Phenomenologists recognize the insights to be gained from looking at cognitive development. But our understanding of development, in turn, can be illuminated by ideas from ecology. Developmental studies in psychology and biology share with ecosystem ecology a concern with stability—with how things stay the same despite changes in the surrounding conditions, and how processes of change lead reliably to similar outcomes despite environmental variability. Recently, both ecologists and psychologists have reconsidered their earlier assumptions about the sources of stability, and explored new conceptions of resilience: a system’s ability to “bounce back” from a disturbance, to absorb change without harm, or to overcome obstacles to achieve good adaptive functioning. Developmental biologists, meanwhile, have explored related issues through conceptions of developmental plasticity and canalization. Distinct theoretical frameworks for resilience have emerged in these different fields, yet the phenomena that they treat are closely intertwined. Ecological work on resilience focuses on relationships between resilience, chaotic change, and adaptive function across multiple scales of nested systems, and implications for intervention or management. With some assistance from developmental biology, this body of work offers rich theoretical resources and important lessons for related thinking about cognitive development.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Allmark, P., Bhanbhro, S., & Chrisp, T. (2014). An argument against the focus on community resilience in public health. BMC Public Health, 14(1), 62.
Anthony, E. J. (1974). The syndrome of the psychologically invulnerable child. In E. J. Anthony & C. Koupernik (Eds.), The child in his family: Children at psychiatric risk. Oxford: Wiley.
Anthony, E. J., & Cohler, B. J. (1987). The invulnerable child. New York: Guilford Press.
Barker, G. (2008). Biological levers and extended adaptationism. Biology and Philosophy, 23(1), 1–25.
Bradshaw, A. D. (1965). Evolutionary significance of phenotypic plasticity in plants. Advances in Genetics, 13(1), 115–155.
Brand, F. S., & Jax, K. (2007). Focusing the meaning(s) of resilience: Resilience as a descriptive concept and a boundary object. Ecology and Society, 12(1), 23–38.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Carpenter, S., Walker, B., Anderies, J. M., & Abel, N. (2001). From metaphor to measurement: Resilience of what to what? Ecosystems, 4(8), 765–781.
Cicchetti, D., & Rogosch, F. A. (1996). Equifinality and multifinality in developmental psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 8(04), 597–600.
Clements, F. E. (1916). Plant succession: An analysis of the development of vegetation (Vol. 242). Washington: Carnegie Institution.
Day, R. L., Laland, K. N., & Odling-Smee, F. J. (2003). Rethinking adaptation: The niche-construction perspective. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 46(1), 80–95.
Desjardins, E., Barker, G., Lindo, Z., Dieleman, C., & Dussault, A. (2015). Promoting resilience. Quarterly Review of Biology, 90(2), 147–165.
Draganski, B., Gaser, C., Busch, V., Schuierer, G., Bogdahn, U., & May, A. (2004). Neuroplasticity: Changes in grey matter induced by training. Nature, 427(6972), 311–312.
Ellis, B. J., Del Giudice, M., Dishion, T. J., Figueredo, A. J., Gray, P., Griskevicius, V., et al. (2012). The evolutionary basis of risky adolescent behavior: Implications for science, policy, and practice. Developmental Psychology, 48(3), 598–623.
Erikson, E. H. (1950). Childhood and society. New York: Stonton.
Folke, C. (2006). Resilience: The emergence of a perspective for social–ecological systems analyses. Global Environmental Change, 16(3), 253–267. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2006.04.002.
Gallopín, G. C. (2002). Planning for resilience: Scenarios, surprises and branch points. In L. Gunderson & C. S. Holling (Eds.), Panarchy: Understanding transformations in human and natural systems (pp. 361–392). Washington: Island Press.
Gunderson, L. H., & Holling, C. S. (2002). Panarchy: Understanding transformations in systems of humans and nature. Washington: Island Press.
Holling, C. S. (1973). Resilience and stability of ecological systems. Annual review of ecology and systematics, 4(1), 1-23.
Holling, C. S. (1996). Engineering resilience versus ecological resilience. In P. C. Schulze (Ed.), Engineering within ecological constraints (pp. 51–66). Washington: National Academy Press.
Holling, C. S. (2001). Understanding the complexity of economic, ecological, and social systems. Ecosystems, 4(5), 390–405.
Holling, C. S., & Gunderson, L. H. (2002). Resilience and adaptive cycles. In L. Gunderson & C. S. Holling (Eds.), Panarchy: Understanding transformations in human and natural systems (pp. 25–62). Washington: Island Press.
