Childhood Developmental Psychology

Learn about Childhood Development and careers in this area

childhood developmental psychology


Although a toddler at age 2 looks, acts and thinks much differently than a 12-year-old, both occupy the same 10-year span that developmental psychology professionals label the "child developmental stage."

To breakdown the study of this broad category, developmentalists typically emphasize two general age groups: 1.) Early childhood, focusing on children ages 2 to 6. And, 2.) School-aged children, focusing on children ages 6 to 12.

Professionals in this field research and study pivotal areas of development including motor development, cognitive changes, language acquisition, emotional maturity and social interactions.

Early Childhood

The early childhood years are also called the preschool years, and more appropriately the "play years." While humans at all ages play, it is during early childhood that play consumes most of a child's waking hours. Developmentalists understand that play actually influences growth and change in all the pivotal developmental areas.

By age 5, a children's physical development and large motor skills permit them to run and chase each other, and play independently - and with others - on playground equipment. According to a developmental theory called sociocultural theory, children learn these large motor skills better from peers than from adult instruction, making play with other children especially important.

It's also during early childhood that neurological changes in the brain influence the learning of language. And because children at this stage are not afraid to make verbal mistakes when talking, and they desperately want to communicate, their free use of language without fear of embarrassment greatly aids in the development of their vocabulary, grammar acquisition and pronunciation abilities.

Cognitive growth is nurtured by imaginative play and creative activities in conjunction with rapid neurological changes. Between the ages of 3 and 5, children develop "theory of mind," or the comprehension that other people think differently from them, and that others' thoughts can be misleading or even wrong.

Additionally, children between the ages of 2 and 6 learn to regulate their emotions by controlling impulses that stem from anger or fear. For example, a 2-year-old will kick and scream and throw a temper tantrum, but by the time this child turns 5, the child has learned how to better control anger, and manage this emotion more constructively. Similarly, the child at 2 will cling to caregivers or parents in fear of separation, but by the age of 5 or 6, most children separate with few problems.

Developmentalists also credit play in providing the most important mechanism for children in this age group to learn social interaction skills. By age 5, most children successfully play in groups, handle conflict and select someone as a special playmate.

School-Age

Regardless of the psychological theory or research used to describe the maturation of children ages 7 to 11, all developmentalists agree that children in this age group are eager, competent, and ready to explore wider social networks. Continued neurological changes affect both cognitive and motor abilities, which, psychologists say, are inextricably interconnected.

Motor skills improve dramatically during this time period due partly to a significant increase in physical reaction times. Neurological changes also translate into improved fine motor skills as in eye-hand coordination abilities, balance and well-coordinated movements. Many developmentalists continue to emphasize play during this stage, nurtured through sports, time at the playground, and neighborhood activities, asserting that physical movement greatly influences learning and growth, and affects emotional maturity as well.

Just as neurology improves reaction times and coordination for kids in this age group, it also increases logic and reasoning skills, and facilitates advanced knowledge of language. Children are quick learners at this age, able to absorb and store large amounts of information, and to rapidly access this stored information. They memorize lyrics, play advanced computer games, play musical instruments, and write meaningful stories and poems.

One cognitive skill developed during this time period that influences these types of advanced abilities stems from the development of “metacognition,” or the ability to “think about thinking.” Children who have developed metacognition are able to analyze tasks, develop a plan on how to approach and solve them, and then evaluate themselves on how they accomplished the tasks.

Friendships become increasingly important for children between the ages of 7 and 11, and these friendships aid social learning. Children begin to think more deeply about their social contexts and their relation to these contexts, and they compare themselves to others to define themselves. Generally, a child at age 11 or 12 is much better at controlling and understanding their emotions than a child at age 5 or 6.

However, children who feel neglected by peers can become aggressive or withdrawn. And bullies can cause emotional damage not only to their victims, but themselves as well. Psychologists point to the support of close family relationships as helping children cope with tough social situations. Even children from war-plagued countries and extreme poverty seem to weather stresses better if they have the support of at least one parent.

