there are regularities in the sequence of development across time (e.g., Erikson, 1968; Piaget, 1971; Vygotsky, 1962). These regularities are assumed to result from three primary sources: (1) the genetically scripted maturational processes linked to such physical changes as brain development, sensormotor and physical maturation, and sexual maturation; (2) the logical sequences inherent in acquiring new skills and knowledge, in moving from more external (adult driven) regulation to increasingly internal regulation of behaviors and emotions, and in moving from a primary location within intimate family settings to increasing engagement with the outside world; and (3) the regularities in the sequences of social experiences provided by social and cultural groups for children, adolescents, and adults as they mature.

Second, social clocks1 (Neugarten and Datan, 1976) and socially scripted sequences of socialization experiences (Elder, 1998) reflect cultural group adaptation to, and use of, these developmental regularities. For example, most cultures begin formal schooling at age 6. It is possible that this is the age when children have matured cognitively and socially to the point that they are ready for the challenges imposed by formal schooling. Of course, these socially scripted sequences themselves are likely to contribute to the regularities observed in human development (Higgins et al., 1983).

The psychologist Erik Erikson has provided the most fully developed theoretical model of these developmental regularities, illustrated in Table A-1 from the perspective of community programs for youth development. Like other theorists, he proposed that there are developmental tasks that must be addressed at particular ages or stages of life. These tasks change in systematic ways as people mature. How these developmental tasks are handled by individuals in the social settings in which they live will influence subsequent development. This means two things: (1) previous learning and development are critical to individuals’ current


Social clocks refers to the socially shared norms regarding when particular events are likely to take place in people’s lives—like the expected age of marriage, completion of schooling, birth of children, retirement, etc. Socially scripted socialization experiences refer to the normative sequence of experiences provided for people as they grow up—like the age at which children begin and end formal schooling, the grade structure in the K-16 schooling process (when do the major school transitions occur—when do children move into middle school or junior high school, into high school, and into postsecondary schools), the ages at which children are allowed to drink, to drive, to vote, and to join the military,

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