Social Relations Across the Life Span: Scientific Advances, Emerging Issues, and Future Challenges

Accumulating evidence demonstrates the importance of social relations at all stages of life (infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age) and in diverse domains of life (including health and well-being). To illustrate the newest advancements in the scientific study of social relations over the life course, we address five emerging areas of importance: societal and demographic changes in family structure; effects of new technologies on social relations; the fundamental influence of context on social relations, illustrated with the sample case of health; the role of social relations in the unfortunate but pressing crisis of trauma among the increasing number of refugees worldwide; and, finally, effects of social relations on cognitive functioning in late life. Each of these areas highlights critical key concepts and methodological approaches, illustrating that the study of social relations is demanding but holds great promise for meeting the urgent needs of developmental science specifically and society generally.