Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Latent Growth Analysis of Hierarchical Complexity and Perspectival Skills in Adulthood

Clinton J. Fuhs, School of Human and Organizational Development

Problem: A range of developmental models have been applied in research on leader development. Such applications often advocate “whole” person approaches to leader growth. They seek to expand social, cognitive, and behavioral capacities, and often reference perspective taking. Many of these approaches define developmental levels in terms of specific content, ideas, and domain-specific capacities. In some models, people are said to be at a given level because they demonstrate a certain
kind of perspective taking, and they are also expected to demonstrate that kind of perspective taking because they are at a given level. This circularity largely prevents the investigation of how different capacities change together (or not) over time.

Purpose: Using an approach that avoids this kind of circularity it was possible to examine perspectival skills and developmental level independently. I tested three hypotheses about the relationship between change in developmental level and change in perspective taking, seeking, and coordination. It was predicted that these constructs would exhibit patterns of synchronous and asynchronous change, with the former being most prominent."

Method: The sample consisted of 598 civil leaders who completed a developmental assessment called the Lectical™ Decision Making Assessment (LMDA) up to 4 times over a 9-month leadership development program. The LDMAs yielded separate scores for Lectical level—a domain-general index of hierarchical complexity—and perspective taking, seeking, and coordination. Perspective taking and seeking scores were disaggregated into component scores for salience, accessibility, and sophistication. Ten scores were analyzed with Latent growth modeling techniques. Four types of models were fit to these data: (a) Univariate latent growth curve models, (b) multivariate parallel process models, (c) univariate latent difference scores models, and (d) bivariate latent difference scores models.

Results: All hypotheses were partially confirmed. Change trajectories for most scores were non linear, characterized by dips and spurts. The rate of change in perspective scores was not related to rate of change for Lectical score or initial Lectical score. Initial Lectical score was positively related to initial perspective scores. Lectical score was a leading indicator of subsequent change in seeking and seeking salience. Lectical change positively impacted seeking change, whereas Lectical score positively impacted seeking salience change.

Conclusions: The relationship between change in these constructs is more complex than typically portrayed. Evidence suggests that these variables change more independently of each other than claimed in earlier research. Patterns of asynchronous change were three times more common than synchronous change, and Lectical score predicted change in only some aspects of perspectival capacity. Implications for theory, method, and pedagogy, along with study limitations and
avenues for future research are discussed.

Key Words: Adult development, leader development, cognitive development, structural development, skill theory, Lectical Assessment System, Lectical level, hierarchical complexity, perspective taking, perspective seeking, perspective coordination, latent growth modeling, latent growth curve modeling, latent difference score models.

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