‘...promotes research on human development all over the world...’
ISSBD - Word from our President

Word from our President

Dear ISSBD Colleagues and Friends,

It is certainly a privilege to be your 13th ISSBD President. Our mission is to promote international scientific research in human development throughout the lifespan. We are now celebrating our 50th anniversary. In this issue you will find thoughts and reflections from our Society’s past presidents. They highlight important issues, challenges, and accomplishments of ISSBD during their presidencies.

Now, we face the future. What will it hold for us?

Well, of course, I don’t know. But there is one thing about which I am absolutely certain: It will not be easy. While we are making important scientific advances and discoveries, we are also living in a time of significant challenges.

On the scientific level, I am excited about our expanded understanding of underlying developmental processes, about our increased recognition of the importance of context, and about the availability of new tools, measures, and methodologies. We regularly use multiple techniques for data gathering data, by observation, interviews, focus groups, surveys, genetics, biomarkers, sensors, eye tracking and other data gathering devices including monitors, personal assistant devices, and social media. We also now have access to quite clever, advanced analytic strategies. These include multi-level modeling, computer programs to analyze qualitative interviews, latent class analyses and actor-partner interdependence models, to name just a few. We are breaking new ground linking brain functioning to development. Fields such as cultural and social neuroscience make clear the extent to which the phenomenon of development is multi-level, requiring interdisciplinary partnerships and teams to achieve an entirely new level of understanding concerning any phenomenon of interest.

On the human level, I am encouraged by the increased recognition of the need for and benefits of interdisciplinary science. For example, although we have long recognized the importance of context, we seem to be taking this to a new level, which requires experts in different fields to address the same issue and provide input that contributes to our total understanding of the issue at hand. A simple example is illustrative: to maximize the health of the child, adolescent, and adult, we recognize the importance of the individual level, e.g. availability of food and shelter. While we have long recognized the importance of family context, we increasingly see that families are changing and can be supportive or threatening in multiple ways; the same is true for the schools children attend or the work and community within which adults live. Further, we now recognize the possible impact of micro level factors such as genetics and biology or macro factors such as economics, climate change, war and conflict. We can’t all be experts in all of these areas, hence the need for interdisciplinary teams.

On a societal level, we are facing numerous global challenges. While the past may have seen behavioral development as a phenomenon to be studied in the laboratory, we are increasingly aware that our science is relevant for and should be applied to the problems we face at both the individual and global level. Many of us now think in terms of how our findings can and should be communicated to policy makers so that they can apply scientific evidence to the most pressing challenges we face internationally. This view is grounded in our increased awareness that human development is dynamic, not fixed at birth or by geography. It can be influenced in both positive and negative ways and influence can happen across the lifespan and intergenerationaly; and is bi-directional. Hence, as developmental scientists we have an obligation to communicate what we learn through our work.

I am proud that we, as a society, increasingly recognize the moral and practical benefits of science. We are learning to use modern technology in unique ways that allow us to profit from our scientific discoveries. At the same time, I believe we are increasingly adapting global goals that focus on health, wellbeing and productivity for all. We recognize that societal progress need not be sacrificed to financial profit, and that we learn from each other when we work in interdisciplinary and/or international teams. ISSBD is committed to working interdisciplinarily, to educating and socializing young and emerging scholars and to contributing to finding solutions to the global challenges we face. While one size often does not fit all in the application of science; the goal of optimizing development through scientific principles is global and will benefit all.

With much hope for our future and wishing us all a happy 50th anniversary,

Toni C. Antonucci


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