What is Developmental Psychology?


An expanding role within our society has coupled with new, traditionally focused career opportunities to unlock the full potential of developmental psychology as a viable field. That being said, what is developmental psychology, exactly? Many people maintain profound misconceptions about what a developmental psychologist has to deal with on a daily basis.

Here are a few facts for clarification, to help you decide whether or not developmental psychology is the right career path for you to take.

What Developmental Psychology Is

In a nutshell, developmental psychology is the carefully measured study of how, and why, people undergo psychological change over the course of a lifetime. It was once focused almost entirely on small children, which is still an important part of the discipline; in modern times, psychologists have come to understand that people continue to change in similar ways as they age. We never stop learning, and it is now understood that our brains never stop growing: new neurons are formed all the time, and some of the late-stage neurological disorders that are so common today may be rooted in abnormal brain development as a person ages.

Other Specialties in Developmental Psychology

There are now developmental psychologists who specialize in teenagers, middle-aged persons, and the elderly. Others specialize in function; there are developmental psychologists who specialize in treating business executives, law enforcement officers, soldiers, educators, medical professionals, or just about every other conceivable modern occupational specialty. It is important for scientists to understand how the particular stress factors of a given occupation can affect a person’s mental development. That way, safety precautions can be taken to help safeguard mental health, and counseling services can be provided in situations where they are most likely to be needed.

Popular Misconceptions about Developmental Psychology

Among the many myths surrounding developmental psychology (as well as psychology in general) is the one that goes like so: “all available career options are in youth offender programs.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. A degree in developmental psychology opens doors to career paths in hospitals, educational institutions, the US federal government, and private practice. As a specialty, it’s on the cutting edge of psychological research and development, offering perhaps the greatest potential opportunity for new professionals to make their mark in their field. There are positions which focus on academic study, research positions, and clinical positions. Fewer than 20% of the developmental psychology positions available today involve the direct, hands-on study of abnormal psychology, which is an entire specialized discipline in itself.

Is Developmental Psychology Right for You?

What is developmental psychology? In a sense, it’s the study of all of us. It works to create an understanding of how peoples’ minds work at various points in their lives: what is normal, what is unusual, and what each person’s unique needs might be. It helps with the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly, and has proven its value time and again over the course of its continuing advancement as a career path. There is no reason to think that the importance of its role in our society is going to change any time soon!