Developmental Psychology

Course CodeBPS210
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Study Developmental Psychology Online

Learn How To Understand Normal Growth & Development Throughout Life

Developmental psychology is concerned with how people develop from infancy to late adulthood. It examines the main changes which take place (social, psychological, physical, emotional and behavioural) and how they affect the individual. It is valuable knowledge to have for people working in caring and health roles especially, but also related fields.

Develop Your Career Helping Others

Study this course to improve your understanding of different stages of cognitive, moral and social development from early childhood through to late adulthood. Find out what the main theories have to say about what to expect from life. Learn about key processes at different stages of life and what happens as we move from childhood to old age.

This course covers fascinating areas of human enquiry, such as:

  • Key concepts and theories involved in developmental psychology
  • Early and middle childhood
  • The challenges of adolescence
  • Early and middle adulthood
  • The challenges of adulthood
  • Late adulthood
  • The experiences and losses of late adulthood
  • Childhood developmental stages
  • Stages of adult thinking
  • And much more... 

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Theoretical approaches and key concepts
    • Lifelong growth, nature/nurture; theories – psychodynamic, behavioural, social cognitive, cognitive, lifespan;
  2. Early childhood
    • cognitive and social development in the first 6 years
    • Genetics, personality, cognition, recognition, memory, social relationships;
  3. Middle childhood
    • cognitive, moral and social development in the school years
    • Motor skills, cognitive and language development, relationships with family and peers, moral development;
  4. Challenges of middle childhood
    • School and learning, sense of self, achievement, peer pressure, family breakup, grief and trauma
  5. Adolescence ... cognitive, moral and social development
    • Cognitive development, moral development, identity, relationships with family and peers;
  6. Challenges of adolescence
    • Sexuality, peer groups, identity vs role confusion, trauma, depression, values and meaning;
  7. Adulthood - cognitive and psychosocial development in early and middle adulthood
    • Sexuality, parenthood. work and achievement, moral reasoning, gender roles, cultural perspectives, adult thinking;
  8. Challenges of adulthood
    • Marriage and divorce, grief, depression, parenting, dealing with change;
  9. Late adulthood - cognitive and psychosocial changes in older people
    • Intelligence, learning and age, physiological influences, cognitive abilities, personality changes, relationships;
  10. Challenges of late adulthood
    • Loss, mourning, depression and suicide in older people, the ageing brain - dementia etc, integrity vs despair, loss of independence.

What You Will Do

  • Learn key theories and concepts in the study of developmental psychology;
  • List major ethical concerns when studying development, and one step a researcher can take to reduce each;
  • Identify cognitive and social aspects of a small child’s development and some key inherent and external influences;
  • Describe the phases of language acquisition in infants, and what can adversely affect it;
  • Describe major cognitive, moral and social developments in middle childhood and how they influence behaviour
  • Compare short term memory with long term memory in middle childhood, and discuss how this affects the child’s ability to learn;
  • Identify common psychological challenges faced by children from ages 6 to puberty;
  • Reflect on your own success and failure experiences, and your own sense of competence in middle childhood. Consider how they affected your perceptions of yourself as you matured;
  • Identify areas of change that will affect adolescent behaviour and thinking;
  • Explain post formal thought, and consider how it can contribute to an adolescent’s ability or willingness to make moral choices;
  • Identify challenges common to adolescence, and ways to deal with them;
  • Explain individuation. Discuss its importance, and how it can both challenge and complement group identity;
  • Identify changes that can occur in early and middle adulthood and influence behaviour;
  • Explain K. Warner Schaie’s ‘stages of adult thinking’ and explain why Schaie’s model might be more relevant to understanding adult cognition than Piaget’s cognitive model;
  • Identify some key challenges faced in adulthood and ways of coping with them;
  • List some changes that are typically associated with ‘midlife crisis’. Discuss both negative and positive aspects of ‘midlife crisis’;
  • Identify effects of physiological changes and life experience on the aged person’s cognitive and psychosocial experiences;
  • Explain how ‘cognitive plasticity’ can affect an older person’s ability to learn despite brain cell loss;
  • Research depression and suicide among older people;
  • Research ways that an older person can be made to feel more independent and autonomous. Consider in your response what family members can do to respect the older person’s need for autonomous.



