Get access

In Defense of Change Processes


  • This work was supported by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grants R37-33486 and R01-42697 awarded to K.E.A and by R01-33862 awarded to S.R.R. We thank Peter Gordon for his stimulating comments.

concerning this article should be addressed to Karen E. Adolph, Department of Psychology, New York University, 4 Washington Place, Room 410, New York, NY 10003. Electronic mail may be sent to


Nativist and constructivist approaches to the study of development share a common emphasis on characterizing beginning and end states in development. This focus has highlighted the question of preservation and transformation—whether core aspects of the adult end state are present in the earliest manifestations during infancy. In contrast, a developmental systems approach emphasizes the process of developmental change. This perspective eschews the notions of objective starting and ending points in a developmental progression and rejects the idea that any particular factor should enjoy a privileged status in explaining developmental change. Using examples from motor development and animal behavior, we show how a developmental systems framework can avoid the pitfalls of the long and contentious debate about continuity versus qualitative change.