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Western University
Psychology 2410A/B
Adam Cohen

WEEK 1: INTRODUCTION TO DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY AND ITS RESEARCH STRATEGIES What is Development? • Development: systematic continuities and changes in the individual over the course of life • By describing changes as “systematic” we imply that they are orderly, patterned, and relatively enduring, so temporary mood swings and other transitory changes in our appearance, thoughts, and behaviours are therefore excluded • Developmental Continuities: ways in which we remain stable over time or continue to reflect our past • Developmental Psychology: branch of psychology devoted to identifying and explaining the continuities and changes that individuals display over time • Developmentalist: any scholar, regardless of discipline who seeks to understand the developmental process • What Causes Us to Develop? • To grasp the meaning of development, we must understand two important processes that underlie developmental change: maturation and learning • Maturation: developmental changes in the body or behaviour that result from the aging process rather than from learning, injury, illness or some other life experience • The human maturational biological program calls for us to become capable of walking and uttering our first meaningful words at about age 1, to reach sexual maturity between 11-15, and so on • Maturation is partly responsible for psychological changes • So one reason that we humans are so similar in many important respects is that our common species heredity guides all of us through many of the asme developmental changes at about the same points in our lives • Learning: relatively permanent change in behaviour that results from one’s experiences or practice • Many of our abilities and habits do not simply unfold as part of maturation, we often learn to feel, think, and behave in new ways from out observations of and interactions with parents, teachers, and other important people in our lives as well as from events that we experience • What Goals Do Developmentalists Pursue? • Three major goals of the developmental sciences are to describe, to explain, and to optimize development • In pursuing the goal of description, human developmentalists carefully observe the behaviour of people of different ages, seeking to specify how people change over time • To adequately describe development, it is necessary to focus both on normative development and ideographic development • Normative Development: developmental changes that characterize most or all embers of a species; typical patterns of development • Ideographic Development: individual variations in the rate, extent, or direction of development • In pursuing this goal of explanation, developmentalists hope to determine why people develop as they typically do and why some people develop differently than others WEEK 1: INTRODUCTION TO DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY AND ITS RESEARCH STRATEGIES • Explanation centers both on normative changes within individuals and on variations in development between individuals • Finally developmentalists hope to optimize development by applying what they have learned in attempts to help people develop in positive directions • Optimization goals often cannot be achieved until researchers have adequately described normal and idiopathic pathways of development and their causes • Some Basic Observations about the Character of Development • A Continual and Cumulative Process • Developmentalists have learned that the first 12 years are extremely important for setting the stage for adolescence and adulthood • Development is best described as a continual and cumulative process • Our focus is on development during the first five periods of life - prenatal development, infancy and toddlerhood, preschool, middle childhood, and adolescence • A Holistic Process • It was once fashionable to divide develpomentalists into three camps • Those who study physical growth • Those who study cognitive aspects of development • Those who study psychosocial aspects of development • Holistic Perspective: unified view of the developmental process that emphasizes the important interrelationships among the physical, mental, social, and emotional aspects of human development • The holistic perspective is one of the dominant themes of human development today • Plasticity • Plasticity: capacity for change; a developmental state that has the potential to be shaped by experience • The course of development can change abruptly if important aspects of a persons life change • Fortunate that human development is so plastic, for children who have horrible starts can often be helped to overcome their deficiencies • Historical/Cultural Context • Each culture, subculture and social class transmits a particular pattern of beliefs, values, customs, and skills to its younger generations, and the content of this cultural socialization has a strong influence on the attributes and competencies they display • Development is also influenced by societal changes: historical events, technological breakthroughs and social causes Human Development in Historical Perspective • Contemporary Western societies can be described as “child-centered”: Parents focus much of their lives on their children, spend a great deal of money to care for and educate them, and excuse children form shouldering the full responsibilities of adulthood until attaining the legal age • Childhood in Premodern Times WEEK 1: INTRODUCTION TO DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY AND ITS RESEARCH STRATEGIES • Carthaginians often killed children as religious sacrifices and embedded them in the walls of buildings to “strengthen” these structures • Roman parents were legally entitled to kill their deformed, illegitimate, or