University of Crete, Greece
Thesis: Children, Adolescents and Youth in Greek Crisis: Navigating Through Developmental Crossroads of a Cultural-Historical Challenge
Research supervisor: Dafermos Manolis

My name is Akalestou Lamprini – Theodora and I am a psychologist. I undertook my undergraduate studies at the Department of Psychology, University of Crete, where I graduated in 2016. During my undergraduate studies, I was interested in the specialized seminars on the history and the epistemological foundations of psychology, as well as the Cultural – Historical Approach, taught by Associate Professor, Manolis Dafermos. The first paper assignment I chose to undertake in the first year of my studies in the framework of the course “Introduction to Philosophy”, was the Theory of Social Constructivism inspired by Kenneth Gergen and how it affects the organization of modern societies. My interest then concentrated on the epistemological theories on “Unification” and “Fragmentation” in the field of Psychology. Indeed, the specific paper assignment that I wrote during my third year of studies was published in 2015 at the 1st Panhellenic Conference of Epidemiology in Greece, where it was rated “excellent” by the conference judges (Akalestou & Dafermos, 2017).

In the fourth and final year of my studies, influenced by the unfavourable social and economic conditions in Greece and having a clear interest in Developmental Psychology and the Cultural – Historical Approach of L.S. Vygotsky, I decided to conduct a critical review of the impact of the economic crisis on the development of young people in Greece through the prism of Vygotsky’s theory, supervised by Associate Professor Manolis Dafermos. In fact, part of this work was published in 2016 in the “Eleftherna” Scientific Magazine, published each year by the academic faculty of the Department of Psychology, University of Crete (Akalestou & Dafermos, 2016).

After completing my undergraduate studies, I undertook a one-year training in “Developmental Psychopathology” at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, where I was given the opportunity to understand in depth the most important risk factors for child and adolescent development and to be trained in addressing those factors. I am currently a postgraduate student at the “Analysis and Implementation of Social Policy” postgraduate program, Panteion University in Athens, majoring at the field of “Social Problems and Social Policy”. The economic crisis in Greece and the impact of social inequalities on the well-being of young people continue to be at the heart of my interests.

At the same time, I am currently working as a psychologist in a non-governmental organization where I work with people with mental disabilities and autism, as well as with their families. In the past (September 2016 – March 2018) I worked as a Psychologist at the “Mental Health Institute” of Dr. Thanos Askitis and the at “Depression Control Center” in Athens. In this context, I was given the opportunity to gain valuable experience being close to young people and their families, as also to acknowledge the everyday mental challenges that they face due to the economic and political upheaval in Greece. Several articles of mine in relation to the aforementioned working context (as a Psychologist) can be found published in various Greek websites.

Through the valuable theoretical knowledge and the experience that I have accumulated through my studies and work, I developed the incentive to proceed with a PhD thesis (“Children, Adolescents and Youth in Greek Crisis: Navigating Through Developmental Crossroads of a Cultural-Historical Challenge”), which studies both the mental development of young children in conditions of economic and social uncertainty, as also the role of the Psychology science itself in the collective (in social terms) overcoming of this phenomenon. In the present time and in collaboration with Associate Professor Manolis Dafermos, we are working on updating the review data we published in 2016. Indeed, the results of this work are expected to be presented for the first time this March at the ISCAR International Conference at Ioannina: “10 Years of Economic Crisis (2008-2018): A Real Developmental Challenge for Children, Adolescents and Young People in Greece (A Critical Review)”.

Through my undergraduate thesis, which I completed in 2016, I understood that the Cultural – Historical Approach of L.S. Vygotsky for the mental development of the child and adolescent, was formed within a revolutionary social framework, which now resembles the Greek society of the crisis. Having received significant influences from the perspectives of Marxism and dialectic, Vygotsky systematically addressed the processes of cognitive, emotional, linguistic and social development of the child and adolescent, and managed to highlight the inevitably multidimensional nature of these processes. According to his theory, mental development is not a linearly evolving process. The child manages to develop his thoughts and activity through a series of successive “crises” and conflicts with both himself and his environment. But what happens when human development is mediated by a cultural-historical context that is affected by the crisis? What kind of challenges do children and teenagers face? What is the role of family and school as cultural mediators in these processes? And finally, how the science of Psychology itself can contribute to understanding these “crises”? The goal of integrating Lev Vygotsky’s approach in our work is to shed light on the various aspects of these questions.

I believe that my participation in the ISCAR Summer University will help me to broaden my knowledge in the field of Cultural-Historical Psychology in a meaningful way, as I will be given the opportunity to come into contact with leading international experts both in theoretical and practical application. It is understood that much of Vygotsky’s theory on childhood and adolescent development is currently being used in a fragmented way or misinterpreted by modern scholars. One of the most important purposes of my participation in this program is to present the progress of the research we have done in collaboration with Dr. M. Dafermos and to receive valuable feedback from you in relation to my future research steps. Together we will examine how Vygotsky’s theory can be interpreted according to the needs and challenges of the modern European world. The fruitful dialogue and the exchange of views with some of the most inspiring thinkers and followers of the Cultural-Historical tradition will undoubtedly be a unique experience for me.