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[Xmca-l] Critical Periods of Development

I have changed the subject line, Greg, because I think the issues you raise are relatively remote from the issues raised in the "ideal head" thread. The question of "critical periods of development" came to the fore again for me in relation to recent discussions about the concept of perezhivanie, a discussion which included Russians, who see perezhivanija as relevant only to development during adulthood. English-speakers have never taken perezhivanie in that way, taking it to cover the active relation of any subject to their environment and the emotion-laden experiences that are associated with critical periods of development in childhood, and only secondarily in adulthood.

In my view, the place of those experiences which adults have when finding themselves in impossible positions and which stimulate them to make a personal development, are symmetrical in many ways with the experiences of children when they experience a "rite of passage", taking up a different role in the family, with new needs met in new ways and subject to new expectations. Vygotsksy theorizes these crises in terms of "social situation of development" - a form of words which could equally apply to adults - such periods being terminated by periods of critical development, i.e., leaps.

There is a difference though. (1) For a child the key problem is becoming an adult and gaining the kind of mediated independence associated with being a 'sovereign', adult citizen of a community, whereas for the adult, who has already achieved that, the problem is indeterminate and diverse, arising usually when their life as it has hitherto gone along meets up with some barrier or conflict. (2) A child is not capable, it is said, of the kind of protracted working over of experiences and conscious restructure of their relationship to the world, alone; in general that role is fulfilled by adult carers who, once the child has thrown off their former role, constitute a new social position for the child by means of new expectations placed upon the child, a social position into which the child must grow.

Now I am not a psychologist and all I can do is interpret what I read from others, but that's how I see the situation. But these propositions are falsifiable and I expect child psychologists would want to test them. For my part, on the basis of my own experience as an adult who has been involved in organisations which demanded personal development from their members, I am comfortable that the concept of perezhivanie matches my experiences.


*Andy Blunden*

Greg Thompson wrote:
Mike, Helena, Andy and others,
I wonder if this passage from Vygotsky's the problem of Age can help in
thinking about the problem:
"The second feature of critical age levels served as a departure point for
empirical study. The fact is that a significant proportion of children who
experience critical periods of development are difficult children. These
children seem to drop out of the system of pedagogical influence that until
very recently provided a normal course for their training. and education.
In children of school age during critical periods, there is a drop in rate
of success, a slacking of interest in school work, and a general decline in
capacity for work. At critical age levels, the child’s development
frequently is accompanied by more or less sharp conflicts with those around
him. The child’s internal life is sometimes connected with painful and
excruciating experiences and with internal conflicts."

Although frankly, I'm not sure what is meant by "critical periods of
development" and/or by "difficult children" (that second sentence baffles
me). Help would be welcome here!

Andy, maybe you can help? (Andy has been helping me understand this essay