otherwise unwanted infants • Unwanted babies were often left to die in the wilderness or were sold as servants or as objects for sexual exploitation upon reaching middle childhood • Infants given cold baths to toughen them • At age 7 Spartan boys were often beaten or underfed to instill the discipline they would need to become able warriors • Medieval children were not coddled or indulged to the extent that today’s children are • Medieval law generally made no distinctions between childhood and adult offenses • Toward Modern-Day Views on Childhood • During 17th and 18th centuries religious leaders stressed that children were innocent and helpless souls who should be shielded form the wild and reckless behaviour of adults • One method of accomplishing this objective was to send children to school • Recognition of adolescence as a distinct phase of life came later, during the early years of the 20th century • Laws were passed in the late 19th century to restrict child labour and make schooling compulsory • Teens were spending much of their time surrounded by age-mates and separated form adults • Came to be viewed as a distinct class of individuals who had clearly emerged from the innocence of childhood • After WWII, the adolescent experience broadened as increasing numbers of high school graduates postponed marriages and careers to pursue college and university educations • Part of the reason for these changes is the increased life span • Early Philosophical Perspectives on Childhood •Likely that the thinking of influential social philosophers contributed meaningfully to the “new look” at children •Different perspectives on children and child rearing •Thomas Hobbs developed concept of original sin •Original Sin: Idea that children are inherently negative creatures who must be taught to rechannel their selfish interests into socially acceptable outlets •Jean Jacques Rousseaus developed concept of innate purity •Innate Purity: idea that infants are born with an intuitive sense of right and wrong that is often misdirected by the demands and restrictions of society •Proponents of original sin argued that parents must actively control their egoistic children; the innate purists argued that parents should give their children freedom to follow their inherently positive inclinations •Jean Locke developed concept of tabula rasa •Tabula Rasa: the idea that the mind of an infant is a “blank slate” and that all knowledge, abilities, behaviours, and motives are acquired through experience WEEK 1: INTRODUCTION TO DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY AND ITS RESEARCH STRATEGIES •Hobbes maintained that children must learn to rechannel their naturally selfish interests into socially acceptable outlets •Locke believed that the child’s role is passive because the mind of an infant is a blank slate on which experience writes its lessons •Rousseau believed that children are actively involved in the shaping of their own intellects and personalities • Children as Subjects of Study: The Baby Biographies •Baby Biography: a detailed record of an infants growth and development over a period of time •Perhaps the most influential of the baby biographers was Charles Darwin, who made daily records of the early development of his son •He believed that young, untrained infants share many characteristics with their nonhuman ancestors, and he advanced the idea that the development of the individual child retraces the entire evolutionary history of the species, thereby illustrating the “descent of man” •Different baby biographers emphasized very different aspects of their children’s behaviour •In addition, parents are not entirely objective about their own children, and baby biographers may also have let their assumptions about the nature of development bias their observations so that they “found” what they were looking for •Each baby biography was based on a single child • Development of Children’s Rights in Canada • Canadian public policy on the rights of children demonstrated the struggle that societies facd in their efforts to cope with the evolving concept of childhood and the inherent changes in the responsibilities of parents of society • Now society is moving toward a recognition that children are entities in their own right and should be afforded the economic security guaranteed to other members of society • Origins of a Science of Development • Stanley Hall conducted he first large-scale, scientific investigation of children, and is considered by most to be the founder of developmental psychology • He was interested in children’s thinking and he developed a now familiar research tool - the questionnaire - to explore “the contents of children's minds” • The neurologists approach was very fruitful, providing information that led him to propose a theory that revolutionized thinking about children and childhood • Freud came to be known as psychoanalytic theory • Theory: a set of concepts and propositions designed to organize, describe, and explain an existing set of observations • Hypothesis: a theoretical prediction about some aspect of experience • Information we obtain when testing hypotheses provides information about the theories ability to explain new observations • Scientist uses a rather stringent yardstick to evaluate theories: he or she will formulate hypotheses and conduct research to determine whether the theory can adequately predict and explain new observations • Thus, there is no room for subjective bias when evaluating a theory WEEK 1: INTRODUCTION TO DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY AND ITS RESEARCH STRATEGIES Research Methods in Child and Adolescent Development • The Scientific Method • Scientific Method: the use of objective an replicable methods to gather data for the purpose of testing a theory or hypothesis. It dictates that, above