What is Developmental Psychology?
Developmental psychology is defined as the systematic study of an individual’s emotional, psychological, and perception changes that take place during the course of the individual’s different life stages. Developmental psychology is also commonly referred to as human development. This field of study was initially concerned with children but later expanded to include the later stages of life (adolescence, adulthood, and late adulthood). It studies different areas including psycho-physiological processes, language acquisition, cognitive development, identity and self-concept formation, and social and emotional development. Developmental psychology interacts with several other fields including: social psychology, educational psychology, ecological psychology, cognitive psychology, child psychology, forensic developmental psychology, and comparative psychology.
What are the different theories used in Developmental Psychology?
Over the years, several theories have been established about developmental psychology, which provided a clearer and better understanding of this field. Some of the commonly known theories are developed by famous developmental psychologists. They are the following:
• Theory of Cognitive Development – Jean Piaget
• Historical Theory/ Social Constructivism – Lev Vygotsky
• Ecological Systems Theory – Urie Bronfenbrenner
• Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development – Lawrence Kohlberg
• Attachment Theory – John Bowlby, Harry Harlow, Mary Ainsworth
• Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Developement – Erik Erikson
• Psychosexual Development – Sigmund Freud
• Modular Theory of Social Development – Judith Rich Harris
• Social Learning Theory – Albert Bandura
• Behaviourism – B. F. Skinner, John B. Watson, Ivan Pavlov
• Structural Cognitive Modifiability – Reuven Feuerstein
• Ecological Psychology – Eleanor Gibson
What do Developmental Psychologists do?
In general, they examine the social, cognitive, and physiological growth that occurs during the different stages of an individual’s life. Moreover, they are primarily interested in the interaction between an individual’s behavior, personal characteristics, and environmental factors, and their impact on the individual’s development. As developmental psychology concentrates on the interaction between physical development and psychological processes in an individual’s life, developmental psychologists can specialize in behavioural characteristics during infancy, childhood, adolescence and also in later stages of an individual’s life. They can also specialize in studying various developmental disabilities, as well as their effects on the individual and treatment for these disabilities. They can also conduct research and teach at colleges and universities. Because of the wide range of this field of study, most developmental psychologists prefer to specialize in a particular stage of life (e.g. infancy, childhood, adulthood, etc).
Where can Developmental Psychologists work?
Developmental psychologists can be employed in various settings including schools, hospitals, mental health facilities, private organizations, and other organizations. If employed in school settings, a developmental psychologist usually counsels students, conducts assessments, diagnoses learning disorders, and works with families to help students cope with academic, social, and emotional problems. Those employed in court settings usually help prepare clients (mostly children or young adults) to testify in court or work with them in the occurrence of child custody disputes.
Developmental psychologists employed in hospitals or private mental health facilities work directly with clients, and with individuals having disabilities as well as their families to help overcome their psychological, social, emotional problems. They also assess clients, administer psychological tests, and diagnose mental disorders. Developmental psychologists can also offer these services through setting up a private practice.
What are the requirements in order to become a Developmental Psychologist?
In order to become a developmental psychologist, an individual must first earn a master’s or doctoral degree. But
it should be noted that M.A. programs in developmental psychology are quite limited. Moreover, those having master’s degree have fewer employment options and have considerably lower salaries than those of a developmental psychologist holding a doctoral degree. M.A. programs usually take 2 years to complete wherein students are exposed to various classes, supervised internships, and fieldwork opportunities. But unlike other fields, a master’s degree is not a prerequisite for a doctorate program in developmental psychology.
Most of the developmental psychologists either have a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). Usually both of these two doctorate degrees take 4-6 years to complete. The main difference between the two is that the PsyD programs emphasize more on clinical training and less on research compared to the Ph.D. programs. Doctoral students have internships and/or supervised clinical practices related to their chosen specializations (e.g. teaching assistantships, research opportunities, or hospital internships).
In the U.S., psychologists in this field who want to go into private practice must become certified within their area of residence in order for them to practice their profession. The American Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards provides more information about certification matters.
How much is a Developmental Psychologist’s salary?
In 2010, the average annual salary of a developmental psychologist practicing in the U.S. ranges from $69,007.00 to $90,326.00. The highest 10% of them earned about $101,088.00/year. However, it should be noted that salaries can vary, depending on the level of education and experience of the developmental psychologist, type of employer, the area of work/kind of work setting, and other factors as well.
How much is the demand for Developmental Psychologists?
Based on the U.S. Department of Labor, an increase in the number of available jobs is expected to happen over the coming years. The need for professionals who are able to evaluate, diagnose, assess, and treat individuals with social, mental, emotional, and developmental problems may help increase the demand for developmental psychologists. The increasing elderly population may raise the need for psychologists specialized in the field gero-psychology as they will assist the elderly in coping with the physical, emotional, and mental changes that takes place as the elderly grow older.