Biodiversity Metrics in Lifespan Developmental Methodology
- Lizbeth BensonLizbeth BensonDepartment of Human Development and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University
- and Nilam RamNilam RamCollege of Health and Human Development, Pennsylvania State University, and German Institute for Economic Research (DIW)
In ecological sciences, biodiversity is the dispersion of organisms across species and is used to describe the complexity of systems where species interact with each other and the environment. Some argue that biodiversity is important to cultivate and maintain because higher levels are indicative of health and resilience of the ecosystem. Because each species performs functional roles, more diverse ecosystems have greater capability to respond, maintain function, resist damage, and recover quickly from perturbations or disruptions. In the behavioral sciences, diversity-type constructs and metrics are being defined and operationalized across a variety of functional domains (socioemotional, self, cognitive, activities and environment, stress, and biological). Emodiversity, for instance, is the dispersion of an individual’s emotion experiences across emotion types (e.g., happy, anger, sad). Although not always explicitly labeled as such, many core propositions in lifespan developmental theory—such as differentiation, dedifferentiation, and integration—imply intraindividual change in diversity and/or interindividual differences in diversity. For example, socioemotional theories of aging suggest that as individuals get older, they increasingly self-select into more positive valence and low arousal emotion inducing experiences, which might suggest that diversity in positive and low arousal emotion experiences increases with age. When conceptualizing and studying diversity, important considerations include that diversity (a) provides a holistic representation of human systems, (b) differs in direction, interpretation, and linkages to other constructs such as health (c) exists at multiple scales, (d) is context-specific, and (e) is flexible to many study designs and data types. Additionally, there are also a variety of methodological considerations in study of diversity-type constructs including nuances pertaining theory-driven or data-driven approaches to choosing a metric. The relevance of diversity to a broad range of phenomena and the utility of biodiversity metrics for quantifying dispersion across categories in multivariate and/or repeated measures data suggests further use of biodiversity conceptualizations and methods in studies of lifespan development.