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Human development is not a passive process; an individual does not just relax and allow the environment and time to influence his behavior (Lerner, 2002).Human beings have to act on the environment and interact with other people in order to develop their behaviors (Carol, 2008). Furthermore, it is apparent that the manner in which an individual is treated is highly grounded on the manner in which that individual behaves. It is important to note that one of the earliest forms of behavior examined in neonates is their capacity to interact. It is noted that at very early stages of development, babies will take part in conversation-like interactions and smile with their caregivers (Carol, 2008). According to the social learning theory, human behavior is viewed as a continuous reciprocal interaction betweenenvironmental, behavioral and cognitive influences (Lerner, 2002). According to this theory, human beings learn through observing other peoples’ attitudes, behavior, as well as the outcomes of such behaviors (Lerner, 2002). From observing others, an individual forms the concept of how new behaviors are established, which is later coded serving as a guide for action. Therefore, examining how two parties influence each other is what is referred to as the study of reciprocal interaction.
Bronfenbrenner(1979) indicates that reciprocity is a key component when it comes to human development. Reciprocity could be viewed as mutual interaction among the developing individuals. These interactions occur in various forms within different social settings.However, it is important to note that a developing individual is considered as any human at different points of lifespan, who takes part in social interaction with other developing people (Lerner, 2002).Bronfenbrenner, (1979) explains the development reciprocity as a kind of relationship where there is the mutual feedback that generates complex patterns of interaction and learning process.Such relationships between developing persons result in powerful developmental effects. Magnusson (2001) highlights that,at each particular instant, individual functioning is established in a continuous process of reciprocal interaction between situational factors, mental factors, behavior and biological factors. Therefore, reciprocity depicts individual functioning among different human dimensions or factors that interact with each other (Lerner, 2002).
Examples in Human Development
The dyad is a basic form of reciprocal social interaction, which represents the social relationship between two individuals who participate or pay attention to each other’sactivities (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). It is important to realize the fact that dyads outlinethe key building block of a micro system, and could engagetwo spouses; two friends, a child and a parent, a teacher and a student, or even a parishioner and a pastor. However, dyads have to be mutually helpful to each other in order to maintain a long-term relationship.Bronfenbrenner (1979) states that reciprocity is one of the fundamental properties that depict a dyadic interaction resulting in further human development. Developmental social scientists came to an agreement that without the social reciprocity among and between developing persons, it is impossible to attain the human development(Lerner, 2002). While the previous studies regarding development emphasized on either nature conditions, which are the biological patters influencing development, or nurture,representing the social environmental conditions, most of the recent studies highlight that both components have to be present in normal human development to take place (Lerner, 2002). Therefore, a reciprocal relationship is considered an essential element within the human development process. However, it is important to note that such interactions expand to include organizations, classrooms, churches and households.
Bronfenbrenner (1979) came up with a model of ecology of human development, in which he used to explain the relationship between the human development and the ecology. In this model, Bronfenbrenner argues out that human development cannot be examined exclusively from the surfacing of innate patterns worked outin the human DNA. His model shows that human development entails interaction between an individual possessing such innate characteristics and another or other developing individuals within the social ecology. The basic component of Bronfenbrenner’s model is the interaction and social reciprocity between the developing individuals within a social ecosystem. The outcome of such reciprocal interaction is the reciprocal development, where individuals develop and depictcharacteristics of the individuals they interact with (Carol, 2008). Therefore, human beings who interact with others within the different social contexts influence each other, both for ill or for good (Bronfenbrenner, 1979).
A good example of the case where reciprocal interaction can be demonstrated may involve the interaction between a student and a teacher at school. A student will interact with a teacher almost on a daily basis and will, therefore, develop while emulating the characteristics the student acquires from the teacher. Indeed, cases have been noted where a student tried to speak or pronounce certain words the way the teacher does, which was an apparent outcome of the interaction between the teacher and the student (Lerner, 2002).It can also be noted that young children often reciprocate the behaviors of the people close to them. They tend to emulate the behaviors of their care givers, as these are the people they maintain a close relationship with.The same reciprocal interaction could be depicted in Synder’s understanding regarding the church, in which he considers it as a spiritual ecology (Snyder, 2002). He highlights that ecological thinking presents the view that all things are related and elaborates that human beings were created to have the responsibility over each other (Snyder, 2002). Therefore, when Christians interact with each other, they help strengthen each other, individually and corporately, resulting in the whole individual transformation. Bellamy etal., (2004) carried out a national study involving the Australian Protestant and Anglican Church attendees, with the aim of determining those who had impacted on the spiritual development of the respondents. According to the findings of this study, 55 % of the respondents highlighted that parents had positively influenced their faith formation, 60 % attributed this to their local church attendants, who included youth leaders, Sunday school teachers, and pastors(Bellamy et al., 2004). Additional findings indicated that 31 % of the respondents reported that their family members had a positive influence, 28 % attributed this to religious ministries, while 19 % highlighted friends positively impacting on their faith formation(Bellamy et al., 2004). Basing on the findings of this study, it is apparent that, despite the fact that spiritual growth is something that is often viewed as an individual response, this is not developed in isolation from the influence of other individuals(Snyder, 2002). The family and church have become significant avenues within which spiritual growth takesplace. This example gives a clear picture that social interactions act as human development mechanisms, where innate potentials for development link up with the social intercourse(Bellamy et al., 2004).
Reciprocal interaction is a field that looks at the interactions between and among individuals within a social context. It is apparent that the outcome of such reciprocal interaction is the reciprocal development, where individuals develop and depict the characteristics of the individuals they interact with. Therefore, human beings who interact with others within different social contexts influence each other, developmentallyforboth ill and good. It is, thus, important to maintain good relationships that will generate a positive impact on the development of the individual.
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