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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: September 2009

Epilogue Laws of change: implications for theory and practice


Come gather 'round people

Wherever you roam

And admit that the waters

Around you have grown

And accept it that soon

You'll be drenched to the bone.

If your time to you

Is worth savin'

Then you better start swimmin'

Or you'll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin'

(Bob Dylan, 1964)

In this chapter, we review our findings from the perspective of consistencies of developmental change processes. We ask whether general laws of change in relationships can be inferred from our research. We also discuss the implications of such laws of change for understanding practices that foster developmental change in relationships. Such practices include childrearing, education and training, clinical treatment approaches based primarily on interpersonal relationships, change processes in organizations, and larger scale social and cultural change.

Are there laws of relational-historical development?

In this section, we recognize some of the consistencies of the developmental process that emerged in our work, knowing that these consistencies must await further study. Our research revealed different types of change, from the realtime fluctuations of communicative actions to the developmental changes in the patterns of communication. We also observed the paradoxical situation that change occurred in the midst of stability. The dynamics of change occurred with respect to frames that had a stable identity across the period of observation. While spontaneous, creative innovations were observed during periods of developmental re-organization, change was not entirely open ended. It was constrained to occur in certain ways and not others.