Understanding developmental psychology principles for children contributes to educational curriculum development, and provides a knowledge base for health care workers diagnosing and recommending interventions for those children not meeting milestones. Professionals specializing in developmental psychology of childhood also influence public policy to create laws and programs beneficial for positive growth and development during childhood.

If you are interested in issues in the developmental psychology of childhood, you should consider a degree in developmental psychology. If you want to conduct research in areas related to children ages 2 to 11, you should consider an academic career. Universities require at least a master's degree to teach, but most require a PhD in Psychology. Positions in health care and for nonprofit agencies usually require a master's degree. Day care and preschools often hire those with a bachelor's degree in developmental psychology.

Also, learn more about the psychology career licensing processes and what the requirements for licensure are: Psychology Career Licensure.

Developmental Psychology Schools & Colleges
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5 Programs in
Campus
  • Listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year.
  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
  • Main campus located in Chicago, Illinois with additional campuses in Southern California, Washington D.C., and online.
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  • Listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year.
  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
  • Main campus located in Chicago, Illinois with additional campuses in Southern California, Washington D.C., and online.
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
5 Programs in
Online
  • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
  • In a 2013 survey, 83% of students said they would recommend the university to others.
  • Most degree-seeking online and campus-based students are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
  • Average class sizes is 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
  • Founded in 1937 in Davenport, Iowa as the American Institute of Commerce (AIC).
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  • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
  • In a 2013 survey, 83% of students said they would recommend the university to others.
  • Most degree-seeking online and campus-based students are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
  • Average class sizes is 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
  • Founded in 1937 in Davenport, Iowa as the American Institute of Commerce (AIC).
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
4 Programs in
Online
  • Students can enroll at any time and begin studies in the fall, spring, or summer.
  • 9 out of 10 Florida Tech Students who apply, qualify for some type of aid, based on a Fall 2012 internal survey.
  • The average freshman retention rate is 77.3 percent.
  • Ranked #39 in Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Reports
  • Among the more than 50,000 alumni include several astronauts, CEOs, and 32 generals.
  • Special tuition rate available for active duty, selected reserves, National Guard service members and their spouses.
Show more [+]
  • Students can enroll at any time and begin studies in the fall, spring, or summer.
  • 9 out of 10 Florida Tech Students who apply, qualify for some type of aid, based on a Fall 2012 internal survey.
  • The average freshman retention rate is 77.3 percent.
  • Ranked #39 in Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Reports
  • Among the more than 50,000 alumni include several astronauts, CEOs, and 32 generals.
  • Special tuition rate available for active duty, selected reserves, National Guard service members and their spouses.
Show more [+]
  • Online Programs
1 Programs in
Online
  • Ranked #23 in National Universities in the 2014 edition of Best Colleges from U.S. News and World Report.
  • Founded in 1834, its 340 acre campus is located in Winston-Salem, N.C.
  • Its student-to-faculty ratio is 11:1, and 58.6% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • The average freshman retention rate is 94%.
  • Its stated mission is “to educate the whole person, graduating students who seek purpose-filled lives while building a community dedicated to serving humanity in the spirit of our motto, Pro Humanitate.
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  • Ranked #23 in National Universities in the 2014 edition of Best Colleges from U.S. News and World Report.
  • Founded in 1834, its 340 acre campus is located in Winston-Salem, N.C.
  • Its student-to-faculty ratio is 11:1, and 58.6% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • The average freshman retention rate is 94%.
  • Its stated mission is “to educate the whole person, graduating students who seek purpose-filled lives while building a community dedicated to serving humanity in the spirit of our motto, Pro Humanitate.
Show more [+]
  • Accredited
  • Online Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Programs in
Campus
  • Formed in 2001, it has 28 locations across the United States.
  • Offers customized blend format of online and campus classes.
  • Extensive activity in the local campus communities.
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  • Formed in 2001, it has 28 locations across the United States.
