Human Development in the Context of Social Change: Introduction


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Xinyin Chen, Applied Psychology-Human Development Division, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, 3700 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; e-mail:


Two prominent perspectives have guided most research on social change and human development: Vygotsky's cultural–historical perspective and Elder's life-course perspective. Whereas Vygotsky's perspective focuses on the largely unidirectional influence of enduring societal transformation on human development, Elder's focuses more on individual experiences in circumstances related to dramatic and often unexpected historical events. In addition to the two traditional perspectives, a pluralist–constructivist perspective has emerged in the study of social change that is occurring in most parts of the world primarily because of globalization and technological development. This perspective emphasizes the coexistence and integration of diverse values and lifestyles and their significance for developing comprehensive competencies that help children function in various settings. This introduction provides an overview of research from each of these perspectives and discusses some major issues in the articles in this special section.