The Biopsychosocial Perspective

The interaction of biological, psychological, and social aspects of developmental psychology form the essence of the holistic biopsychosocial perspective. The biopsychosocial perspective attributes complex phenomena or events to multiple causes. Figure shows the interrelationship of the fields of study that constitute the biopsychosocial perspective. In contrast to the biopsychosocial perspective is the reductionistic perspective, which reduces complex phenomenon or events to a single cause.

This biopsychosocial model of developmental psychology may be applied to the case of John, a depressed adolescent male, who finds it difficult to socialize with his peers. John's problem may be the result of any one of a number of causes. For example, injunctions, or messages received during childhood, may be considered one possible cause of John's depression. Injunctions may include messages regarding worthlessness and shame, distorted perceptions, fears of rejection, and inadequate communication and social skills. John's overly critical parents raised him to believe that he would never amount to anything or have any friends. As John experiences distress over his negative injunctions about relationships (psychological), he “tries too hard” to make others like him, which causes his peers to distance themselves from him (social). In time, John may experience rejection and become more depressed (psychological). Berating himself (psychological), John may become less concerned with his outward appearance and hygiene (biological), which in turn may cause his peers to avoid further contact with him (social).

For obvious reasons, developmental psychologists are cognizant of these types of interacting biological, psychological, and social components when considering life‐span events and issues. In a case such as John's, a developmentalist may choose to conceptualize and treat his problem from all three perspectives, rather than focusing on one. Because of the developmentalist's method of exploring all three perspectives, John benefits from a holistic and comprehensive approach to his difficulties.