Developmental Review 22, 78–96 (2002)
doi:10.1006/drev.2001.0538, available online at http://www.idealibrary.com on
Proximal and Distal Inﬂuences on Development: The Model
of Developmental Adaptation
Iowa State University
The German Centre for Research on Ageing, University of Heidelberg,
Theories of stress and adaptation in adulthood typically focus on recent inﬂuences
on developmental change. What needs more attention in developmental studies is
a stronger emphasis on the relationship between proximal and distal experiences in
explaining developmental outcome. To address the need for combining past with
present inﬂuences, we present a model of developmental adaptation that explains
the process of adaptation to life stress on the basis of adverse childhood events and
paternal care during childhood and internal and external resources available for
adaptation to current life events. The appraisal of past and current events, as well
as coping behaviors, are hypothesized to inﬂuence the health and well-being of
individuals. The beneﬁt of this model is that it systematically combines biographic
(‘‘distal’’) variables with the current life situation (‘‘proximal inﬂuences’’) in an
effort to explain developmental changes across the life span.
2002 Elsevier Science
Key Words: coping; life history; life stress; resources; trajectories.
Although there is a large amount of research on development across the
life span, more needs to be done to specify theories of normal adult develop-
ment. The purpose of this article is to present a theoretical model of develop-
mental adaptation which attemts to integrate proximal developmental inﬂu-
ences with aspects of the personal history (i.e., distal inﬂuences). Proximal
developmental inﬂuences are referred to as recent experiences or resources
in the life of individuals. Current life events, such as retirement or the loss
of a spouse, as well as social support and other current resources are exam-
ples of proximal developmental inﬂuences. Distal developmental inﬂuences,
Accepted under the editorship of Dr. C. J. Brainerd.
Address correspendence and reprint requests to Peter Martin, Iowa State University, 1096
LeBaron, Ames, IA 50011-1120. Fax: (515) 294-1765. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2002 Elsevier Science (USA)
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