Developmental psychology is a branch of psychology that seeks to explain changes that occur in people over the course of their lifetime. This includes physical, cognitive, intellectual, social, perpetual, emotional, and personality development associated with human growth.
The development process can be broken down into four major phases.
• Prenatal phase – During this period, psychologists are concerned with understanding how various factors at this stage can impact development in later stages of life. This may include studying the impacts of maternal drug use and genetic health conditions on future development.
• Childhood – This is a period of remarkable growth and extends from birth until the onset of adolescence at the age of 12 or 13. The child develops memory and emotional responses such as distress, anger, and excitement and begins to form social interactions and relationships. Most physical and mental problems can be identified at this phase.
• Adolescence – Puberty is a period of psychological turmoil where the adolescent goes through considerable development. Psychologists are aware of these changes and work closely with young people helping them deal with challenges they may face during this period.
• Adulthood – At this stage, a person is more concerned with creating and maintaining bonds and relationships. People also make major decisions regarding their life, like starting a family and decisions regarding their careers and goals. Developmental psychologists often work with individuals who may have challenges in building and maintaining healthy relationships.
Developmental psychologists are concerned with understanding how people grow and develop and how they adapt to changes in the environment and lifestyles at different stages in life. They then use the information to promote and help people achieve their full potential. By understanding the process of normative development, psychologists can identify potential problems at an early stage and recommend early interventions before the issue progresses. Different developmental psychologists are specialized in dealing with children, adolescents, adults, and older people.
Various theories attempt to explain the development process in humans. However, a significant portion of these theories is concerned with development during childhood because it is during this stage that most changes occur. A developmental psychologist will employ different theories depending on the aspect of human development they seek to understand. For instance, a psychologist assessing the intellectual development of a child will most likely turn to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, which explains different stages that a child goes through in their initial stages of learning. A psychologist who is interested in how social relationships of a child influences their behavior and development might consider Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development or Bowlby’s theory of attachment.