Applied Developmental Science: Definitions and Dimensions
Although developmental scientists are interested in prediction and control, through laboratory-based experiments or communitybased interventions, the full range of variation of a phenomenon is not ethically available in the study of humans. For instance, learning ability or moral functioning may be normally distributed from low to high; however, the applied developmental scientist cannot ethically try to test the validity of his or her theory-based
explanations by acting to decrease people’s capacity to learn or to lower moral functioning or diminish character. The scientist is obligated to act to improve behavior, to make it more optimal, and not to act to deteriorate it. In short, in developmental science the only ethical option available to the researcher seeking to test his or her explanations of why the changes he or she has described appear as they do is to attempt to move human functioning in a more positive or healthier direction, to attempt to move human behavior toward more optimal functioning. This chapter will outline the theoretical framework of the core of applied developmental science, including a brief history of the origins of the field. In addition, I will discuss the instantiation of applied developmental science in studying children and adolescents.