Unit 6 Overview: Developmental Psychology

3 min readjanuary 6, 2023

Ashley Rossi

Ashley Rossi

Dalia Savy

Dalia Savy

AP Psychology 🧠

334 resources
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The one thing you need to know about this theme:
Developmental Psychology
Development is a complex process that occurs throughout the human lifespan from conception to death. Like most things in psychology, nothing is black and white. Modern day approaches view human development as the result of complex interactions between a variety of factors. 
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From the College Board

👀 Develop your Understanding of this Unit

According to the College Board, “Developmental psychology encompasses the study of the behavior of organisms from conception to death. In this unit, students will learn to examine the processes that contribute to behavioral change throughout a person’s life. The major areas of emphasis in the course include prenatal development 👶, motor development ⚙️, socialization 🗣️, cognitive development 🧠, adolescence, and adulthood."
"Developmental psychologists seek to understand how changes in our biology and social situations over a lifespan influence our behaviors and mental processes. Development can be studied from several different perspectives, including biological or cognitive perspectives. Developmental psychologists may focus on one or more developmental periods or the entire course of a lifespan, using cross-sectional and longitudinal research methods.”

🔎 Guiding Question

How do we understand and perceive ourselves?

Key Facts

🤓 Psychologists to Know

📝 Vocabulary

Fetal Alcohol SyndromeMaturationPruningInfantile AmnesiaImprintingCritical period
Secure AttachmentInsecure AttachmentAuthoritarian ParentingAuthoritative ParentingPermissive ParentingPsychosexual Stages
FixationModelingSchemasAssimilationAccommodationConcrete Thinking
Object PermanenceConservationOperational ThinkingStranger AnxietyEgocentrismTheory of Mind
Autism Spectrum DisorderZone of Proximal DevelopmentMore Knowledgeable OtherScaffoldingAdolescenceMiddle Adulthood
Later AdulthoodPsychosocial Stages of DevelopmentMenopauseSocial ClockMoral ReasoningKohlberg's Stages of Moral Reasoning
Sex chromosomesPrimary Sex CharacteristicsSecondary Sex CharacteristicsIntersexSexual OrientationFruit Fly Studies

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Basics of Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychology is a field in psychology that focuses on the human lifespan from conception to death. It looks at how embryos develop into infancy and how infants develop throughout childhood into adolescence, and, finally adulthood. 
There are a few key debates that dominate the field of developmental psychology:
  1. Nature vs. Nurture: Is our physical, psychological, emotional, and social development the result of genetic inheritance, or our experiences as we grow? Modern psychologists typically understand development as a result of the interaction between both of these factors.
  2. Continuity vs. Stages: Is development continuous and fluid or does it happen in concrete, fixed stages? Although plenty of research suggests that development occurs on a gradual spectrum, there are clear developmental stages and milestones to consider.
  3. Stability vs. Change: What aspects of our personality remain stable throughout our development and which change over time? Certain personality traits have been found to be relatively stable, even throughout adulthood and childhood. However, it is true that people change and our personalities develop and mature as we grow. 
When studying human development, cross-sectional studies (in which different people of different ages are compared to one another) and longitudinal studies (in which the same sample group of people is studied over a long period of time) are most useful. 
As you may remember from the unit on Research Methods, longitudinal studies are beneficial since they minimize confounding variables, variables unrelated to the study, due to individual differences like age or height. However, longitudinal studies take a long time and carry the risk of people dropping out or losing touch over time. 
Cross-sectional studies are faster to conduct than longitudinal research, but they open up the possibility for more confounding variables. Differences in data between a 12 year old and a 22 year old could be developmentally significant, but could also be the effect of confounding variables as well.
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🔎Unit 1 – Scientific Foundations of Psychology
🧠Unit 2 – Biological Basis of Behavior
👀Unit 3 – Sensation & Perception
📚Unit 4 – Learning
🤔Unit 5 – Cognitive Psychology
👶🏽Unit 6 – Developmental Psychology
🤪Unit 7 – Motivation, Emotion, & Personality
🛋Unit 8 – Clinical Psychology
👫Unit 9 – Social Psychology
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