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Flow Experience in Human Development: Understanding Optimal Functioning Along the Lifespan

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Advances in Flow Research

Abstract

In this chapter, we discuss the idea of flow experience in human development. We consider that the study of flow and its complexity should take a developmental and ecological framework into consideration since the experience of flow occurs in the interaction between the individual and his/her daily contexts. Besides this, we show how flow is, by its nature, anchored in developmental science and developmental psychology, contributing to the development of new skills and resources that help the individual to mature, grow and reach an optimal level of functioning.

Research has shown that flow plays an essential role in buffering psychopathology and enhancing mental health and well-being. Hence, we discuss how it can be intentionally applied in psychological interventions to promote positive human development, presenting some relevant and recent therapeutic applications of flow.

We also present the main findings on flow research across the lifespan. Despite being initially researched in adolescence and leisure, flow has been empirically studied across several contexts and populations (from infants to the elderly), using different methodologies (e.g. the experience sampling method). By summarizing the results for each developmental period, we identify the specificities concerning flow experience in each age group, considering the tasks, challenges and the contexts in which individuals are involved in their developmental stages. We can also see how the influence of external and internal factors in flow experience evolves and changes across development. Finally, the authors conclude with the relevance of studying flow experience and its applications within a developmental and ecological perspective in order to better understand and foster positive human development.

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Correspondence to Teresa Freire .

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Freire, T., Gissubel, K., Tavares, D., Teixeira, A. (2021). Flow Experience in Human Development: Understanding Optimal Functioning Along the Lifespan. In: Peifer, C., Engeser, S. (eds) Advances in Flow Research. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53468-4_12

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