THE DYNAMIC SYSTEMS APPROACH: THEORETICAL AND THERAPEUTIC IMPLICATIONS FOR THE STUDY OF ATYPICAL DEVELOPMENTAL TRAJECTORIES
The paper aims to present several arguments in favor of a dynamical approach to the study of atypical development. Dynamic systems (DS) theory is in fact a metatheoretical framework that explores how a system changes over time according to a set of formal mathematical principles; thus it describes how novel forms emerge and stabilize through a system's own internal feedback (Prigogine & Stengers, 1984), a process known as self-organization. This paradigm seems most suitable for the study of atypical developmental trajectories, conceived as consequences of a sensitive dependence upon initial conditions - in the case of early damage - or as "well-organized patterns of cognitive, affective, behavioral and somatic functioning that interfere with the individual's well-being and everyday functioning" (Mahoney, 1991) - for adult disorders -. We will focus on issues related to the therapeutic insights and the analytical tools that the DS paradigm can provide, as well as on problems threatening its applicability to the study of atypical development.
Keywords: dynamic systems, connectionist modeling, atypical development, intervention