(ii) What are the main controversies in the field?
(iii) What are the main theoretical approaches? Give concrete examples.
Developmental psychology is the study of change in a person throughout their life, from birth to death (White, Hayes & Livesey, 2013). It often focuses on childhood development, as this is a time where a lot of rapid change happens, though developmental psychology also covers development into and through adulthood. Development psychology includes a very broad range of approaches to understand development, such as biology, social, behaviour, mental processes and personality (White et al., 2013). Studying development is important so that we can understand how to raise children well and why we become the people we do, as well as to understand developmental disorders.
As in any discipline, there are some main controversies within the study of developmental psychology. The first of these is the nature versus nurture debate (White et al., 2013). The nature side argues that in-born qualities are most important in creating an individual’s traits and abilities (White et al., 2013). This means that we are born with certain skills or potential which are the central or only factor in determining our personality, intelligence and other abilities in life. In contrast, the nurture argument states that people are born as a blank slate, without innate qualities, and the social and physical world we grow up in determines who we become (White et al. 2013). Now, most psychologists agree that development is an interaction between genetics (nature) and environment (nurture) (White et al., 2013).
Another controversy focuses on continuity versus discontinuity (White et al., 2013). The argument for continuity maintains that development is a gradual and continuous process, with no sharp, age-specific stages (White et al., 2013).
Discontinuity argues for