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Developmental Psychology

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Developmental Psychology

Humans change throughout their course of life. There are different aspects of change, such as physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional developments. These are in turn influenced by your biology, upbringing, and environment. Developmental psychology is a branch in psychology that attempts to understand such changes, their causes, and their implications.

  • What is developmental psychology?
  • What are important concepts and theories in developmental psychology?
  • What are some issues in developmental psychology?

A Definition of Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychology is a branch of the discipline that dissects the changes that happen over the course of human life. It is primarily concerned about how humans develop, as well as factors that influence these changes over time. Developmental psychologists assess the cognitive, social, and emotional development of individuals to create recommendations needed to improve life outcomes.

Developmental Psychology Parent and child illustrating human development StudySmarter Parent and child illustrating human development, pexels.com

What are the Goals of Developmental Psychology?

The different areas of developmental psychology have three main goals.

Evaluating Individual Development

People who seek the help of developmental psychology experts will often undergo evaluations, which seek to describe the individual's current concerns. By doing so, experts can create an explanation that would help in formulating the right strategies or treatment.

A parent seeks help for her child who does not like conversing in school and other public settings, preferring to talk only within private spaces such as the home.

Explaining Individual Development

In order to formulate a customized treatment or strategy for each individual, it is essential to explain the potential causes of concern. Understanding people's backgrounds, upbringing, associated health conditions, and other essential details can help in creating an explanation regarding the individual's development.

The developmental psychologist discovers that the family has a history of anxiety disorders, and the child's symptoms point to a condition called selective mutism.

Finding Solutions for Improved Development

After assessing and finding the causes of concern, the next goal of developmental psychology is to find solutions. These include therapy, environmental modifications, home interventions, and other strategies.

The child is recommended to take age-appropriate behavioral therapy. Progress will be assessed throughout the course of treatment.

Areas of Developmental Psychology

Human development is evident in different aspects. In developmental psychology, these are what we call domains or areas of study.

Physical

Physical development covers the areas of gross motor, fine motor, as well as sensory acuities. There are different gross motor and fine motor milestones that experts assess in a child, such as learning how to:

  • Hold up one's head

  • Rollover to one's side

  • Grasping

  • Crawling

  • Walking

  • Eating certain consistencies of food.

These physical milestones are observed per age range, to know if the individual exhibits typical development.

Cognitive

Cognitive development covers the individual's mental capacity and skills. Like physical development, the cognitive domain also looks into certain milestones that are seen through the individual's abilities to comprehend, solve problems, or use language to demonstrate mental capacity.

Examples of cognitive development include:

  • Learning to grasp objects and switch between hands

  • Object permanence

  • Begins thinking of abstract ideas and follows directions

  • Playing pretend using imagination skills

  • Turning door handles or opening jars.

Social and Emotional

The social and emotional domains are deeply tied with each other. Emotions are usually displayed through social interaction, while emotional states also affect social development. Children learn to interact with others through play, as nurtured by their caregivers. Some things that experts asses in this domain include:

  • Ability to cooperate with others

  • Showing kindness

  • Exhibiting empathy

  • Understanding morality.

    The social and emotional domains seek to assess an individual's capacity for social interactions, and their emotional maturity.

Developmental Psychology Children socializing with each other StudySmarterChildren socializing with each other, pexels.com

Language

Language is another unique domain in developmental psychology, as it deals with the child's ability to communicate with others. In many ways, it is tied to one's physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional development, but it assesses distinct aspects of communication.

Some children can comprehend language but have difficulties creating speech sounds. Others have very verbose language skills, but can have issues in having appropriate conversations. These are examples of what experts look into when evaluating the language domain.

Developmental Psychology Concepts

Many concepts in developmental psychology arise from the well-known theories surrounding human development. There is no single theory that can fully explain human development, but rather a combination of theories that give an in-depth understanding of people's multifaceted natures.

Examples of Developmental Psychology: Theories and Illustrations

Let's look at the following examples.

Theory of Psychosexual Development

Introduced by Sigmund Freud, this theory holds that having a healthy adult personality hinges upon the satisfaction and completion of each previous stage in psychosexual development. Freud was one of the first proponents of how early childhood experiences can shape adulthood personalities.

Theory of Psychosocial Development

Elaborating upon the theory of Sigmund Freud, Erik Erikson focused on a different area of child development, namely, "socio-emotional milestones" (Huitt, 2008).

According to Erikson, each stage of human life has certain points of conflict, wherein they must succeed to feel adequate. The failure to succeed in such a conflict can be a potential cause of the crisis. The theory of psychosocial development was highly regarded during the 20th century, due to its ability to interpret the growth and changes across an individual's total lifespan.

