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Child Dev. 1992 Feb;63(1):1-19.

Developmental theories for the 1990s: development and individual differences.

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  • 1University of Virginia, Department of Psychology, Charlottesville, 22903.


Understanding both typical human development and indivdual differences within the same theoretical framework has been difficult because the 2 orientations arise from different philosophical traditions. It is argued that an evolutionary perspective can unite the study of both species-typical development and individual variation. Research on determininants of development from many perspectives can be understood within an evolutionary framework in which organism and environment combine to produce development. Species-normal genes and environments and indidividual variations in genes and environments both affect personality, social, and intellectual development. These domains are used as examples to integrate theories of normal development and individual differences. Within the usual samples of European, North American, and developed Asian countries, the results of family and twin studies show that environments within the normal species range are crucial to normal development. Given a wide range of environmental opportunities and emotional supports, however, most children in these societies grow up to be individually different based on their individual genotypes. Understanding the ways in which genes and environments work together helps developmentalists to identify children in need of intervention and to tailor interventions to their particular needs.

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