overall focus is on ontogenetic development as pivotal in the description of the interplay between culture and biology. The various chapters demonstrate how the understanding of development is central in conceptualizing different perspectives on the interaction between humans and the context in which they live.