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Introduction to Developmental Psychology



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What is Developmental Psychology?

Developmental psychology is the branch of psychology that studies how people grow and change over the course of a lifetime. Before you begin a more in depth study of this subject, you need to understand exactly what 'development' means. Developmental psychologists do not just study the physical changes that occur as people grow; they also look at the social, emotional, and cognitive development that occurs throughout life.

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How is Development Studied?

Developmental psychologists employ a number of different methods and techniques to study human development. Researchers utilize the scientific method to systematically gather and analyze information from which conclusions can be drawn. The steps involved in the scientific method are designed to promote objectivity and limit bias.

The Scientific Method
  1. Ask a question.
  2. Formulate a hypothesis.
  3. Test the hypothesis.
  4. Draw conclusions.
  5. Publish the findings.

You can learn more about the scientific methods as well as the research methods used by developmental psychologists in the following resources:

What are the Major Questions in Developmental Psychology?

There have been a number of important debates and issues throughout the history of developmental psychology. Some of the major questions posed by psychologists and researchers are centered on the relative contributions of genetics versus environment, the process through which development occurs, and the overall importance of early experiences versus that of later events.

The classic issue in child development research is the ‘nature vs. nurture’ debate. Does genetic inheritance play a larger role in influencing development and behavior, or does the environment have a stronger effect? Today, most psychologists recognize that both elements play an essential role, but the debate continues over many developmental questions about topics ranging from academic aptitude to sexual orientation.

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