Reconstructing developmental psychology: some first steps

Woodhead, Martin (1999). Reconstructing developmental psychology: some first steps. Children & Society, 13(1) pp. 3–19.



My starting point is the claim that developmental psychology has traditionally projected a standardised image of childhood, especially through the emphasis on describing universal stages of psychological growth within what are assumed to be normal childhood environments. These reifications of universality and normality have in turn regulated social action at individual, family and school level. Increasingly, these same images are being idealised and treated as a standard for judging the quality of childhood in contexts far removed from their Euro-American origins. I explore the historical roots of universalistic thinking about children's nature, their needs and what constitutes healthy development and consider the opportunities for a new psychology of childhood to be reconstructed in ways that pay more attention to the cultural dimensions of the subject. I illustrate the growing interest amongst psychologists in studying children's development as a socio-cultural process, as well as the lessons of social constructionist critiques of the developmental paradigm itself. I conclude by reflecting on some of the challenges facing psychological studies of childhood issues that are more reflexive, inclusive and cultural.

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