Articles, Career Development

Developmental Psychology: Examining the Designs to Study Development, in Psychology

Examining the Designs to Study Development, in Psychology

by Denise N. Fyffe


Developmental Psychology is the study of physical, perceptual, cognitive, and psychosocial changes that take place across the life span (Sdorow, 1993). It can also be looked at as the changes that take place throughout a person’s entire life span. These changes may be physical, cognitive, or psychosocial.

Three Tools to Study Development

To better understand these changes various tools are used. The tools are Cross Sectional, Longitudinal, and Cross Sequential Designs.

Cross Sectional Design

Cross Sectional Design is for example where children of different ages are studied to see if a characteristic is age-specific when it first emerges or increases or decreases at different ages.

Longitudinal Design looks at the same cohort (group) of characteristics (subjects) over an extended period of time or at intervals that follow through the life of a behavior or subject. Then, Cross Sequential Design is where a sample is studied and then restudied at several points or stages to see if the effects are lasting.

The Cross Sectional Design deals with varying cohorts of different ages thus this makes it easier for researchers to identify the differences among the groups and it takes a shorter period than that of the longitudinal design. As it takes a shorter amount of time to perform the research, it is therefore less expensive to conduct.

However, this design has its failings because it does not look at the changes from the perspective of the age difference. Whatever the findings show may not be true in the future or at a different point in the lifespan for all individuals. The primary advantage of being shorter and less expensive makes this design more widely utilized.

Longitudinal Design

Longitudinal Design is over a period hence the name longitudinal. Therefore, this type of design is time-consuming and expensive. It only studies a particular group at a time, unlike the Cross Sectional design.

Another weakness of the design is that people may drop out of the study. Hence you will have fewer participants than was started with and this affects the statistics and applicability to a wider range of people. This design is dependent on the willingness of investors to support (financially) and provide resources over time.

The longitudinal design does show age-related changes; however, they may be specific to a particular group.

Cross Sequential Design

Finally, the Cross Sequential Design is a combination of the two prior designs and provides more information. This design can begin as a cross-section (with diverse groups) and then continue longitudinally (follow them over a period); therefore, the results are more dependable.

These three designs, Cross Sectional, Longitudinal, and Cross Sequential, are important to the study of Developmental Psychology and enable us to study across the lifespan.





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