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II Empirical Beginnings

My research in graduate school and in my early post-doctoral career derived explicitly from T. C. Schneirlas (1957) “good idea,” of circular functions and self-stimulation in development. An individual’s characteristics of physical and behavioral individuality were conceived of as elicitors of differential reactions from people in the persons social milieu. These reactions to the person’s individual attributes fed back to the person; they became a source of experiences that contributed to the person’s further individually specific development. Because the persons own attributes were a basis of the experiences shaping his or her own development, the individual was both a product and a producer of his/her own development. Schneirla (1957) conceived of the individual^context relation as a “third source” of human development—one superordinate to either nature or nurture sources.

My initial research focused on children’s and adolescents’ characteristics of physical individuality in regard to appearance (body build, physical attractiveness). The two articles in this section are examples of this research. The Lerner and Korn (1972) article was derived from my dissertation research on body build—behavior stereotypes, and involves my coauthorship with my mentor, Sam Korn. The second article focuses on facial attractiveness of children. It was the first publication 1 coauthored with Jacqueline Lerner. In subsequent years, well over one hundred publications coauthored with Jackie Lerner followed this one, and the initial ones also pertained to Schneirlas idea of circular functions. These subsequent papers studied individual differences associated with pubertal maturation (e.g., Lenerz, Kucher, East, Lerner, & Lerner, 1987) or, as an instance of behavioral individuality, temperament (Lerner & Lerner, 1983).

We focused on the attributes of temperament individuality studied by the psychiatrists Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess (Chess & Thomas, 1999; Thomas & Chess, 1977; Thomas, Chess, Birch, Hertzig, & Korn, 1963). Also influenced by Schneirla and the idea of mutually influential individual^context relations, Thomas and Chess proposed a “goodness of fit” model, wherein positive individuals context relations would develop when the young person’s temperament characteristics were congruent with the interests, attitudes, values, or performance demands of a specific setting or of a key person in the setting (e.g., a parent in the family setting). In turn, problems would arise when there was incongruence between the individual and the setting.

Our work tested this goodness-of-fit conception (e.g., Lerner, Lerner, & Zabski, 1985), and our results were consistent with this idea. As I discuss in the next section of this book, the Lerner and Lerner research provided an important basis for the continued development of the theoretical model I was using to guide my research.

References

Chess, S., & Thomas, A. (1999). Goodness offit: Clinical applications front infancy through adult life. Philadelphia, PA: Brunner/Mazel.

Lenerz, K., Kucher, J. S., East, P. L., Lerner, J. V, & Lerner, R. M. (1987). Early adolescents' physical organismic characteristics and psychosocial functioning: Findings from the Pennsylvania Early Adolescent Transitions Study (PEATS). In R. M. Lerner & T. T. Foch (Eds.), Biological-psychosocial interactions in early adolescence (pp. 225-247). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Lerner, J. V, & Lerner, R. M. (1983). Temperament and adaptation across life: Theoretical and empirical issues. In P. B. Bakes & O. G. Brim, Jr. (Eds.), Life-span development and behavior (Vol. 5, pp. 197-231). New York: Academic Press.

Lerner, R. M., & Korn, S. ). (1972). The development of body build stereotypes in males. Child Development, 43, 908-920.

Lerner, R. M., & Lerner, J. V. (1977). Effects of age, sex, and physical attractiveness on child-peer relations, academic performance, and elementary school adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 13, 585-590.

Lerner, J. V, Lerner, R. M., & Zabski, S. (1985). Temperament and elementary school children’s actual and rated academic performance: A test of a “goodness-of-fit” model. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 26, 125-136.

Schneirla, T. C. (1957). The concept of development in comparative psychology. In D. B. Harris (Ed.), The concept of development: An issue in the study of human behavior (pp. 78-108). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Thomas, A., & Chess, S. (1977). Temperament and development. New York: Brunner/ Mazel.

Thomas, A., Chess, S., Birch. H. G., Hertzig, M. E., & Korn, S. (1963). Behavioral individuality in early childhood. New York: New York University Press.

 
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