Behavioral Child Development Theory

There are several developmental psychologists who believe external stimuli can shape human behavior. Behaviorism, or the Behavioral Child Development Theory as introduced by John Watson seeks to explain that human development is an overall result of positive and negative reinforcements. These reinforcements, such as rewards and punishments, can strengthen or weaken certain behaviors throughout the course of human life.

Cognitive Development Theory

Jean Piaget introduced the concept of cognitive development as a pillar of human growth and change. According to this theory, there are certain ways that children learn to think across different age ranges.

Starting from relying on sensory experiences and motor skills, children move from concrete thinking towards the understanding of abstract concepts.

Attachment Theory

John Bowlby explained that children develop certain types of attachment with their caregivers. According to Attachment Theory, children have an innate need to feel secure and attached to their caregivers, who in turn provide them with care and support.

The types of attachments formed throughout childhood lead to the kind of adults relationships that individuals will form later in life.

Developmental Psychology Parent comforting child, forming secure attachments StudySmarterParent comforting child, pexels.com

Social Learning Theory

Social Learning Theory was proposed by Albert Bandura as an expansion of Behaviorism. He believed that reinforcements do not fully explain growth and changes in humans; it also occurs through observing others' behaviors.

Bandura stated that motivations for learning do not necessarily need classic conditioning interactions, but also observation of others within the social context. Children can learn from their parents, teachers, peers, and other people in their environment spontaneously, without the need for direct reinforcements.

Sociocultural Theory

Sociocultural Theory by Lev Vygotsky states that learning is deeply embedded in social experiences. Children learn best when they are given hands-on experiences. This is where individuals form paradigms about their understanding of the world.
Vygotsky also explained that there is a Zone of Proximal Development in the learning process; a stage where an individual can learn something with assistance, until they can master it on their own. This concept has influenced many educators on how teaching methods can be improved.

Major Issues in Developmental Psychology

Many of the theories mentioned above were proposed in response to the major issues within developmental psychology. These issues include:

Effect of Genetic and Environmental Factors on Human Development

Developmental psychologists have long been debating if human development is a result of nature vs. nurture. A lot of the theories explain the importance of the environment, social experiences, and resolving conflict, which displays the importance of "nurture" in developmental psychology.

However, it is hard to deny that genetic factors also play a role in human growth, as evolutionary developmental psychology holds. Certain genetic adaptations were necessary throughout the course of evolution; these are evident in human development. Hereditary conditions such as disabilities and diseases also impact lifespan and the developmental process.

Pace of Human Development

A lot of earlier theories supported the separation of each stage in human development, but more recent understanding shows that there is evidence for continuous change. Psychology shows us that there are some aspects of growth and change that are gradual, such as puberty, or cognitive development during infancy.

Other supporting theories show us that external stimuli such as experiences can also continuously shape our personalities, which is outside the bounds of the life stages explained by earlier beliefs.

Personality Change

Certain personality traits are believed to be ingrained from infancy, such as those observed within child temperament psychology. Some theories also explain (directly and indirectly) how environment shapes personality, as laid out in social learning, behaviorism, and caregiver attachment.

Developmental Psychology: Understanding the Spectrum of Human Growth and Change

Developmental psychology is a branch of the discipline that is crucial in understanding growth and changes across an individual's lifespan. By understanding theories in development, how we learn, and how we are shaped by genetics and external influences, we get a deeper sense of the full spectrum of human growth and change.

Developmental Psychology - Key takeaways

  • Developmental Psychology is a branch of the discipline that dissects the changes that happen throughout human life.
  • The domains of developmental psychology are Physical, Cognitive, Socio-emotional, and Language.
  • The theories in human development explain the various ways individuals change as a result of environmental factors, genetic traits, as well as the stages of maturity found in each domain.
  • The three major issues in developmental psychology include how genetic or environmental influences affect human growth and change, how development is gradual or continuous across the lifespan, and how personality traits are stable or changing throughout life.

References

  1. Huitt, W. (2008). Socioemotional development. Educational psychology interactive.

Frequently Asked Questions about Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychology is a branch of the discipline that dissects the changes that happen throughout human life.

1. Evaluating individual development.

2. Explaining individual development.

3. Finding solutions for improved development.

The social and emotional domains seek to assess an individual's capacity in social interactions and emotional maturity.

1. How genetic and environmental factors affect human development.

2. Is human development gradual, or continuous over time.

3. Does personality remain the same, or does it change throughout human growth and development.

Among other things, they assess the cognitive, social, and emotional development of individuals to create recommendations needed to improve life outcomes.

Final Developmental Psychology Quiz

Question

True or false: There are biological and environmental factors that affect the human lifespan.

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True

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Question

What is the average life expectancy in affluent countries?

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80 years old

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What is the average life expectancy for countries with poor access to healthcare and social unrest?


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50 years old

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Give an example of how science improves the human lifespan.

