Cynthia Garcia Coll
Provost, San Juan Campus
Carlos Albizu University
Natasha J. Cabrera
Carol McDonald Connor
Marinus van IJzendoorn
Nonie K. Lesaux
Glenn I. Roisman
Jennifer Brown Urban
Institute of Psychology
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Eva E. Chen
Emma C. Pearson
Editorial Office (email@example.com)
Lisa Braverman, Managing Editor
Phone: (202) 800-0668
Stephanie Custer, Editorial Assistant
Phone: (202) 805-2368
"Continuity and Change in Child Development"
Incoming Editor-in-Chief Cynthia Garcia Coll (July 2013)
Continuity and change, essential characteristics of the phenomena of child development, reveal themselves in particular ways as I become the new Editor of Child Development. Since its inception, this journal has made major contributions to the understanding of children, adolescence, and youth’s development by publishing research held to the highest scientific standards of the particular historical period. As such, Child Development is one of the leading stewards and guardians of our science. For six-year terms, the editor and reviewers of the journal strive to provide in a timely fashion blind peer reviews designed to only accept for publication the best and most cutting-edge work of the field. The players might change over time, but the ultimate purpose of the Child Development enterprise remains the same.
Continuity is also seen in that from its inception, the journal has paid attention to a wide diversity of developmental processes, and of course will keep on doing so. One level of diversity is constituted by the topics chosen to be studied; all aspects of development are welcomed in our journal. There is also the variability represented by the study of normative processes, the search for explanations of individual differences or the identification of the processes behind developmental psychopathology. Diversity also stems from levels of analysis, from theoretical perspectives, or from which developmental system perspective the phenomena are being watched. The complexity of our subject matter, the variety of theories, questions and answers and the beauty of accomplishing a deeper understanding are as exciting today as in the past.
So what has to remain, and what has to change?
Is child development a global science?
For a variety of reasons our increasingly complex world needs to be better represented in our journal pages. The accumulation of knowledge on certain topics, the emergence of new technologies and the changing life circumstances entailed for the world populations of children and young people and the institutions that care about them are creating new demands that need to be considered in our research. Do our views of language acquisition apply to children who are learning, for example, three languages simultaneously? How are issues of adolescent autonomy worked out when separation from family, economical or physical, is not expected? What is being gained and lost in the sea of instant messaging and other technologies that children are using increasingly using at younger ages and with increased frequency? In order to promote child development as a global science, the variety of life experiences and of settings and contexts of the human population should has to be better represented in our pages.
What are “normative” processes?
We also need to give serious consideration to the samples used in the research published in Child Development. For instance, the use of white, middle class North American children as normative subjects needs to be questioned, as very little of the human population of children is exposed to such unique circumstances of child rearing . Even within this population, the increasing number of mothers who work at home and can bring their children to our laboratories has diminished: do they represent normative patterns or are they increasingly unrepresentative samples? The demographic shift in the USA also contributes to such need: the number of “minority” children will soon be surpassing the number of white, middle class children as the aging population of baby boomers is replaced by younger waves of immigrants and other ethnic and racial groups of childbearing age. As we move forward, we welcome submissions representing our increasingly diverse world. The generalizability of findings will be carefully scrutinized as a function of sample characteristics. Replications that contribute to the generalization of findings to other populations, settings, contexts will be welcome in our pages. Studies of phenomena that might be atypical in North America--particular caretaking techniques that have not made into our pages and that speak to our theories and empirical evidence-- will certainly be welcomed.
How robust are the results we publish?
Although replication is a key element of the scientific method and a staple in many disciplines, explicit replication is rare in Child Development, as are replication procedures conducted within a given manuscript establishing whether results are robust across data sets, estimation methods, and demographic subgroups. Accordingly, we would like manuscripts to reconcile their results with published research on the same topic. Authors of novel research are strongly encouraged to undertake replication and robustness-checking within their manuscripts that confirm key results across multiple data sets, across demographic subgroups within a single data set and multiple estimation techniques; the submission of papers that conduct replication, fragility, or sensitivity studies of empirical work that have appeared in Child Development or any other top journal is encouraged. Submissions that confirm the results of prior work, as well as those that do not, will have a place in our journal.
Are we a truly inter/multidisciplinary field… and why should we be?
Since the inception of SRCD in the 1930’s, the society has been interdisciplinary in nature. However, because some disciplines have been overrepresented in our membership, such as Psychology, there has been a narrowing over time of conceptual and methodological approaches in our field. There are trends in graduate training and funding that are supporting our return to our multidisciplinary origins: our phenomena’s complexity deserves a myriad of theoretical approaches and methodologies to capture it. All methodologies have limitations; most of them have strengths. The use of mixed methods enriches our perspectives and helps us understand discontinuities, even perhaps contradictory findings. The best theory and methodology(ies) depend on the nature of the research question and will be judged as such.
Can our knowledge be better disseminated?
In these times of instant communication, dissemination of science means more than publishing in our pages…in a year’s time. SRCD in its wisdom has embraced Early View which allows our articles to be published online in a more timely fashion. We also have the Office of Policy & Communications in Washington, DC that helps us connect with the media and policy makers so the knowledge production does not stay on the printed page but it is more widely used. We will work very closely with this office and encouraging authors to be involved with their universities and us in disseminating more widely their findings.
Given the explosion of knowledge, I particularly like the creation of special sections in the journal. Special sections can consist of 4-5 shorter articles (30 instead of 40 pages) with an introduction by the guest editor that frames the topic, creating a deeper understanding of the issues, while providing a theoretical and empirical framework for the articles to follow. My previous experience with special sections is that they attract attention to a certain topic more so than individual articles. So I am hereby calling upon you, SRCD members and Child Development readers and subscribers, to contact me with ideas about special sections.
To start this process, I will be calling for submissions to my first special section which will be on Extreme violence committed by youth. As a phenomenon mostly observed in the USA, it begs the question of how our educational and other relevant settings--families, peers, neighborhoods--play a role in these unfortunate events. Can we find commonalities, cascading types of events that contribute to these extreme behaviors? There is also the individual difference question, why some children who are bullied and socially excluded seem to break down and others do not? Can we identify early precursors; can we prevent some of these events? For now, please send me an email with a paragraph with your ideas and what your contribution can be, and please watch for the formal call soon.
As I am assembling a group of associate editors and reviewers and thinking of the six years ahead, I have in mind the continuities and discontinuities that we want to propel. I have had the privilege of being part of this field since 1975 when I started graduate school. I still feel the thrill of discovery and the responsibility that we have as scientists, practitioners and policy makers. There is nothing more important for humans than understanding and supporting our youth. The use and reliance on science in this endeavor reflect the advances of our historical times. We want to make good use of theory, of well- established or innovative methods, of sensible data interpretation and good dissemination. I encourage all of us to do our part. Get in touch!
Cynthia Garcia Coll