Sample Course Notes - How Do Children Develop Socially?

Experts have often emphasised that  the first years of life being are crucial to later development.

For Bowlby, the first five years were seen as the most influential. For Freud, problems in the first year of life could have repercussions throughout one's life. Recent research has found that some 80% of the brain's neural pathways are formed by the age of three, and 92% by age four. This would suggest early experiences in terms of stimulation, education, and play are extremely important. Most British schools now have a pre-school attached where children from the age of 3 can attend for up to 15 hours per week.  

Whilst some would argue that early difficulties and deficits can be overcome, at least to some degree, it does seem that early experiences play a pivotal role in later development. It is useful to consider some of the ways in which children can be adversely affected by not getting a balance in their lives.

Institutionalised Children  

Children who are reared in institutions such as orphanages are often unable to form attachments through social interactions with a key individual for several reasons. Firstly, staff are encouraged not to form attachments with them, secondly there is often a high turnover of staff, and thirdly each child is likely to have number of different caregivers.

In a classic study, children who were institutionalised before the age of four months were observed by Tizard and Hodges. They reviewed the children before age two, and again when they were four and then eight years of age.    

Children were divided into four groups:

  • Those who were adopted.
  • Those who remained in the institution.
  • Those who were returned to their natural mother.
  • A control group of children living with their natural parents in similar socio-economic circumstances.

At age four, adopted children showed greater friendliness to strangers, those still in the institutions were more clingy towards adults but only formed shallow attachments and most did not care much about anyone.

At age eight, those who had been reunited with their natural mothers showed by far the greatest incidence of behavioural problems at home

and were less attached to their mothers. The children who had been removed from the institutions were rated as having more behavioural problems by their teachers than the control group, and again those who had been reunited with their mother had more problems.

Another important finding was that only around half of the caretakers in the institutions and the natural mothers said they played with their children during the week whereas 70-90% of the control group parents and adoptive parents did.

Adopted Children

Given the emphasis which has been placed on the importance of the first five years of life, many agencies have preferred to only give up children for adoption within this time frame. Some studies have looked at the effects of adoption on those aged over the age of five when adopted.

In one such study, Kadushin found that in most cases out of 91 families of late adopted children, the children had developed close attachments with their parents and showed little sign of their earlier experiences after six years of adoption. Other studies have delivered similar findings but only where the children are provided with the appropriate social setting and emotional love and support needed to turn around their early deficits.   

Adopted children would seem to have a more positive sense of self compared to children who are neglected and this may stem from their social context i.e. they are socially accepted and encouraged to become involved in social group. 

Disrupted Home Lives

There is some suggestion that parents who experienced disrupted home lives themselves may form maladaptive relationships with their own children which in turn affects the types of attachments the children make, but it is something of a grey area. It seems more likely that a combination of factors is affecting the parents' interactions with the children such as current socioeconomic standing and current psychological health as well as marital conflict when the parents were children, whether they were separated from their parents or rejected by them, and so forth. Therefore, disrupted home lives is only part of the story.    


Who is this course suitable for?

This course is intended to be of value to psychology students and others interested in learning about humans and how they develop through their lives. For example:

  • Psychotherapists
  • Teachers
  • Carers
  • Counsellors
  • Social workers
  • Support workers
  • Youth workers
  • Community workers


Is this the right course for you?

  • If you want to learn more about people's behaviour.
  • If you want to learn more about how people change during their lifetimes.
  • If you want to understand the theories behind developmental psychology.

- Then this is the course for you. You can enrol today to start learning more about developmental psychology.


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