The theory describes stages as patterns of behavior which are typical for a certain development period and it leads to a different pattern that is more advanced and more unusual Olson & Byron, 1942()
The organismic meta-theory is represented by Erikson's theory of personality which illustrates an important feature of the development in an organismic viewpoint. At each stage of development, there is the resolution of a particular crisis which is a turning point and which serves as a healthy balance between the opposing traits of the particular stage of development. The resolution of this crisis leads to the development of a virtue which is a good thing. If the crisis goes unresolved, the person struggles with the crisis and this impedes the healthy development of the individual Hoogendyk & Richardson, 1980()
The organismic view is associated with the structural or qualitative changes. It states that a person is different in a qualitative view point as they continue to develop. The organismic view is also associated some sort of discontinuity which is market by the stages of development. It states that the organism is composed of various parts which are interconnected and interrelated to make the complete organized whole being. The difference between the mechanistic meta-theory and the organismic meta-theory is that the organismic meta-theory understands the whole and not just the individual parts that make the whole Hoogendyk & Richardson, 1980()
By looking at aging in an organismic view, we can see that development of the individual occurs in stages and so does aging. Aging occurs in distinct stages and it comes from within the person and is not directed by external forces. Aging is genetically prewired. Aging is also viewed as a progressive change in the structure of the individual and is directed towards a particular goal or end point. In the organismic view, aging is viewed as the endpoint in the development of human beings.
The contextual meta-theory looks at the act itself in its context. This means that it analyzes the dynamic event in terms of its setting. The act itself is not isolated from the individual. The meta-theory states that individuals shape their own stages of development. It also placed emphasis on the interaction of the individual with its environment Halliday, 2007()
The contextual meta-theory asserts that development is both continuous and discontinuous. It is continuous in the context that it moves from one moment to the next one while discontinuous in the sense that the goals, objectives and contexts continue shifting. The context includes the individual beliefs, aspirations and interpretations of the person Engel, 2004()
The meta-theory states that the individual influences their own context which influences their own development. Contextualists state that development is both qualitative and quantitative. The contextualists look at development in terms of the changes that occur in what people do and they do not do development as gearing toward any particular goal and endpoint Halliday, 2007()
The contextual view of aging looks at the individual as an ever changing being and aging is as a result of the interaction between the environment of the individual and the individual. Contextualists view aging as a result of the interaction of the psychological, sociological, biological and historical factors in the development of an individual. The contextual meta-theory acknowledges that the external environment plays a huge role in aging.
The three meta-theories of aging describe all look at aging from different angles. The mechanistic meta-theory looks at aging as a result of the individual reacting to changes caused by external and internal stimuli. The organismic meta-theory states that aging is a stage in the development of individuals and thus it begins with the individual. The contextual meta-theory states that aging is as a result of the various factors external to the environment of the individual.
Courtright, J.A., Fairhurst, G.T., & Rogers, L.E. (1989). Interaction Patterns in Organic and Mechanistic Systems. The Academy of Management Journal, 32(4), 773-802.
Engel, M. (2004). What's Wrong with Contextualism, and a Noncontextualist Resolution of the Skeptical Paradox. Erkenntnis (1975-), 61(2/3), 203-231.
Glennan, S. (2002). Rethinking Mechanistic Explanation. Philosophy of Science, 69(S3), S342-S353.
Halliday, D. (2007). Contextualism, Comparatives and Gradability. Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition, 132(2), 381-393.
Hoogendyk, C.G., & Richardson, J.L. (1980). The Organismic Community Concept. BioScience, 30(12), 800.