The goal of developmental science is to describe, explain, and optimize within-person changes and between-person differences in within-person changes across the life span. However, there is a long-held scholarly debate about the meaning of the term development and often disagreement among scientists about whether development has occurred within a data set.

This entry discusses theories derived from relational developmental systems (RDS) metatheory, the conceptual framework described by Willis F. Overton that is at the cutting edge of contemporary developmental scholarship. We use RDS metatheory to both define development and discuss theories derived from this metamodel. These theories emphasize that mutually influential relations, termed developmental regulations, between an individual and her or his complex and changing physical, social, and cultural contexts shape the course of development across ...

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