TEMPEST in a Gallimaufry: Applying Multilevel Systems Theory to Person-in-Context Research


  • This work was supported in part by NICHD Grant #R01 HD33437 awarded to Jacquelynne S. Eccles and Arnold J. Sameroff and in part by grants from the William T. Grant Foundation awarded to J. S. Eccles and to J. S. Eccles and S. C. Peck. I thank the following people for their feedback on various parts of this manuscript: Lars Bergman, Heather Bouchey, Don Brown, Celina Chatman, Pam Davis-Kean, Jacque Eccles, Leon Feinstein, Oksana Malanchuk, Markus Neuenschwander, Brent Roberts, Robert Roeser, Janice Templeton, Stanley Salthe, Arnold Sameroff, Charles Smith, Olga Solomontos-Kountouri, Kendell Thornton, Kai Schnabel-Cortina, and Nicole Zarrett.

can be addressed to Steve Peck, 1239 Lane Hall, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1290. E-mail: link@umich.edu.


ABSTRACT Terminological ambiguity and inattention to personal and contextual multilevel systems undermine personality, self, and identity theories. Hierarchical and heterarchical systems theories are used to describe contents and processes existing within and across three interrelated multilevel systems: levels of organization, representation, and integration. Materially nested levels of organization are used to distinguish persons from contexts and personal from social identity. Functionally nested levels of representation are used to distinguish personal identity from the sense of identity and symbolic (belief) from iconic (schema) systems. Levels of integration are hypothesized to unfold separately but interdependently across levels of representation. Multilevel system configurations clarify alternative conceptualizations of traits and contextualized identity. Methodological implications for measurement and analysis (e.g., integrating variable- and pattern-centered methods) are briefly described.