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Human Development as Transcendence of the Animal Body and the Child-Animal Association in Psychological Thought

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This paper explores the association of children and animals as an element in Western culture's symbolic universe. Three historical discourses found in the West associate animality with immaturity and growing up with the transcendence of this condition. The discourses differ in how they describe and evaluate the original animal-like condition of the child versus the socialized end product. All, however, tend to distinguish sharply between the human and the nonhuman. This paper explores expressions of this tendency in developmental theories that set as the criterion of maturity the actualization of some capacity that is believed to set humans apart from animals. Seeing relationships with animals as marginally important in human development and life is a consequence of these assumptions. Simultaneously, these assumptions also marginalize the body. This constitutes a dual renunciation of body and animal, criticized for its effects both on inquiry and on our realization of the roles and values of nonhuman animals in development. Such research can help reveal the self-organizing nature of the human animal body.

Affiliations: 1: WESTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY

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