Selves and identities in the making: The study of microgenetic processes in interactive practices

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Current developmental theorizing faces a number of dilemmas, if not aporias. The three most relevant ones that provide offspring for different approaches within developmental psychology are (1) the “identity dilemma,” posing the question: how it is possible to consider oneself as the same in the face of constant change; (2) the “uniqueness dilemma”: whether it is possible to consider oneself as unique in the face of being the same as everyone else (and vice versa); and (3) the “construction” or “who-is-in-charge-dilemma”: asking whether it is the person who constructs the world the way it is, or whether the person is constructed by the way the world is. Answers that view these dilemmas in terms of the dialectics between (1) constancy and change; (2) uniqueness/speci city and generality/universality; and (3) two directions of t, the person-to-world and world-to-person direction of t, point out correctly that one is not thinkable without the other. Of course, these three dilemmas are highly interwoven. It could be argued that the construal of sameness and difference across time forms a presupposition for constructing others and self as same and different, which in turn can be said to be a basic building block for constructing and changing the world in a productive way. However, when it comes to doing developmental inquiry, that is, exploring how actual changes and constancies play each other out and are made sense of in the actual lives of human beings, in particular from the perspective of those who live these lives, we are confronted with the additional dilemma that we can’t take the perspective of both of the opposing principles simultaneously, but rather seem to be forced to choose.

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Social Life and Social Knowledge: Toward a Process Account of Development

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identity, uniqueness, developmental psychology