Session 1 2012 Faculty of Arts School of Psychology Bathurst Campus Distance Mode
Subject Coordinator Justin Harrison
Welcome to a new session of study at Charles Sturt University. This subject examines human development across the entire life-span. Descriptions, explanations, and predictions of developmental stages and changes are covered through an investigation of major theories and research findings. Practical implications and applications of this material are also considered, along with some topical current issues.
Introducing Developmental Psychology: What is it and how is it studied? For many people, there are few events so fascinating as watching a child take its first step, say their first words or make their first independent forays into their social world. There are few experiences more bemusing than the rapid changes of adolescence, while the increasing maturity and experience of the later years may be compensation for some loss of acuity in other areas. Fundamental changes in the way we experience our world provide some of life’s most pervasive mysteries to which everyone can relate. Shakespeare’s hapless character Benedick was mystified by the changes in himself: “I have railed so long against marriage; but doth not the appetite alter? A man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age? … When I said I would die as a bachelor, I did not think that I should actually live until I was married!” Much Ado About Nothing – Act II, Scene III
What biological, cognitive, emotional and psycho-social mechanisms work to produce these changes? Are these changes pre-programmed at conception, the influence of environment, or both? Developmental psychology, as a field of scientific enquiry, attempts to describe and explain these everyday human wonders. The knowledge of developmental psychology is in many ways intrinsically rewarding, but it also has enormous potential to better human lives as this knowledge is applied across a range of disciplines. These include nursing, education, early childhood intervention, parenting, care and support of the elderly, to name just a few. Thus, a working grasp of developmental psychology will prove extremely beneficial in whatever walk of life one finds themselves in. It may even help explain the mystifying behaviours in our own family! Then again - perhaps that is asking too much of any science. Developmental Psychology does not only concern itself with comparative changes over the lifespan. This subject also involves experiences and issues peculiar to certain points in the lifespan, which may be also dependent upon their cultural and historical context. An example of this may be mental health issues concerning adolescent girls in contemporary western societies, or cultural comparisons of community attitudes to elderly persons. Since Developmental Psychology is a primarily scientific endeavour, this subject will also necessarily
Charles Sturt University Subject Outline PSY202 201230 B D-13 February 2012-Version 1 Page 1 of 28
concern itself with the skills required to absorb, summarise and critique relevant research. Without these skills, one’s ability to profit from future research will be restricted to (often) having to accept the author’s summary conclusions without the ability to interpret the information for ourselves. Topical versus chronological approaches to Developmental Psychology Developmental Psychology is such a broad area that it is impossible to tackle the whole thing under one banner. We need to organise the information and study it with a structured approach if we are to have any chance of making sense of it all. Traditionally there have been two ways to teach and investigate developmental psychology. According to the particular area of enquiry, such as faculties like the development of cognition (topical), or according to the timeline of a human life (chronologically). The...