  • Offers customized blend format of online and campus classes.
  • Extensive activity in the local campus communities.
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Programs in
Online
  • 95% alumni satisfaction rate.
  • Currently holds more than 500 professional alliances, including 19 of the top Fortune 100 companies.
  • Potential students may preview a free, one-week mini course to get an accurate impression of the student experience.
  • Courses are taught by expert faculty, with 86% of professors possessing a doctoral degree.
  • Offers credit for prior experience and learning, as well as scholarships, accelerated programs, and several other ways to help reduce tuition costs.
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  • 95% alumni satisfaction rate.
  • Currently holds more than 500 professional alliances, including 19 of the top Fortune 100 companies.
  • Potential students may preview a free, one-week mini course to get an accurate impression of the student experience.
  • Courses are taught by expert faculty, with 86% of professors possessing a doctoral degree.
  • Offers credit for prior experience and learning, as well as scholarships, accelerated programs, and several other ways to help reduce tuition costs.
Show more [+]
  • Online Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Programs in
Online
  • With 100,000+ students, it's the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation.
  • Since 1971, its mission has been to develop Christ-centered men and women with the values, knowledge, and skills essential for impacting tomorrow’s world.
  • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
  • The student-faculty ratio is 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • The average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, is 76.5%.
Show more [+]
  • With 100,000+ students, it's the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation.
  • Since 1971, its mission has been to develop Christ-centered men and women with the values, knowledge, and skills essential for impacting tomorrow’s world.
  • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
  • The student-faculty ratio is 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • The average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, is 76.5%.
Show more [+]
  • Accredited
  • Online Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
1 Programs in
Online
  • Ranked among the 2015 top 40 Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
  • Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), with specific programmatic accreditation.
  • 14 campuses across Florida, with online options as well as off-site campuses in Shanghai, China and San Marcos, Nicaragua.
  • Founded in 1977, with a current student population of approximately 13,000.
Show more [+]
  • Ranked among the 2015 top 40 Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
  • Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), with specific programmatic accreditation.
  • 14 campuses across Florida, with online options as well as off-site campuses in Shanghai, China and San Marcos, Nicaragua.
  • Founded in 1977, with a current student population of approximately 13,000.
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
4 Programs in
Online
  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor's Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Implements a one-to-one teaching model, partnering one student with one faculty member in each course.
  • 100% of faculty members hold doctoral degrees.
  • No physical residency requirements, allowing students to pursue their degree online.
  • Committed to innovation, diversity, excellence, and accountability since its founding in 1996.
  • Offers several programs in business, education, psychology, and more.
Show more [+]
  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor's Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Implements a one-to-one teaching model, partnering one student with one faculty member in each course.
  • 100% of faculty members hold doctoral degrees.
  • No physical residency requirements, allowing students to pursue their degree online.
  • Committed to innovation, diversity, excellence, and accountability since its founding in 1996.
  • Offers several programs in business, education, psychology, and more.
Show more [+]
  • Online Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
1 Programs in
Campus
  • A university where academic excellence and faith have been intertwined since its founding in 1941.
  • Offers traditional undergrad, adult and graduate, as well as seminary programs.
  • All incoming freshman students are given laptop computers.
  • Nearly 20 study abroad programs available across 10 countries.
  • Campus is located less than 5 miles from Grand Rapids, the 2nd largest city in Michigan.
  • Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).
Show more [+]
  • A university where academic excellence and faith have been intertwined since its founding in 1941.
  • Offers traditional undergrad, adult and graduate, as well as seminary programs.
  • All incoming freshman students are given laptop computers.
  • Nearly 20 study abroad programs available across 10 countries.
  • Campus is located less than 5 miles from Grand Rapids, the 2nd largest city in Michigan.
  • Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits