[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[Xmca-l] Crisis in Ontogeny - Redux, Revolve, Resolves

Hi XMCars,

I thought I should start a new thread, not to get pinched in the perezhivanie of open or closed doors. So I thought instead I'd take the revolving door to the atrium lobby, where there is a piano player on a baby grand and some nice ferns.

I'd like to raise the question whether there are reasonable parallels to crises in adults with those of children with regard to maturational changes, and what anyone has to say about this.

Of course this is directly personal, kind of an inversion of Huw's situation with his child. Being an adult child caring for an aging parent, I'm interested to know if there are parallels with regard to crisis and development and if so, what those might be.

In watching the thread evolve I realized that we focus upon the upward biological arc in a social setting, but not so much on the downward biological arc in a social setting.

I don't mean to create a cloudy day, but I wonder if this is partially because the development of children's minds (in social settings) is always so hopeful and encouraging, even just to watch, while aging doesn't bring those same responses?

What are the kinds of narratives and stances concerning the development of the aged?

Is Richard Wright correct to say that we only value the biological potential of individuals based upon how likely they are to procreate? (In The Moral Animal, he said something along those lines, that we are more distraught over the death of children than we are the death of parents, and his hypothesis for this had to do with a life shortened before generating offspring, as if this were the only value for a life - as in to marry and have children of one's own, that not doing so is a greater loss than a long life lived and ended long after having offspring).

Why should we have these biases?

Or is the lack of study concerning the crises during the downward arc have more to do with our own inabilities to deal with mortality, just in general?

Or is there something from both these narratives that weigh into the mix?

(Are there Vygotskian studies of the later years? If so, what are the known names?)

We can't say that these biological processes go in reverse, for example. I don't think it would be a happy or useful indicator to use dentition as a marker, now would it? And as a person slows down, there is a need to negotiate independence and dignity with pragmatics and health realities. All of this pertains to social situations of development.

So perhaps I am not understanding the crisis and what that means.

I wondered if there was some potential for discussion by comparison to growth of children and to that of aging adults and whether there might be some fruitful discoveries to uncover on the list?

I found this in the Problem of Age here:

"From a purely external aspect. these periods are characterized by traits which are the opposite of the firm or stable age levels. During these periods, abrupt and major shifts and displacements, changes, and discontinuities in the child’s personality are concentrated in a relatively short time (several months, a year or at most, two). In a very short time, the child changes completely in the basic traits of his personality. Development takes on a stormy, impetuous, and sometimes catastrophic character that resembles a revolutionary course of events in both rate of the changes that are occurring and in the sense of the alterations that are made. These are turning points in the child’s development that sometimes take the form of a severe crisis."


"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."


"The third feature, perhaps most important but least clear from the theoretical aspect and for this reason, one that impedes a correct understanding of the nature of child development during these periods, is the negative character of development. Everyone who wrote about these unique periods noted in the first place that development here is different from that in the stable ages and does destructive rather than constructive work. Progressive development of the child’s personality, the continuous construction of the new, which had been so prominent in all stable ages, is seemingly attenuated or temporarily suspended. Processes of dying off and closure, the disintegration and breakdown of what had been formed at preceding stages and distinguished the child of a given age move to the forefront. During the critical periods, the child does not so much acquire as he loses some of what he had acquired earlier. The onset of these age levels is not marked by the appearance of new interests of the child, of new aspirations, new types of activity, new forms of internal life. The child entering a period of crisis is more apt to be characterized by the opposite traits: he loses interests that only yesterday guided all his activity and took the greater part of his time and attention but now seemingly die off, forms of external relations and internal life developed earlier are neglected. L. N. Tolstoy graphically and precisely called one such critical period of child development the desert of adolescence."

and then

"As all life is at the same time also a dying (E Engels), so also child development – one of the complex forms of life – of necessity includes in itself processes of closure and dying off. The appearance of the new in development necessarily signifies the dying off of the old. The transition to a new age is always marked by the demise of the previous age. The processes of reverse development, the dying off of the old, are concentrated mainly during the critical ages. But it would be a great mistake to assume that this is the whole significance of the critical ages. Development never ends its creative work, and during critical periods too, we observe constructive processes of development. Moreover, processes of involution [regression] so clearly expressed during these periods, themselves are subordinate to Processes of positive structuring of the personality, depend on them directly, and with them make up an indivisible whole. The disruptive work is done in these periods to the extent that is required by the need to develop properties and traits of the personality. Practical study shows that the negative content of development at turning points is only the reverse or shadow side of positive changes of the personality that make up the principal and basic sense of any critical age."

​​There is more I could pull out. Perhaps it is too facile to indicate these paragraphs, however with the intention to consider how these might compare to aging, if there is no line to draw between childhood and late adulthood, then is it worthwhile to compare how they are the same and how they are different?

I realize we can't compare patterns child development to the beginning of maturity, when LSV says:

"It is difficult to imagine that human development at the beginning of maturity (age eighteen to twenty-five) could be subject to patterns of child development."
But does this preclude a comparison of child development and late adulthood?

Additionally, how might we utilize a version (or interpretation) of the ZPD and apply it to late adulthood? Is this assessing a reversal of development? i.e., what can no longer be done on one's own? And what might be the ethical questions that arise from that?

Will you wonder with me what threads of thought might be there waiting to be spun?

The door revolves…but never shuts.

Kind regards,