You are here

Predicting Individual Development

Alan Clarke and Ann Clarke

Early this century one particular piece of 'wisdom' about human nature gained endorsement from very different sources. These suggested that early characteristics, whether genetically or environmentally influenced, were set into a fixed mould, thereafter changing with the greatest difficulty or not at all. In advance of reliable empirical evidence these views arose from three unrelated and at that time over-simple theories: genetic, psychoanalytic and behaviourist. They each implied that individual development was highly predictable from the earliest years, a belief which in some quarters persists unmodified today.
This constancy theory represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of human development. At the outset, however, the case must not be overstated; some individuals do remain constant developmentally, on particular characteristics, over the whole life span. In music, Mozart is the supreme example.

Journal issue: 

Purchase the full text of this article