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Development discourse for socio -emotional well -being

Friedrich Wolfgang Affolter, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Socio-emotional (or psycho-social) well-being, established through nurturing relationships and community experiences, enable children and adults to evolve into caring, non-violent, emotionally-healthy citizens. As globalization, social changes and political unrest have—in recent decades—led to increased levels of “socially constructed uncertainty” (Marris, 1991), they put a squeeze on social support networks and caretaking relationships, and jeopardize the prospects for the constructive satisfaction of fundamental psychological needs across diverse segments of human societies. This dissertation evaluated purposefully-selected development texts' tendencies to make socio-emotionally conducive—or neglectful—program recommendations, by proposing and applying a socio-emotional capacity building framework that draws from research produced in the areas of developmental psychology, peace psychology, and sociology. A mixed-methods text-analytical approach was deployed that combines ideological and critical discourse analyses, as well as quantitative/qualitative content analyses for determining the extent to which development texts acknowledge the relevance of socio-emotional well-being for human and social capital development. The study followed an expertise-based evaluation model called “connoisseurship and criticism” (Eisner, 2002), by first describing and analyzing policy texts, and subsequently engaging in a critical text evaluation. The study found that UN conference reports indirectly acknowledge the relevance for socio-emotional enablement and protection, in the context of discussions related to human and children's rights, education, or women's empowerment. However, they only marginally discuss the need to foster socio-emotional well-being as a human capacity development rationale per se. The IMF, while acknowledging responsibility for the social conduciveness of macro-economic development interventions, does not discuss issues related to socio-emotional capacity development. The World Bank's strategic plan and other strategy papers touch on issues of socio-emotional capacity development only tangentially. The study concludes that the discourse communities that have authored the development texts analyzed in this study largely ignore the question of socio-emotional well-being for human and social capital development. Their discourse “backgrounds” discussions about the kind and nature of social structures necessary for nurturing socio-emotional enablement and well-being. Developmental psychologists are challenged to “infect” socio-economic development discourse by calling for the effective integration of the theme of socio-emotional well-being into socio-economic development publications.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Welfare|International law|International relations

Recommended Citation

Affolter, Friedrich Wolfgang, "Development discourse for socio -emotional well -being" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3078666.