Misused of a developmental end point, is not an

Misused and Misunderstood?

The
PPCT model is particularly prone to misrepresentation and lack of appropriate
evaluations in the literature, given that it is a contextualist theory that is
too often treated as though it fits within a mechanist paradigm (Tudge et al.
2009). Overton (Overton, 1984; Overton & Reese, 1973) has argued that
contextualism, lacking the idea of a developmental end point, is not an
appropriate paradigm for developmental science, and that in its “strict
contextualist” form, it should be linked with mechanism or linked with
organicism -“relational organicism-contextualism,” (e.g., Overton, 2013;
Overton & Ennis, 2006). Overton has thus treated the PPCT model as thought
it is a mechanistic model, although providing no direct evidence supporting his
placement. In addition, hat Overton (2013) termed the “five defining features”
of the development process are (non-linearity , order and sequence, direction, relative
permanence and relative irreversibility, and epigenesist and emergence) (p.53,originalemphasis)
are not included in Bronfenbrenner’s theories and he consigned it to the
mechanist camp. As Tudge et al. (2009) and Rosa and Tudge (2013) made clear, particularly
with the introduction of proximal processes into the PPCT model, there is no reason
to view the theory as one of independent effects (as required by mechanist
theories). Furthermore, Overton (2013, 2015)

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Misuse of Bronfenbrenner’s PPCT
Model

In
2009, Tudge, Mokrova, Hatfield and Karnik evaluated the extent to which
scholars were using the theory correctly and concluded that very few of the
papers published beyond the year 2000 represented the most up- to date versions
of the theory (PPCT) correctly. These findings were substantiated by their
follow up study which revealed that out of 25 studies published between 2001
and 2008, who stated that their research was based on Bronfenbrenner’s theory,
only four were based on the most recent form of the theory, and most described
the theory simply as one of contextual influences on development, completely
ignoring the centrepiece of the theory in its final incarnation: proximal
processes. It must be noted that the purpose of employing a theory as the
foundation for one’s research should be not only to determine the variables on
which to focus and the methods to employ but also to provide some critical
evaluation of that theory. However, neither refutation nor corroboration is
possible either when the theory is misrepresented or when there is
methodological error in the design. In this instance, theories may often “fade
away as people lose interest” (Meehl, 1978, p. 806).

At
their core, ecological models of development are, by nature, exceedingly
complex. They consist of a large number of diverse components, nonlinear
interactions, as well as scale multiplicity and heterogeneity (Wu & David,
2002). 
Moreover, conducting research that is derivative of the contextualist
metatheory requires methodological approaches that incorporate change-sensitive
research designs, measurements and data analysis methods. This, as well as the
acknowledgment that individuals actively participate in the production of their
own ontogenetic development is an essential feature (Overton, 2015). In
relation to the PPCT model, appropriate use requires a focus on proximal
processes, a means to show that’s these proximal processes are simultaneously
synergistically influenced by both person characteristics (minimum of two
levels, eg high and low levels of motivation) and by the context (a minimum of
two relevant contexts). Unfortunately, Bronfenbrenner wrote no methodological
script for how to translate his bioecological model into research nor did he
conduct any original research himself. Rather he drew on external sources, for
example Drillen (1964) in order to illustrate how the PPCT model could be
adopted and implemented. Few would argue that satisfying this extensive
specification devoid of methodological guidance is an arduous task. The goal of
Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model is to try to understand the joint,
synergistic effects of several relevant influencing factors. However, due to
the models impracticalities, as well as its idealistic nature, authors have
oversimplified this framework implying that the complexity inherent in the PPCT
model is too often reduced to methods that while simpler to apply, are simply
inappropriate. In other words, any research that reduces Bronfenbrenner’s
theory to the independent effect of context on development is misguided.