People describing the birth of their first child often sound overly sentimental, using words like miraculous, life-changing and astounding. For those not enmeshed in child rearing, new parents appear overly melodramatic. But those working in the field of Developmental Psychology relate to the excitement of bringing a new life into the world and watching it develop.
Developmental psychology professionals share new parents' astonishment, yet their excitement doesn't end with infancy or early childhood. Developmental psychology professionals are equally interested in what happens between a person's conception and last breath; the whole of life excites and fascinates. They want to know how and why people change, or why some don't change, over the course of time.
Stages of Development
The area breaks down the study of human development into the following stages and categories:
Additionally, groups are delineated into sub-categories, such as preschool-aged and school-aged children, early and late adolescence, and early, middle and late adulthood.
Karen Bartsch, a developmental psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyo., said that professionals often break down the field into age groups based on the research methods used to study the groups. For example, behavioral research methods are used to study infants (birth to age 2) because these children can’t talk or tell a researcher how they’re feeling or what they’re thinking. While the 3 to 7 age group can talk, they have a short attention span, and researchers have to adjust their speech so that children understand. Also, some researchers study a topic like memory across every age category, Bartsch said, from infancy to old age .
To understand the depth and scope of this field, consider how many changes a person actually undergoes in a lifetime. Imagine the photos on a memory board or in a scrapbook for a person’s 75th birthday party, for instance, and think about the variations in physical appearance for this person from infancy onward. Some of the pictures might not even look at all like the person celebrating his or her birthday.
Physical appearance changes, but photographs often give us a glimpse of other changes occurring simultaneously, such as emotional, cognitive, and social changes; developmental psychology professionals explore these changes as well.
Where do Developmental Psychology Professionals Work?
Developmentalists also study and research all the contextual influences that impact change, such as socioeconomic conditions, culture, and genetics. Family, parenting styles, divorce, friends, religion, poverty, physical and emotional abuse, and educational levels all play significant roles in influencing a person's development and behavior.