This essay addresses a line of research in the constructivist, social-cognitive tradition, one that places special weight on the development of meaning about self and relationships. Systematic associations between development and psychological symptoms are described and discussed, with the intention of creating a new theoretical model. Five areas that have begun to transform our traditional understanding of human development are addressed: (a) protective forces inherent in developmental delay; (b) loss involved in progressive development; (c) symptoms as a sign of developmental complexity: (d) rediscovery of biography as an essential dimension of development, and (e) mind as continuously fluctuating rather than fully integrated and equilibrated. These themes and theoretical developments demonstrate the significance of the study of at-risk populations in understanding normative human development.

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