The overlay of Developmental Psychology involves recognizing how people change from one life-phase to the next; infants are different form toddlers; preschoolers age into children and again change to pre-teens; teenagers are not yet adults; and adulthood has many phases to becoming a senior. How a particular therapy or approach may influence development in one phase of life may be very different from another. How synergies of different therapies come together for a 2 year old are very different for a child at 4- or 8- or 18 years of age.
How change and grow occurs is truly a unique process for each one of us. As far as therapies for children struggling with a disability — what “works” for one person may be quite different for another. What works on one day may differ from what works another day.
On top of that, children of all ages (and adults) express themselves very differently as a function of “context.” A person’s abilities are influenced by who they are with, where they are, how much they want to be doing what they are doing, how calm or overwhelmed they are feeling, the general health of their minds and bodies, and much, much more. People are not robots and they are responsive to the circumstances and people that surround them. As a group of “developmentalists” we are highly attuned to the unique factors that surround and influence each person and the individual qualities that each of us possess.
Developmental Psychologists have also been carefully studying many aspects of how children and adults develop — offering crucially important data and perspective on the nature of change across our lives. Specific “domains” of study across development that WE ALL NEED TO KNOW ABOUT, includes:
- The biological influences on our behavior and how the biology can change with our experiences
- Perceptual systems and how our senses function and inform us about the world
- Movement and the control of our actions
- Language and the unfolding of our communication with others
- Cognitive processes like how we pay attention, think and learn
- “Theory of Mind” — which is a set of cognitive processes in which we depart from egocentric views of the world — recognizing and understanding the motives, intentions, thoughts and actions of the “self” as distinct from “others” — the ability to move from ones’ own perspective to the perspective(s) of others
- “Executive Function” — how we develop the cognitive abilities to organize, plan, anticipate, manage time, make decisions and strategize our thoughts and day-to-day actions
- “Attachment” to loved ones and how we form our closest relationships to family and loved ones
- Emotional regulation and how we become self-aware — and aware of others — in our actions and emotions and being able to regulate these emotions in productive relationships with others
- Social relatedness to friends or just people that we are meeting for the first time
- Moral development and how we acquire our societal senses of right and wrong
- Parenting and the process of conveying life’s lessons to our children regardless of what the circumstances are in their development
- Adult-life and aging in which we understand how we are developing and changing for our entire life
Each of these areas of study can inform us about ourselves and about our children. Each topic is the tip of an iceberg with large databases underneath with which we can better understand the nature of human growth. It’s in knowing how “typical” development is described that we come to understand how “atypical” we all are.