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Understanding Developmental Psychology


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 4
  • Convenor: Dr Michael Mallaghan
  • Assessment: a 1500-word essay (50%) and one-hour in-class timed assessment (50%)

Module description

In this module we introduce you to key theories and research findings in developmental and lifespan psychology. Our focus will be on development in childhood and adolescence, adulthood and old age. We will ask important questions such as 'What's the point of a university education?' and explore a range of topics such as psychosexual development, parenting and families.

Consideration is given to the impact of culture on our understanding of developmental processes. Is the understanding of what it means to be a child or adult the same across cultures - and if not, what implications does this have for conclusions we should draw from the research we read?

You will be helped to consider ways in which such theories fall short, and why this might be. You will also be encouraged to reflect on the ways in which theories studied may be applied to your understanding of yourself and others.

Indicative syllabus

  • Child development: Piaget and Vygotsky and their implications for education
  • Child development: attachment and its impact on learning
  • Adolescence and emerging adulthood
  • Early and middle adulthood
  • Psychosexual development throughout the lifespan
  • Parenting (and families)
  • Old age
  • What's the point of a university education? The development of thought in adulthood
  • Cultural perspectives on development
  • Summary and critique of methods, assumptions and application

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to: 

  • outline the research methods particularly prevalent within developmental psychology, highlighting their strengths and limitations including reference to ethical issues where pertinent
  • provide a brief overview and critique of main psychological theories relevant to each of the topics studied
  • understand the way in which cultural psychology might contribute to our understanding of topics within developmental psychology
  • offer valid examples of the ways in which theory in the areas studied might inform our understanding of practical problems in the 'real' world
  • understand some of the limitations of these theories with regard to 'real-world' application.