The development of a person throughout his life is closely related to concepts such as continuity (quality) and discontinuity (quantity) (Lerner, 2018). Moreover, the author states that this issue is one of the main problems of the psychology of personality development, the subject of lengthy scientific disputes.
Continuity is interpreted as the succession of the processes of human development and the formation of individual characteristics. For example, the development of behavior that appears discrete or disordered at the execution level occurs through processes that are themselves continuous and ordered. A clear example is the gradual mastery of the native language, which happens unconsciously.
Alternatively, discontinuity characterizes the quantitative changes generated by the peculiarities of the personality’s inclusion in new historical conditions. Thus, specific features of mental development correspond to each particular age period. For example, in mastering culture by a person, his or her primitive instincts fade into the background. At a specific stage of development, a person stops crawling and begins to walk.
According to Lerner (2018), recently, psychologists have been less inclined to divide into sharply opposed camps concerning continuity and discontinuity of development. Therefore, psychologists define development as continuity and discontinuity at the same time.
During the early development of a person, a particular psychological sign is shaped, the formation of which means the boundary between the stages. Simultaneously, the growth extends further continuously, without stopping, only now the appearance of another psychological feature, based on the previous progress, occurs. And the previously formed signs or levels also proceed to develop continuously, but already in terms of one-level development. Thus, in the constant flow of the process, qualitative leaps are found that do not violate its continuity.
Therefore, on the one hand, the process of development proceeds in time continuously; on the other hand, the same progress is divided into segments – stages or phases, and in this sense is discrete.
Universal VS Context-Specific Perspectives on Development
According to Sigelman and Rider (2018), modern developmental psychology recognizes that development is both a biological growth process and a child’s appropriation of cultural values. It seems evident that the culture in which individuals develop and live affects their physical, intellectual, emotional, and social growth. In particular, there is a lot of evidence that the newborn’s reflexes (sucking, walking, touching) do not depend on the culture and form of organization of society. Moreover, children’s ability in the early stages of infancy to imitate the behavior of their parents is independent of culture. Newborns in the United States, Switzerland, Nepal, and other countries move their heads, open and close their mouths, protrude their tongues, and imitate finger movements in response to adult facial expressions (Sigelman & Rider, 2018).
However, the context-dependent factor also influences human development. Sigelman and Rider (2018) argue that researchers have found many cultural customs that accelerate or, conversely, slow down children’s motor development. For instance, among the Yurok Indians, there is a custom of stimulating the early crawling of the baby: starting from the twelfth day of life, the grandmother massages legs. Furthermore, babies from some African tribes, earlier than their peers from other cultures, independently adopt a sitting position, which is facilitated by special exercises done by adults.
Thus, it is impossible to answer whether culture affects development unequivocally or it occurs regardless of the socio-cultural context.
Lerner, R. (2018). Concepts and Theories of Human Development. Routledge.
Sigelman, C., Rider, E. (2018) Life-Span Human Development. 9th ed. Cengage Learning.Brownlie,