Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science
Director, Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development (IARYD)
via Zoom: https://upenn.zoom.us/j/96875210591
Promoting Positive Youth Development: The Meaning of Models and the Modeling of Measures
Within contemporary developmental science, the study of positive youth development is framed by dynamic, relational developmental systems-based models. These models emphasize that relative plasticity and specificity (non-ergodicity and idiography) characterize dynamic relations between an individual and his/her context. A fundamental principle, with which all developmental scientists agree, is that human development involves changes within specific people across their specific life spans. It may seem obvious, therefore, that any approach to studying youth development should involve detecting within-person changes. However, the paradox of developmental science is that most research has involved the study of across-time relations among variables, and not within-person change: Data aggregated across people (averages) are used to represent changes within a person (the individuals whose scores are used to compute averages). In short, developmental science is muddied with methods that do not align with theoretical understanding of development. Alternatively, and in order to take a developmental approach to studying development, current programmatic research conducted within the approach to measurement involved in the Science of Learning and Development (SoLD) Alliance is useful; this work uses person-specific measures, designs, and data analyses to focus first on the individual in order to describe, explain, and optimize development. Developmental theory and the emerging methods that accurately capture development will be discussed, and initial empirical examples are presented. Emphasis is placed on the implications of person-specific theory and methodology for applying developmental science to enhance the lives of diverse youth, and specifically youth who have experienced adversity or trauma in their lives because of poverty, racism, and/or disparities in educational and life opportunities.