l Is Development Psychology Science? Claudia P. Cisneros Georgia Northwestern Technical College PSYC 1101-Introduction to Psychology Craig Harston, Ph. D. , MBA September 14, 2011 To answer the question is Developmental Psychology science? We will take in consideration some definitions about Development, development Psychology, how it is studied, and the research methods in which this discipline is based. All this information will help us understand, analyze, and make a conclusion about if Developmental Psychology is a science or not. First, let’s review what development is.
Development describes the growth of humans through the lifespan, from conception to death. The scientific study of human development tries to understand and explain why people change throughout life. This includes all the aspects of human growth, including physical, emotional, intellectual, social, perceptual, and personality development. The scientific study of development is important not only to psychology, but also to sociology, education, and health care. Development does not just involve the biological and physical aspects of growth, but also the cognitive and social aspects associated with development throughout life.
Here is where psychology interlace with development, let’s then review the definition of developmental psychology. Developmental psychology is the scientific study of age-related changes throughout the human life span. Mainly focusing on the development of the human mind trough the life span, developmental psychology seeks to understand how people come to perceive, understand, and act within the world and how these processes change as they age. The early focus of developmental psychology was on child development, or the maturation of children.
Within in the last 25 years, developmentalists-researchers who studied human development expanded their focus to include the study of physical, motor, cognitive, intellectual, emotional, personality social and moral changes that occur throughout all stages of the life span. After defining what developmental psychology is, let’s explore how it is studied. The study of human development utilizes the scientific method to define problems, answer questions, and draw conclusions about developmental issues. The scientific method ? ethod of acquiring knowledge that involve observing a phenomenon, formulating hypothesis about it, making additional observations, refining and retesting hypotheses are used in developmental psychology. The study of developmental psychology begins with a hypothesis. Hypothesis is a tentative explanation of a phenomenon that can be tested and either supported or rejected. The main goal of research is analyze the problem or area of interest, collect information and data about the issue, and draw conclusions based on the information obtained, and then add or expand upon previously existing theories of development.
Human life-span developmental psychologists are interested with changes in the structure, though, feelings and behavior of human beings during the course of their lifetimes. Psychological research on development uses variety of different methods including, cross-sectional studies, longitudinal studies, experiments, correctional studies and case studies. The two major types of research are: Cross-sectional Research involves studies in which groups of people of different ages are observed at one time in their lives.
For example, a researcher might observe a group of young adults and compare this data with information gathered about a group of elderly participants. The benefit of this type of research is that it can be done relatively quickly; the research data is all gathered at the same point in time. However, because data is gathered from generations of people who share the same cultural experiences, these shared events may play a role in development. This makes it difficult to determine if something is caused by experience or the aging process. Longitudinal research involves studying the same group of individuals over a long period of time.
Following the same individual’s behavior enables us to analyze and understand developmental patterns. This kind of research provides maximum information about the overall process of growth, and permits evaluation of the accuracy of predictions of later behavior. Data is first collected at the outset of the study, and may then be gathered repeatedly throughout the length of the study. In some cases, longitudinal studies can last several decades. The benefit of this type of research is that it allows researchers to look at changes over time. However, longitudinal studies require considerable amounts of time, patience and money.
This is a main reason these studies often have only a small group of subjects, which makes it difficult to apply the results to a larger population. Another problem is that participants sometimes drop out of the study, minimizing the sample size and decreasing the amount of data collected. Once it has been decided which type of research to use, the next step is to determine how the information will be collected. There are a number of different research methods that are used in the study of developmental psychology, each with its own pros and cons.
Some common approaches include observation, case studies, questionnaires, and experimentation. Observation, there are two different types of observation. The first involves viewing the subject of interest in a laboratory setting. The benefit of this is that the situation can be controlled by the researcher. The disadvantage of lab observation is that individuals act differently in laboratory settings than in more natural settings, because the subject is aware that they are being studied. Both of these factors can have a great impact on results of the study.
Naturalistic observation allows researchers to observe participants in real-world settings. The strength of this method is that it allows researchers to view behavior as it happens in a natural setting. The disadvantage is that the researcher cannot control outside variables that might interfere behavior of the participants. A case study is an in-depth analysis of a particular individual who has an especial or unusual condition. Throughout the process of the case study, the researcher documents the condition, treatment, and effects in relation to each individual, and elaborates an individual case report.
While this research method provides a great deal of information about a specific person, the results are often difficult to generalize to larger populations. For this reason, case studies are most often used in clinical research or other cases where certain aspects of the subject’s life cannot be reproduced or duplicated. Questionnaires are often used to collect data on large groups of people. This option offers researchers a quick, easy way to collect information. One weakness of this method is that it reduces variety, creativity, and individuality of responses.
Depending on the nature of the issue, respondents may withhold information, feel uncomfortable with honest responses, or alter responses so as to appear socially desirable. In cases where the subject is unable to fill out a questionnaire, with very young children for example, questionnaires are not always a valid source of information. Experiments reduced to its simplest terms, an experiment consists of investigating the effects of change in one variable upon another variable. The variable that the researcher manipulates is referred to as independent variable.
The change the researcher measure is in the outcome, or dependent variable. In an experiment, the developmental psychologist attempts to hold constant as many factors as possible, except the independent variable. When the researcher manipulates the independent variable and observes a change in the dependent variable, some kind of relationship between the two is presumed to exist. This research method is the most scientific, but it can be difficult to use if the variables of interest are abstract or internal concepts. Another problem is that some variables of interest cannot be studied through experimentation for ethical reasons.
Examples of this would be research on the effects of child abuse on development. Whether or not a particular discipline, such as psychology, is a science has more to do with the methods used than with a particular area studied. If Science is a system of knowledge that explains a specific subject through evidence that can be evaluated by scientific methods, observation or experimentation; and ,developmental psychology utilizes scientific methods to define problems, answer questions, and draw conclusions about developmental issues, we have enough information to support that development psychology is a science.
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