What Is Developmental Psychology?

Developmental psychology is the study of the psychological changes that human beings undergo throughout their lifespan. This article will tell you more about developmental psychology and possible education options in the field. Schools offering Developmental Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

The Field of Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychology is the study of how our mental capabilities, such as logic, language, and problem solving, progress as we age. Developmental psychologists are interested in the human development of emotions, morals, culture, and identity. In this career, you'll participate in both clinical and field research to trace human development from infancy and childhood to adolescence and adulthood. You may study issues like nature versus nurture, language acquisition, and cognitive development.

Important Facts About Psychologists

Median Salary (2018) $76,990 (for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists)
Required Education Doctoral degree
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 14% (for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists)
Work Environment Private practice offices, clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, mental health facilities

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Nature Versus Nurture

You will likely do work involving the debate over whether internal factors like our personality (nature) or external factors like our upbringing (nurture) have a greater impact on development. Language acquisition is an example of a topic you may study in this area. Some developmental psychologists believe that we learn language by hearing others use it (nurture), while other psychologists believe that we have an inherent grasp of the language (nature). Nature versus nurture studies on this topic may focus on the cultural aspects of language learning, like what type of household the child is reared in, as well as the neurological components of language and how the brain is activated during speech.

Cognitive Development

Cognitive development is another area of developmental psychology that you may study. One theory you may cover is psychologist Jean Piaget's idea that there are different stages of cognitive development that formulate in infancy and continue into adulthood. In college programs, you may take courses that are based on Piaget's findings. These courses may focus on tracing how infants learn about the world around them, explore how young children develop their gender identity over time, or look at the development of abstract logic in adolescents.

Educational and Career Opportunities

If you want to study developmental psychology, you can earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Developmental Psychology. To graduate from a program, you usually must complete a master's thesis, pass a qualifying exam, and then finalize a dissertation project. You might take classes in psychobiology, adult learning, social psychology, and personality theories. Many programs focus on applying developmental psychology principles to social issues like child welfare, minority rights, and urban living.

With your degree, you can enter research or teach at a university. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that postsecondary psychology teachers earned an average wage of $76,710 yearly as of May 2018. You can also work as a clinical psychologist and specialize in cognitive and developmental issues. According to the BLS, clinical, counseling, and school psychologists working in health practitioners' offices earned an average salary of $96,930 per year as of May 2018, and those employed with specialty care hospitals averaged $93,730 that year.

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