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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: October 2018

12 - Human Development and the Potential for Change from the Perspective of Multiple Disciplines: What Have We Learned?

from Part V - Conclusion


This volume has applied a multidisciplinary lens to the consideration of the potential for change in human development. Understanding what we know about promoting positive trajectories in human lives requires knowledge from a combination of disciplines. Our emphasis has been on demography, economics, sociology, psychiatry, and psychology. Our purpose in compiling the volume was to engage scholars in articulating what is known about continuity in human development within their own disciplines and in examining possible linkages across fields. Leading economists and demographers address issues in human capital formation. Similarly, cutting edge demographers and psychologists examine partnership behavior. And last, prominent scientists in psychiatry and psychology outline key dimensions of psychological development. A major theme cutting across all disciplinary perspectives is the potential for change. In this chapter we pull together what is learned from these authors. We organize the chapter around three central questions:

  • • What are the current trends in human capital, partnership behavior, and psychological development?
  • • What do we know about the continuity of development over lifetimes and across generations?
  • • What are new ways to think about interventions and the potential for change in the life course or across generations?
  • Descriptive Summaries and Evidence for Lifetime and Intergeneration Continuity

    Human Capital: Levels and Trends Across Countries

    Brian Nolan and Bertrand Maitre in chapter three define human capital as the education, skills, and experience that are required for success in the labor force. John Hobcraft in chapter four broadens this perspective by considering a wide ränge of parental, childhood, and early adult legacies and their links to later social exclusion, a European term for the many correlates of low human capital. Greg Duncan and Katherine Magnuson in chapter five add to this definition the skills and experience that are valued at home. One of the most widespread measures of human capital is completed years of schooling.

    Today, most Citizens in Europe and North America have attained an upper secondary level (or high school graduate level) of education or higher. Still, great variability exists in the distribution of human capital across these countries (Nolan & Bertram, this volume). For example, in several countries, including Ireland, Greece, and Belgium, the proportion of the population with lower secondary level of education or less is quite high, characterizing 40% of the population or more.