Children, childhood, and development in evolutionary perspective

David F. Bjorklund, Bruce J. Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


We examine children, childhood, and development from an evolutionary perspective. We begin by reviewing major assumptions of evolutionary-developmental psychology, including the integration of "soft" developmental systems theory with ideas from mainstream evolutionary psychology. We then discuss the concept of adaptive developmental plasticity and describe the core evolutionary concept of developmental programming and some of its applications to human development, as instantiated in life history theory and the theory of differential susceptibility to environmental influence. We then discuss the concept of adaptation from an evolutionary-developmental perspective, including ontogenetic and deferred adaptations, and examine the development of some adaptations of infancy and childhood from the domains of folk psychology and folk physics. We conclude that evolutionary theory can serve as a metatheory for developmental science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-264
Number of pages40
JournalDevelopmental Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Deferred adaptations
  • Developmental systems theory
  • Differential susceptibility
  • Evolutionary-developmental psychology
  • Folk physics
  • Folk psychology
  • Life history theory
  • Ontogenetic adaptations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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