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Contextual Perspective

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Our environment is an important part of our lives. The way we develop is influenced by many factors such as the way we are raised, the schools we attend, the neighborhood we live in, or economic status of our parents. Everything around us influences us in some form, regardless of distance. These statements puzzle me, which is why I chose the contextual perspective as my topic.

The contextual perspective, as defined by Papalia, Olds, and Feldman (2004) is the view of development that sees “the individual, not as a separate entity interacting with the environment, but as an inseparable part of it” (p. 31 ¶ 7). Regardless of how hard we try to avoid the role our surroundings play on our and our children’s development, we cannot. A child who is raised in a poor neighborhood vows never to return to his hometown after he leaves. He has had a rough childhood and wants to make sure his children never go through what he endured. Even though he believes he is escaping, he is doing exactly the same thing by leaving, that he would do by staying. He has realized the impact his economic status, neighborhood, and parents have had on his life.

He now wants to better himself to ensure he and his children are never put in the same conditions he was as a child. This could also work if he had decided to stay in his neighborhood and not seek the best opportunities. Many lack the motivation needed to succeed because of the outside influences in their lives. They see their parents with no degrees, sometimes no diplomas, and believe that is acceptable. They fall into the trap, following in misinformed footsteps. They work dead end jobs, barely able to survive, and are unaware of how they reached that point in their lives.

Within this perspective is Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory. I love working with children. They are so innocent in everything they do and it amazes me. In my opinion, this is one of the most important stages of life. I have four young children (4, 6, 7, & 8), who are very intelligent, but my youngest blows me away, which is why I think the sociocultural theory sparked my interest. “Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory asserts that complex forms of thinking have their origins in social interactions rather than in the child’s private explorations” (Boyd & Bee, 2006, p. 40 ¶ 3). My 4-year-old daughter has used her siblings to help teach herself basic Kindergarten skills such as writing her name, colors, letters, and numbers. The other children have acted as a model or “scaffold”. Her siblings have unintentionally played a critical part in her development.

As depressing as it sounds, our surroundings play a serious role in our development. We are who we are because of certain situations and influences that we have overcome in our lives. Because of certain situations, events and people, I am the person I am today. We are inseparable from our environment.


Papalia, D. E., Olds, S. W., & Feldman, R. D. (2004) A child’s world: Infancy through adolescence (9th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill

Boyd, D., & Bee, H. (2006). Adult development. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

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