In this introductory chapter, we begin with an overview of our basic theoretical orientation toward relationships. Relationships are not simply a thing to be studied and understood. Rather, we view all of nature as a system of interconnected relationships. In that sense, everything is part of a nexus of relationships: there are no “individuals” but only persons-in-relation. Second, we review a group of developmental theories that have their foundation in this relational world-view.
Overview of the theoretical orientation
A relational perspective on development
The foundational principle of this book is that people develop in relation to others and to their environments. A full grasp of a relational perspective must involve each person in their local relationships (family, work, school) and in relation to the sociocultural system. Here, however, we take a relatively simple relationship system – mother and child – and use it as a model system for revealing some of the details of how all relationships change over time. In the Epilogue, we shall elaborate ways in which our findings can be generalized to other relationships but the reader is encouraged to explore their own implications throughout the book.
People are not “themselves” in isolation but become fully realized as whole human beings in relation to others (Beebe & Lachman, 2002; Collins, 1999; Fogel, 1993; Hinde & Stevenson-Hinde, 1987; Lyra & Winegar, 1997; Overton, 2002; Sander, 1977; Stern, 1985; Tronick, 1998).