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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: September 2009

Introduction: Why a dynamic systems approach to fostering human development?


The dynamic systems approach is an emerging interdisciplinary set of principles used by a diverse collection of scientists to help understand the complex world in which we live. The main insight that unites these scientists, despite wide differences in methods and concepts, is a focus on connections and relationships. A relationship between a particular parent and child, for example, is distinguished by the expressions and gestures as well as the words by which they understand each other. A parent's raised eyebrow might mean “pay attention,” or “be careful” to their child. This small and subtle gesture has meaning to both parent and child because they have worked it out together by repeatedly learning how to understand each other, negotiating their mutual needs and goals. The raised eyebrow represents that whole history of the growth of the relationship. The relationship is a dynamic system because it changes over time (it is dynamic) and because the mutually understood gestures are the result of both people working together to create something that is more than either one of them alone (it is a relationship system). A dynamic system is a relationship that grows over time, has a history, and is more than the simple sum of its parts.

A more traditional approach to understanding the world treats the parent and child as separate entities, each of which affects the other.