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Answer

Genetic engineering

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What is the last stage of human development?

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Late adulthood stage

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What is the earliest stage of human development?


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Prenatal stage

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Sigmund Freud's Psychosexual Theory of Development has the following stages:

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Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency and Genital

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This theory of development was introduced by Jean Piaget.

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Theory of Cognitive Development

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True or false: The Theory of Psychosocial Development explains that when individuals are unable to achieve certain competencies in life, they elicit feelings of joy and contentment.

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False

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True or False: The Formal Operational Stage in Piaget's theory involves the ability to think in abstract concepts.

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True

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Who introduced the Moral Theory of Development?

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Lawrence Kohlberg

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True or False: The last stage in the Moral Theory of Development considers universal ethical principles.

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True

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What are the three sub-phases of the prenatal stage in human development?


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Germinal, embryonic, and fetal

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This is defined as the transition stage from childhood to adulthood.

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Adolescence

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True or False: Early Adulthood is between the ages of 20-35.

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True

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A branch of psychology that dissects the changes that happen throughout human life.

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Developmental Psychology

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What is one goal of Developmental Psychology?

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Evaluating the individual's development

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Which domain of Developmental Psychology is concerned with one's interaction with others?

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The Socioemotional Domain

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Give an example of an observation in the Physical Domain of Developmental Psychology.


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Motor Skills

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Give an example of an observation in the socioemotional domain of developmental psychology.

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Understanding morality

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This theory in Developmental Psychology deals with the socio-emotional developmental conflicts humans experience in each stage of life.

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Answer

Psychosocial Development Theory

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Question

In the Cognitive Development Theory, children start with sensorimotor learning and eventually form the ability to understand:

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Answer

Abstract Concepts

Show question

Question

This theory explains that children have the innate need to form secure attachments with their caregivers.


Show answer

Answer

Attachment Theory

Show question

Question

According to Lev Vygotsky, this is a stage where an individual can learn something with assistance until they can master it on their own.

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Answer

Zone of Proximal Development

Show question

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What is an example of a major issue in Developmental Psychology?

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Answer

How human development is gradual or continuous over time.

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Who proposed the Attachment Theory?


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John Bowlby

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Who proposed the Sociocultural Theory?

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Answer

Lev Vygotsky

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Bandura states that motivations for learning do not necessarily need classic conditioning interactions. True or false?


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Answer

True

Show question

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John Watson seeks to explain that human development is an overall result of positive and negative reinforcements. True or false?


Show answer

Answer

True

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John Bowlby introduced the concept of cognitive development as a pillar of human growth and change. True or false?

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False

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A person's _____ is determined by chromosomes, gonads, genitalia, and more.

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Sex

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A person's _____ is how they identity and present, regardless of sex characteristics.

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Gender

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_____ are the behaviors and personality traits that are expected of you, because of your gender.

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Gender roles

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Your _____ is who you are attracted to.

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Sexuality

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Your _____ sex characteristics include genitalia and reproductive organs.

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Primary

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Your _____ sex characteristics aren't directly involved in reproduction, such as breasts or facial hair.

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Secondary

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_____ people do not fit into the gender binary.

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Nonbinary

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_____ is the theory that children learn what it means to be male and female from those around them.

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Gender-Schema Theory

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Three main areas of focus for psychologists studying childhood development: 


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  1. Physical
  2. Cognitive 
  3. Social

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What is Attachment?

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Attachment is the emotional bond between a child and caregiver. It is considered one of the most important aspects of social development during infancy. 

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  Brain Maturation is a process that continues from                to               .

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prenatal  to adulthood

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Humans develop motor skills in the same sequence. True or false?

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True

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What are the four stages of Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive child development?  


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  1. Sensorimotor
  2. Preoperational
  3. Concrete Operational 
  4. Formal Operational

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What are the four childhood stages of Erickson's psychosocial development?

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  1. Trust-versus-mistrust stage 
  2. Autonomy-versus-shame and doubt stage 
  3. Initiative-versus-guilt stage
  4. Industry-versus-inferiority stage

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Question

This parenting style is based on a strict set of standards with matching punishments. 


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Authoritarian 

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                                     looks at how a child's relationships and environmental factors impact their growth and emotional health. 


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Social development

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This stage of a child's development is all about infants learning to trust their caregivers to fulfill their needs. 


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Trust-versus-mistrust stage 

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Anxious/ambivalent attachment is when babies show ambivalence to parents or show extreme distress when the parents are absent, but do not return to the parents when they return. True or false? 

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True

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This parenting style is based on a lack of clear rules; rules are absent, or they are constantly changing. This is often also associated with a lack of meaningful discipline for a child.  


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Answer

Permissive

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Which sexuality is attracted to two or more sexes?

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Answer

Bisexual

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