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Chapter 5. Normal Child and Adolescent Development

Karen Gilmore, M.D.; Pamela Meersand, Ph.D.
DOI: 10.1176/appi.books.9781585625031.890818

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Excerpt

Theories of development, either explicit or implicit, are ubiquitous in scientific approaches to the human psyche. In this chapter, we propose a psychodynamically oriented multisystems approach to human development. We present psychological development as a series of hierarchically organized, individually unique and yet recognizable mental organizations corresponding to the familiar divisions of childhood: infancy, toddlerhood, the oedipal phase, latency, pre-, early, mid-, and late adolescence, and emerging adulthood. We hope to show how the interaction of multiple systems, ranging from tangible physical maturation all the way to the intangible development of unconscious fantasy, produces infinite variations of the universally identifiable phases traversed as children progress through life. In the language of systems theory, these phases are attractor states—that is, novel configurations individually and idiosyncratically composed out of multiple interacting systems but nonetheless recognizable across individuals. These states self-organize by virtue of development in each contributing component; they replace each other sequentially by reconfiguring or discarding old elements and introducing new capacities. The results are quantum shifts in personality organization. Thus, periods such as latency or adolescence are different—differently shaped, paced, and experienced—in each individual but are simultaneously identifiable in everyone. Such a theoretical perspective ensures that fluidity, unpredictability, and dramatic shifts are expected in the context of recurrent tropes of the human developmental progression.

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Core features of psychodynamic developmental viewpoint
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Tasks of infancy (ages 0–12 months)
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Tasks of toddlerhood (ages 1–3 years)
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Tasks of the oedipal phase (ages 3–6 years)
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Tasks of latency (ages 6–10 years)
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Tasks of preadolescence (ages 10–12 years)
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Tasks of adolescence proper (ages 12 through 22 or 23 years)
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Tasks of emerging adulthood (ages 22 or 23 through 30 years)

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