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Ciba Found Symp. 1991;156:209-19; discussion 219-23.

Prolegomena to a model of continuity and change in behavioural development.

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Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53706.


It is now widely acknowledged that personality and behaviour are shaped in large measure by interactions between the person and the environment. There are many kinds of interaction but we suggest that three types play particularly important roles both in sustaining behavioural continuity across the life course and in guiding the trajectory of the life course itself. Reactive interaction occurs when different individuals exposed to the same environment experience it, interpret it and react to it differently. Evocative interaction occurs when an individual's personality evokes distinctive responses from others. Proactive interaction occurs when individuals select or create environments of their own. Within this framework we also examine systematic change and turning points in behavioural development. We have recently advanced a paradoxical theory suggesting that behavioural continuities are especially likely to be evident during periods of social discontinuity; that is, dispositional factors influence behaviour most when individuals enter new situations and assume new statuses. This model receives empirical support from both experimental and longitudinal-correlational research. The model also presents interesting implications for our understanding of turning points in behavioural development: to effect change in the life course, new situations must eliminate old options and create new opportunities. Convergent evidence from experimental and naturalistic designs is introduced to support this claim.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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