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Session Type: Invited Address
Within contemporary developmental science, description, explanation, and optimization goals are increasingly pursued within models framed by relational developmental systems (RDS) metatheory, which emphasizes that relative plasticity – systematic changes in mutually influential relations between a specific individual and his/her specific context – characterizes life-span development. The non-ergodicity and idiography of these dynamic, individual-context relations mean that specificity should be the starting point of efforts to optimize each human life or to promote equity, opportunity, and social justice among diverse youth. To illustrate how RDS-based models can capitalize on the plasticity, non-ergodicity, and specificity to enhance youth thriving, I discuss findings from the Compassion International Study of Positive Youth Development, a multi-nation longitudinal investigation of thriving among majority-world youth. I note directions for future RDS-based research aimed at promoting health, thriving, and social justice among diverse youth, and I emphasize the timeliness and potential impacts of a focus on global youth.
Richard M. Lerner is the Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science and the Director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University. He went from kindergarten through Ph.D. within the New York City public schools, completing his doctorate at the City University of New York in 1971 in developmental psychology. Lerner has more than 700 scholarly publications, including more than 80 authored or edited books. He was the founding editor of the Journal of Research on Adolescence and of Applied Developmental Science, which he continues to edit.
Lerner is known for his theory of relations between life-span human development and social change, and for his research about the relations between adolescents and their peers, families, schools, and communities. His work integrates the study of public policies and community-based programs with the promotion of positive youth development and youth contributions to civil society.