chapter  15
Social Ecology and the Development of Stress Regulation
WithMary Carlson, Felton Earls
Pages 20

In this chapter we outline our commitment to integrative approaches to biological, psychological, and social understanding with child development, along with describing our preliminary findings on the regulation of stress hormone and behavioral development in institutionalized Romanian children. We present the example of these children to illustrate the biological, psychological, and social consequences of a degraded human environment in which the failure to consider the critical role of social contact in the development of basic physiological function (as well as complex behavioral capacities) results in enduring biological and psychological dysfunction. We think that the findings from research in such extreme conditions have implications for the role that parents and other caretakers must play in the lives of children to permit and promote the development of neuroendocrine regulation and behavioral capacities. Our integrative approach benefits from the theoretical and empirical work of Magnusson and his colleagues (Magnusson, 1988), in which the importance of an interactional perspective is so clearly and elegantly illustrated. In this important work, human development is viewed in a holistic perspective that respects the integrity and complexity of the individual, and in a longitudinal framework that appreciates the importance of change through time. From our reading and direct contact with this ongoing research, we have confirmed our own predilection for a dynamic and unified approach to the study of neural and behav-ioral development.