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Developmental Idealism Studies

a PSC Affiliated Research Program

Arland Thornton

Developmental Idealism Studies is a research program to measure and investigate the ideas and theories of social and economic development held by people in everyday life. This research program is motivated by the argument that the ideas and theories of development, themselves, have for centuries been powerful forces for social and economic change. The Developmental Idealism Studies group is currently pursuing three main research goals: 1) to estimate the extent to which developmental ideas are known and believed around the world; 2) to evaluate the factors influencing the spread and acceptance of developmental ideas; and 3) to study the consequences of holding or rejecting these ideas.

Developmental Idealism Studies begin with the understanding that social and economic development–and the attributes associated with it–are viewed as important goals by many people around the world. Theories of development are widespread and indicate which factors and programs can lead to social and economic development. Among the factors and programs sometimes offered as fostering development are: educational expansion; public health programs; democracy; free markets; family planning programs; and the empowerment of women. In turn, social and economic development is often seen as having reciprocal effects on these same attributes and programs.

There have been many mechanisms spreading the theories and ideas of development around the world, and the acceptance or rejection of these developmental models can influence many individual, family, and government outcomes. For example, developmental ideas and theories can influence economic decisions, economic growth itself, health, educational decisions, support of democracy, migration, care of the elderly, women's status, and decisions about marriage and childbearing.

The Developmental Idealism Studies program has created research tools to measure people's understanding and acceptance of developmental ideas and theories. Currently, researchers have projects investigating developmental beliefs and theories among people in everyday life in several countries. This research program began with an initial emphasis on the hypothesized influence of developmental ideas and theories on family and demographic outcomes and is expanding to include economic decisions, education, health behavior, commitment to democracy, geographical mobility, and aging and care of the elderly. These projects and their associated study guides and questionnaires are described on this website. This website also provides links to publications describing the theoretical and historical underpinnings of the research program, methodological issues, and substantive findings.

Project website: https://developmentalidealism.org/

Country of Focus: USA

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