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Contexts of Development

Contemporary developmental science, by and large, is built on a foundation of theories that emphasize the bidirectional, mutually influential relationship between person and context. This entry provides a general overview of the various contexts with which individuals interact across the lifespan, from the most proximal (e.g., family) to the most distal (e.g., sociohistorical moment), and their relative influence on human development.

To understand human development throughout the lifespan, one must understand how an individual’s surroundings might contribute to his or her development. All people interact with their environments, either directly—as part of a family unit, in a classroom, or indirectly—living within a particular set of norms, values, and policies. Various contexts take on more or less importance during different developmental periods, often as a function of ...

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