I have to recommend a book called, Human Development: The Minnesota Study of Risk and Adaptation because it is rich with information as to the network, or system, of conditions in which risk and pathologies develop. It’s a twenty-eight (28) year study of groups of people and, among researcher’s findings is that they could predict which kids would fail in school before those kids even started school (Sroufe, et al, 2005). That single finding shook me up a bit. The reason is that the most important personal goal in my life is to raise my son to be a healthy and happy individual. I always knew that to be a parent is a huge responsibility, but seeing just how much parents (especially mothers) affect kids before the kids are even aware of themselves scared me. What this book clearly showed was that risk develops along with the individual.
According to the book, et al, human development is not groups of discrete periods in which certain behaviors randomly appear; rather, human development “means something emerging from what was there before. Continuity is the relationship between the two, whatever that may be. A simple kaleidoscope of forms would not be development. Likewise, development is change…toward increasing complexity of organization” (Sroufe, et al, 2005, 220). The kaleidoscope analogy is important to discuss, as in its operation, new patterns that have nothing to do with previous patterns display at the flick of a switch. Human development is a process that occurs over time and has everything to do with what was previously developed. What this means is that schemas grow through environmental inspection and interpretation. These meaning systems will reflect both the culture of the developing individual and the familial behaviors that then get assigned a weight. As development is continuous, then both cultures and families develop continuously. Therefore, the individual becomes a dynamic processor of his/her environment and those structures that become static, such as language or religious beliefs are those that are the most reinforced through the development process. Pathological structures, such as clinical depression and addiction are also developmental and can be predicted. Pathology emerges from existing structures, just as all human development emerges from existing structures. Simply put, depression and addiction does not happen overnight through a discrete event, but through a series of events that become coupled with a person’s respective genetic profile.
The research presented in the Minnesota Study can be a bit dense, but I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the developing nature of human life. Nothing ever stays the same; the trick is in understanding that change and growing within the flow events life presents.