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Developmental Trajectories

Gains and losses, growth and decline, change and transformation–all these terms encompass the idea of trajectories in human development. From a theoretical standpoint, trajectories of development are nuanced processes. From a mathematical standpoint, modeling trajectories is complex and challenging. This entry focuses on theoretical considerations that underlie trajectories of development, including patterns of differences within individuals over time and differences between individuals in those patterns.

Theoretical Issues Related to Trajectories
Potentiality and Canalization

The first two core ideas regarding trajectories are equipotentiality and omnipotentiality. These are terms that are now a part of common scientific parlance. Equipotentiality refers to the idea that many different starting points in a developmental sequence can converge on the same developmental trajectory over time. Infants, for example, learn to walk at different ages ...

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