Coming of Age in Mississippi, by Anne Moody was an autobiography that gave a jolting account of what life was like for each of them growing up. Through the eyes of the child in the midst of growing up, Moody told stories about what it meant to be growing up as Black girl in a world dominated by whites In an earlier paper, I had mentioned the notion that "once a child is born, it has no control or say about the world that it inherits and that is why it is important to realize that the dimensions which shape and define that world are rooted in the social reality of the environment that surrounds them. W.I. Thomas notes in his theory of "Definition of the Situation" that, "the child is always born into a group of people among whom all the general types of situation which may arise have already been defined and corresponding rules of conduct developed, and where he has not the slightest chance of making his definitions and following his wishes without interference. (Thomas, 1923)." He also wrote that "If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences". In the case of Moody, she came up in a world where the situations were already defined for them and the consequences they would have to endure throughout their developmental process.
How is Thomas's idea of "definition of the situation" relevant? It proves to be relevant in understanding Moody's developmental process from a contextual perspective, where the main focus is on how it occurs in real world settings. The central idea in developmental contextualism is that changing, reciprocal relations (or dynamic interactions) between individuals and the multiple contexts within they live compromise the essential process of human development (Lerner, 1995; Lerner, 1986: Lerner & Kauffman, 1985). In order to understand the nature of context in a given situation that an individual is operating in, one must also understand the different rules that shape and define the environment of that context.