Presidential Address
What's Behavioral Development Got to Do with It?

Presenter: Toni Antonucci, University of Michigan, USA

We have had the unfortunate opportunity to observe how the world responded to an extraordinary event, the COVID-19 pandemic. We have watched as we tried to school children virtually from home, as adults tried to learn how to work remotely, as governments tried to advise its citizenry on how to navigate life during the pandemic, and as social media helped combat social isolation while simultaneously facilitating the spread of false and misleading information. We have seen front line workers, such as health care providers and grocery clerks put themselves at increased risk of illness and death for the benefit of others while also observing the profound inequity in both the local and world-wide distribution of health and illness. What drives some to go to extraordinary lengths to help others while some are quite complacent about the risks to which others are exposed?

Behavioral Development.

I suggest that we expand our awareness of the degree to which behavioral development is critical for understanding individuals, families and communities. Whether it is because of the pandemic, the experience of a world in lockdown, or the political turmoil extant in so many parts of the world, I have been quite impressed with how scientists and politicians alike have recognized the role behavioral development plays in shaping our world. Whether you study children, adolescents, adults, schools, neighborhoods or governments, I suggest that we have reached a time when we, as experts in behavioral development, must use our science to maximize optimal behaviors and neutralize or prevent negative behaviors at every stage of individual development from infancy to old age and in every human grouping from couples to nations. Not doing so risks the manipulation of some by unknowing or unscrupulous others. At a minimum, I believe we have an obligation to help provide the tools that people need to maximize their behavioral development. In sum: What’s behavioral development got to do with it? I would argue – Everything!

An ISSBD collaboration with the International Consortium of Developmental Science Societies (ICDSS)
The Implications of the Climate Crisis for Human Development and for Developmental Scholars

Presenter: Ann V. Sanson, Honorary Professorial Fellow, University of Melbourne, Australia

No previous generation has grown up in the context of an existential threat comparable to the climate crisis, which poses serious and lifelong threats to their development. From an ecological perspective, climate change can be seen an overarching factor in the macrosystem of children’s lives, with impacts filtering through every other system to affect their wellbeing. Seen through the lens of Maslow’s motivational theory, it threatens the fulfillment of needs at all five levels, from basic physiological needs (e.g. adequate food, water, shelter) to opportunities for self-actualisation.

The climate crisis most obviously affects those who are caught up in the extreme weather events (e.g. hurricanes, wildfires, floods) that are becoming more frequent and ferocious due to climate change. But more gradual changes (e.g shifts in rainfall patterns, rising temperatures and rising sea levels) also have profound impacts. Besides, awareness that their future holds further climate and ecological disasters and.disruptions is a source of deep distress for many young people, even if they are yet to experience climate change firsthand.

Research is starting to address the mechanisms through which climate change impacts multiple aspects of development, including the disparities of its impacts across contexts. Knowledge is also starting to accumulate on what children and young people will need in order to thrive in the face of the massive challenges they will encounter. In this talk I will discuss the insights we can draw from current developmental science, and what more we need to know. I will also discuss the implications for those adults whose concern, whether as researchers, educators, practitioners, or parents, is the healthy development of this and future generations, of working in this unprecedented time. I will argue that we have an obligation to seriously engage with the climate crisis, personally and professionally, in order to help ensure that the next generations can survive and thrive on a livable planet.

Challenges and Opportunities in the Aged Society

Presenter: Hiroko Akiyama, Professor Emeritus, University of Tokyo, Japan

Population aging is a global phenomenon. Japan is one of the frontrunners of rapidly aging societies. In 2030, one thirds of the Japanese population will be age 65 +, and 20% will be 75+. The working age population is shrinking. Healthy aging is crucial issue for well-being of individuals and the sustainability of society. Along with biomedical research, the importance of living environment and life style has been long recognized and extensively studied. We already know what issues are. What we need now are solutions and actions—action research.

We launched a social experiment in a community. The existing infrastructure of communities was built when the population was much younger. We are trying to redesign communities for meeting the needs of the highly aged society. We want to build communities where people could live for 100 years staying healthy, active, connected and live with a sense of security. This is not a retirement community. It is an ordinary community for people of all ages. As this is a social experiment, we evaluate the effects of our interventions at an individual level, community level and costs. And we make policy recommendations based on scientific evidence. This kind of social experiment requires not only the collaboration of researchers in different disciplines, but also full collaboration with local governments, business community, NPOs and residents.

