Multifinality

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Synonyms

Developmental outcomes; Developmental pathways; Developmental trajectories

Definition

The concept that people can experience the same life events or have similar histories yet their developmental outcomes can vary widely.

Description

Multifinality literally means “many ends.” This refers to people having similar histories (e.g., child sexual abuse, death of a parent, or a secure attachment history) yet their developmental outcomes can vary widely. For example, two children who were sexually abused could have very different outcomes despite extremely similar early experiences. One child might be well-adjusted yet another child might develop clinical depression. This concept is important because it encourages clinicians and researchers to examine entire developmental histories instead of only looking at symptom profiles. The field of developmental psychopathology (DP) brought this idea to light in its conceptualization of mental health and illness in chil ...