chapter  5
The developing self
Pages 17

The images and associations which surround the word ‘development’ are varied, diverse and sometimes ambiguous. The notion of development underpins the idea of learning in a progressive fashion, the attainment of knowledge, finding ‘oneself, discussions of maturity, and many other ideas and associations which presuppose change as an ‘onwards and ever upwards’ process. However, it remains unclear precisely what we mean by development, that is, outside of descriptions and discussion which focus on measuring change in the structure of physical bodies, cognitive skills, social competencies or whatever. Developmental psychology has at times reflected on the nature of its central definitions, particularly in light of the criticism that what constitutes the discipline is not explanation, but description. Burman (1994), for example, argues that the discipline promotes very limited and constraining (and indefensible) views of the universal nature of development. It concentrates on the significance of the individual, the downplaying of the socially based nature of child ‘production’, and has an ethnocentric focus on individualism which detracts from the difficulties and concerns of child-rearing.