Developmental Psychology

The developmental approach within psychology is significant because it allows researchers to investigate several aspects of development, such as emotional development, cognitive development and biological development. This approach focuses on examining systematic changes which occur throughout the life span, from cradle to grave. These changes include both inherited factors (e.g. maturation) and lifetime experiences (e.g. interactions with other people).

This scientific study of human behaviour is concerned with changes over time and often conducts research on children, as this is when most changes occur. However, development within people’s behaviour during adulthood is also looked at.

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Assumptions of the approach

  • Behaviour is an ongoing process that occurs throughout the lifespan
  • Development occurs mostly during childhood, but people continue to develop during early adulthood, middle age, and senior years
  • Developmental changes result from an interaction of nature and nurture

Core Studies

The three core studies covered by this approach are as follows:

Evaluation of the approach

Strengths

+ Most research in this area uses the longitudinal design which allows the researcher to investigate the development of behaviour over time

+ Is not reductionist because it takes into account both sides of the nature-nurture debate

+ Has provided many useful applications to real life, for example helping children learn and deal with emotional difficulties

Weaknesses

– Tends to use children within research and therefore demand characteristics may occur, reducing the validity of explanations

– Using children within research raises many ethical issues  surrounding informed consent and debriefing

– Often uses small limited samples within research, and therefore findings tend to lack generalisability

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