all, investigators must be objective and must allow their data to decide the merits of their thinking • By objective we mean that everyone who examines the data ill come to the same conclusions • The scientific method, is a valuable safeguard that helps to protect the scientific community and society at large against flawed reasoning • Gathering Data: Basic Fact-Finding Strategies • Scientifically useful measures must always display two important qualities: reliability and validity • Reliability: the extent to which a measuring instrument yields consistent results, both over time and across observers • Validity: the extent to which a measuring instrument accurately reflects what the researchers intended to measure • To be reliable and thus useful for scientific purposes, your measure would have to produce comparable estimates of children's from independent observers (interrater reliability) and yield similar scores for individual children from one testing to another shortly thereafter (temporal stability) • An instrument must be reliable before it can possibly be valid • Reliability by itself does not guarantee validity • Self-Report Methodologies •Three common procedures developmentalists use to gather information and test hypotheses are interviews, questionnaires and the clinical method • Interviews and Questionnaires •Structured Interview or Structured Questionnaire: a technique in which all participants are asked the same questions in precisely the same order so that the responses of different participants can be compared •The purpose of this standardized or structured format is to treat each person alike so that the responses of different participants can be compared •Diary Study: a questionnaire method in which participants write answers to specified questions in a diary or notebook, either at specified times or when prompted by an electronic pager •Diary studies have proved invaluable for investigating a host of issues that may be difficult to study in other ways •Interviews and questionnaires have some shortcomings •Very young children, who cannot read or comprehend speech very well •Also hope that the answers they receive are honest and accurate and are nor merelt attempts by respondents to present themselves in a favourable or socially desirable way •Must also be careful to ensure that participants of all ages interpret questionsin the same way •Finally, researchers who interview both developing children and their parents may have trouble determining which set of reports is more accurate WEEK 1: INTRODUCTION TO DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY AND ITS RESEARCH STRATEGIES • The Clinical Method • Clinical Method: a type of interview in which a participants response to each successive question determines what the investigator will ask next • Although participants are often asked the same questions initially, each participants answer determines what he or she is asked next • Thus, the clinical method is a flexible approach that considers each participant to be unique • Clinical methods are often useful for gathering large amounts of information in relatively brief periods • By asking follow-up questions that are tailored to the participants original answers, it i often possible to obtain a rich understanding of the meaning of those answers • However, it may e difficult, if not impossible to directly compare the answers of participants who are asked different questions • Furthermore, raises the possibility that the examiners preexisting theoretical biases may affect the particular follow up questions asked and the interpretations provided • Observational Methodologies • Naturalistic Observation: a method in which the scientist tests hypotheses by observing people as they engage in everyday activities in their natural habitats • Rarely will the investigator try to record every event that occurs; they are usually testing a specific hypothesis about one type of behaviour • One strength of naturalistic observation is the ease with which it can be applied to infants and toddlers, who often cannot be studied through methods that demand verbal skills • A second strength of naturalistic observation is that it illustrates how people actually behave in everyday life • Naturalistic observation also has its limitations • Some behaviours occur so infrequently or are so socially desirable that they are unlikely to be witnessed by an unknown observer in the natural setting, and any of them may affect peoples behaviour • Finally, the mere presence of an observer can sometimes makes people behave differently than they otherwise would • Observer Influence: tendency of participants to react to an observers presence by behaving in unusual ways • Researchers often attempt to minimize observer influence by • Videotaping participants from a concealed location • Spending time in the setting before collecting their ‘real’ data so that the individuals they are observing will grow accustomed to their presence and behave more naturally • Time Sampling: a procedure in which the investigator records the frequencies with which individuals display particular behaviours during the brief time intervals that each is observed • Structured Observation: an observational method in which the investigator cues the behaviour of interest and observes participants responses in a laboratory WEEK 1: INTRODUCTION TO DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY AND ITS RESEARCH STRATEGIES • Aside from being a most feasible way of studying behaviours that occur infrequently or are not openly displayed in the natural environment, structured observations also ensure that every participant in the sample is exposed to the same eliciting stimuli and has an equal opportunity to perform the target behaviour • The major disadvantage of s
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