Holling, C. S., & Meffe, G. K. (1996). Command and control and the pathology of natural resource management. Conservation Biology, 10(2), 328–337.
Kirmayer, L. J., Sehdev, M., Whitley, R., Dandeneau, S. F., & Isaac, C. (2009). Community resilience: Models, metaphors and measures. International Journal of Indigenous Health, 5(1), 62–117.
Levin, S. A. (1998). Ecosystems and the biosphere as complex adaptive systems. Ecosystems, 1(5), 431–436.
Levins, R. (1968). Evolution in changing environments: Some theoretical explorations (Vol. 2). Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Luthar, S. S. (2003). Resilience and vulnerability: Adaptation in the context of childhood adversities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Luthar, S. S., Cicchetti, D., & Becker, B. (2000). The construct of resilience: A critical evaluation and guidelines for future work. Child Development, 71(3), 543–562.
Mageau, M. T., Costanza, R., & Ulanowicz, R. E. (1995). The development and initial testing of a quantitative assessment of ecosystem health. Health, 1(4), 201–213.
Masten, A. S. (2001). Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development. American Psychologist, 56(3), 227–238.
Masten, A. S. (1999). Resilience comes of age: Reflections on the past and outlook for the next generation of research. In M. D. Glantz & J. L. Johnson (Eds.), Resilience and development: Positive life adaptations (pp. 281–296). New York: Plenum.
Masten, A. S., Best, K. M., & Garmezy, N. (1990). Resilience and development: Contributions from the study of children who overcome adversity. Development and Psychopathology, 2(04), 425–444.
May, R. M. (1977). Thresholds and breakpoints in ecosystems with a multiplicity of stable states. Nature, 269(5628), 471–477.
Mikkelson, G. M. (2011). Weighing species. Environmental Ethics, 33(2), 185–196.
Odum, E. P. (1969). The strategy of ecosystem development. Science, 164, 262–270.
Oyama, S. (1985). The ontogeny of information: Developmental systems and evolution. In Cambridge. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Oyama, S., Griffiths, P., & Gray, R. D. (2001). Cycles of contingency : Developmental systems and evolution (life and mind). Cambridge: MIT Press.
Pahl-Wostl, C. (1995). The dynamic nature of ecosystems: Chaos and order entwined. Chichester: Wiley.
Pigliucci, M. (2001). Phenotypic plasticity: Beyond nature and nurture. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Sen, A., & Nussbaum, M. (1993). Capability and well-being. The Quality of Life, 1(9), 30–54.
Smith-Gill, S. J. (1983). Developmental plasticity: Developmental conversion versus phenotypic modulation. American Zoologist, 23(1), 47–55.
Stearns, S. C. (2002). Progress on canalization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 99(16), 10229–10230. doi:10.1073/pnas.172388999.
Taleb, N. N. (2012). Antifragile : Things that gain from disorder (1st ed.). New York: Random House.
Tansley, A. G. (1935). The use and abuse of vegetational concepts and terms. Ecology, 16(3), 284–307.
Van Buskirk, J., & Steiner, U. (2009). The fitness costs of developmental canalization and plasticity. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 22(4), 852–860.
Volk, A. A., Camilleri, J. A., Dane, A. V., & Marini, Z. A. (2012). Is adolescent bullying an evolutionary adaptation? Aggressive Behavior, 38(3), 222–238.
Waddington, C. H. (1942). Canalization of development and the inheritance of acquired characters. Nature, 150(3811), 563–565.
Walker, B., Holling, C., Carpenter, S. R., & Kinzig, A. (2004). Resilience, adaptability and transformability in social–ecological systems. Ecology and Society, 9(2), 5–13.
West-Eberhard, M. J. (2003). Developmental plasticity and evolution. In Oxford. New York: Oxford University Press.
Wilson, M., & Daly, M. (1997). Life expectancy, economic inequality, homicide, and reproductive timing in Chicago neighbourhoods. British Medical Journal, 314(7089), 1271–1274.
Wright, S. (1932). The roles of mutation, inbreeding, crossbreeding and selection in evolution. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the Sixth International Congress on Genetics,
Wright, M. O. D., Masten, A. S., & Narayan, A. J. (2013). Resilience processes in development: Four waves of research on positive adaptation in the context of adversity. In S. Goldstein & R. B. Brooks (Eds.), Handbook of resilience in children (pp. 15–37). New York: Springer.
About this article
Cite this article
Barker, G. From stability to norm transformation: lessons about resilience, for development, from ecology. Phenom Cogn Sci 16, 571–584 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11097-017-9527-x
- Developmental psychology
- Developmental biology