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Developmental Psychology Methodology

1. Facts vs. artefacts (the importance of methodology)

2. Definition of Developmental Psychology:
the study of age-related changes in behaviour, usually in humans, across the life-span.

3. Developmental Research Designs

i) The Longitudinal Design

Advantages: intra-individual change, rate of change, no cohort effects.
Disadvantages: time, expense, dated variables/ measures, attrition, practice/ memory effects, poor generalisation.

ii) The Cross-sectional Design
Advantages: circumvents most of the disadvantages of the longitudinal design.
Disadvantages: only inter-individual differences, confounds age & cohort effects

Facts? (Illustrate)

Additional problems relevant to both designs (esp. if long-term): Selective sampling, selective survival, terminal drop

Conclusion: Dubious internal & external validity

iii) Sequential Developmental Designs

a) Bell’s (1953, 1954) Convergence Approach

Age Samples Longitudinal Yearly Data

4 year-olds 5, 6, 7 7 year-olds 8, 9, 10

10 year-olds 11, 12, 13

An accelerated longitudinal study

b) Schaie’s (1965) Trifactorial Approach
(Sequential Designs)

Schaie’s 3 Factors (influencing behavioural performance)

Changes in performance may reflect:

1. *Age – Maturational (biological) changes over time.
Universal across cultural + historical settings e.g. motor responses.

2. Cohort – generational differences resulting from
having been born at different time points and having
experienced different socio-cultural, environmental
influences e.g. nutrition, education, war etc.

3. Time of Testing – transient situational variables

* main focus of developmental psychology

Schaie’s Developmental Model


60 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010

50 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000

40 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990

30 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980
1 3

20 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970

COHORT 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950

*Note traditional designs

1 = Cohort Sequential Design * (favoured)

2 = Cross Sequential Design

3 = Time-lag Sequential Design

Some early results e.g., intelligence

Problem- confounding

iv) Microgenetic Developmental Designs
The above designs provide a limited snap shot of developmental change, without describing the process of change itself.

Microgenetic designs attempt to focus on change as it occurs and help to illuminate the process(es) involved.

Children thought to be ready for change (theory or previous evidence) are tested/ observed repeatedly over a short period of time so that the density of observations is high compared to a typical longitudinal study.

Manipulation of variables can also be involved to identify the causes of change. Microgenetic methods can involve not just longitudinal but also cross-sectional data collection.

The procedure provides more precise descriptions than afforded by longitudinal or cross-sectional methods.

Developmental growth curves for body length (height) produced by longitudinal and cross sectional methods tend to suggest continuous growth.



Length/ 66...
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