A 100 years life society is a gold mine of innovation. There are many issues we need to solve. One strategy is to create a platform for open innovation, co-creation by multi-stakeholders. I will also report the progress of Kamakura Living Lab which we started three years ago.

Developmental Robotics for Language Learning, Trust and Theory of Mind

Presenter: Angelo Cangelosi, University of Manchester and Alan Turing Institute, UK

Growing theoretical and experimental research on action and language processing and on number learning and gestures clearly demonstrates the role of embodiment in cognition and language processing. In psychology and neuroscience, this evidence constitutes the basis of embodied cognition, also known as grounded cognition (Pezzulo et al. 2012). In robotics and AI, these studies have important implications for the design of linguistic capabilities in cognitive agents and robots for human-robot collaboration, and have led to the new interdisciplinary approach of Developmental Robotics (Cangelosi & Schlesinger 2015). During the talk we will present examples of developmental robotics models and experimental results from iCub experiments on the embodiment biases in early word acquisition and grammar learning (Morse et al. 2015; Morse & Cangelosi 2017), experiments on pointing gestures and finger counting for number learning (De La Cruz et al. 2014) and on scale errors (Grzyb et al. 2019). We will then present a novel developmental robotics model, and experiments, on Theory of Mind and its use for autonomous trust behavior in robots (Vinanzi et al. 2019). The implications for the use of such embodied approaches for developmental sciences is also discussed (Cangelosi & Schlesinger 2018).

Missing Persons

Presenter: Paul Harris, Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education, USA

A long and influential tradition of research in attachment theory has emphasized the emotional distress that is experienced by young children when they are separated from a caregiver. However, human children are typically looked after by more than one caregiver and they increasingly tolerate separation from one caregiver if they are cared for by another. Indeed, toddlers keep attachment figures in mind despite their absence – and talk about them. I review recent evidence of this early emerging ability to represent missing persons as well as the paradoxical tendency among bereaved children and adults to feel that those they have loved remain present, despite death and departure.

Resilience in Developmental Science: Pathways to Multisystem Integration

Presenter: Ann Masten, Professor of Child Development University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, USA

Theoretical and empirical scholarship on resilience has burgeoned along with concerns about global threats to human life and well-being from the pandemic, war, terror, climate change, and related adversities. This presentation will highlight current trends in developmental resilience science and their implications for the future as multisystem resilience theory and methods emerge. The capacity of a complex adaptive system, including a human individual, to adapt successfully to challenges that threaten system function, survival, or development, involves a multitude of processes across interacting system levels. Resilience capacity is manifested through influences of these processes on system behavior and development in human individuals, families, communities, economies, and other dynamic systems. In contemporary resilience theory, there is increasing motivation to adopt definitions of resilience that are scalable and portable across levels of analysis and disciplines, in order to foster integrated knowledge and actions to address complex threats. Efforts to understand resilience from a multisystem perspective will be highlighted, drawing on illustrative data from research on homelessness and multisystem disasters, including the pandemic. Professor Masten will discuss progress, barriers, and new research directions that mark the emergence of integrated multisystem resilience science in the study of human development.

Promoting Adolescent Adjustment by Intervening in Ethnic-Racial Identity Development: Considering a Global Theory of Change

Presenter: Adriana Umana-Taylor, Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education, USA

Identity formation is a fundamental developmental process that has significant consequences for youth adjustment during adolescence and beyond. Consistent with these notions, findings indicate that among ethnic-racial minority youth, exploring their ethnic-racial identity and gaining a sense of clarity regarding this aspect of their identity can serve a protective function and promote positive youth development. In this presentation, I will introduce the Identity Project intervention curriculum, which is grounded in developmental theory and focused on engaging adolescents in the processes of ethnic-racial identity exploration and resolution. I will present findings from a randomized controlled trial in which 12-week, 18-week, 1-year, and 2-year follow-up data provide support for program efficacy and its cascading effects on positive youth development. Thus far, the Identity Project intervention is demonstrating promising results that have the potential to significantly shape how we work with youth in school settings to promote identity formation and, in turn, psychosocial adjustment. I will end with a discussion of next steps, including exploring the potential universal nature of the program, which is motivated by the premise that identity formation is a developmental task that confers psychosocial benefits to all youth and the fact that ethnic-racial identity is an increasingly salient social identity to young people in multiple regions of the world.