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The goal of this chapter is to address how urban dynamics at the neighborhood level are linked to children’s development. We first review trends in the spatial concentration of poverty and inequality in the United States in recent decades. Then, we turn to theoretical models describing how local communities, with a focus on urban settings, influence children’s development. We then cover methodological issues and focus on one critical issue, selection bias, and then briefly review study designs as related to this challenge. Finally, we provide an overview of empirical studies linking neighborhood, socioeconomic conditions, and children’s development, notably their educational, behavioral, and socioemotional outcomes.
Philosophers through the ages have stressed time as a critical variable in life, and developmentalists today pretend to a lifespan framework. Paradoxically, many construals of time are still neglected in developmental science. This chapter focuses on time and fleshes out three developmental perspectives on time: the chronosystem from the bioecological systems framework, transaction, and specificity.
Bioecological systems theory characterizes development as a joint function of process, person, context, and time. The principle of transaction in development asserts that characteristics of individuals shape their experiences, and reciprocally experiences shape the characteristics of individuals, through time. Finally, the specificity principle contends that understanding lifespan development depends critically on what is studied in whom, how, and when. Time fits integrally into each prevailing developmental perspective.
In this chapter, we argue that the timing of societal events in an individual’s life plays a major role in shaping that life through interacting developmental processes at multiple levels. We focus on classic research by Elder showing how two such events in historical proximity dramatically altered the lives of California children who were born at opposite ends of the 1920s, 1920–21 and 1928–29, the Great Depression of the 1930s followed by World War II (1941–45) and the Korean War (1950–53). We employ insights from both Elder’s cohort historical life course approach and developmental science including recent work on developmental neuroscience to understand the life-long impact of exposure to events that occur at different times in life, and the mechanisms through which these exposures may influence development, as well as experiences that may provide turning points in development.
In this opening chapter we provide a chronology of the relatively recent recognition that an understanding of children’s lives across time requires that context in terms of historical time and place also needs to consider culture . Early efforts often failed to recognize this fundamental premise and instead studied children out of context.
The emergence of the life course perspective with its recognition of the centrality of changing historical contexts as necessary for an adequate understanding of children’s development was a major step forward in theorizing about children’s development. Moreover, in the past several decades, the life course perspective has also evolved and now recognizes the role of both individual and collective agency in shaping both individual outcomes and those at other levels of analysis. Moreover, as prior work has long recognized, it is increasingly accepted that secular changes co-occur and often come as a package.
For example, war, famine, migration, and economic hardship generally operate together. We also underscore the increasing appreciation of cross-disciplinary dialogue as necessary for understanding issues such as children’s genetic influences and how they are constrained in their expression by historical and environmental factors.
Children live in rapidly changing times that require them to constantly adapt to new economic, social, and cultural conditions. In this book, a distinguished, interdisciplinary group of scholars explores the issues faced by children in contemporary societies, such as discrimination in school and neighborhoods, the emergence of new family forms, the availability of new communication technologies, and economic hardship, as well as the stresses associated with immigration, war, and famine. The book applies a historical, cultural, and life-course developmental framework for understanding the factors that affect how children adjust to these challenges, and offers a new perspective on how changing historical circumstances alter children's developmental outcomes. It is ideal for researchers and graduate students in developmental and educational psychology or the sociology and anthropology of childhood.
In Part II, we begin our exploration of how developmentalists and historians together can increase our appreciation of changes across the life span. The essays in this section take either of two approaches. On one hand, a macroanalytic, long-term view of human development across the century guides the study of how individuals have changed over time. On the other hand, a microanalytic view is provided by examining the impact on development of specific historical events in this century – namely, the Great Depression and World War II. Both approaches share a commitment to life-course analysis but choose different time frames for their work. Although they use different strategies to achieve their goals, each essay provides a model of how collaborative effort can advance the common goal of understanding children and their development across time. For example, history provides dramatic natural experiments that permit evaluation of the impact of important psychological processes; events such as the Great Depression and World War II offer opportunities to evaluate our theories of social and personality development.
In his thoughtful essay (chapter 2) on home front children during World War II, historian William M. Turtle, Jr., reminds us that contexts of development must take into account events children are denied as well as those they experience over the developmental course. Reduced familial contact resulting from paternal absence, as well as from maternal absence because of employment outside the home, provides just as dramatic an impact on children's development as the formative role played by increased contact with relatives or possibly with other children (a consequence of the use of day-care during this period).
In Part III, we explore various life transitions that individuals undergo across development. By viewing these transitions through the dual lenses of the historian and the developmentalist, we can gain new insights into how life transitions are modified by the historical context or era in which they are embedded. In this part the first two chapters focus on adolescent transitions, and the third addresses a role transition – in this case, the transition to fatherhood.
In chapter 5, Steven Schlossman and Robert B. Cairns illustrate how our society has shifted in its treatment of girls who exhibit deviant behavior during their transition to adolescence. The authors compare contemporary and earlier eras, focusing on how our treatment of the same broad domain of social behavior either has changed or has remained constant across time. Socialization is always a product of the social norms of a culture at a particular time and of the particular institutions that have been given responsibility for enforcing these norms. This notion is nicely illustrated by Schlossman and Cairns. They show us, first, how social norms that help us to decide which behaviors are to be regulated at different points in development are products of a particular historical period. In the 1940s and 1950s, girls were brought into court mainly for “status offenses” such as disobeying parents or truancy, or for being sexually active. In the mid-twentieth century, then, the courts were vehicles for regulating sexual morality – at least among girls.
Each generation of American children across the tumultuous twentieth century has come of age in the different world. How do major historical events - such as war or the depression - influence children's development? Children in Time and Place brings together social historians and developmental psychologists to explore the implications of a changing society for children's growth and life chances. transitions provide a central theme, for historical transitions to the social transitions of children and their developmental experiences.