Developmental Psychology


  1. Discuss the course of prenatal development

  2. Describe the destructive impact of teratogens

  3. Describe the capacities of the newborn

  4. Explain how habituation is used for assessing infant cognition

  5. Discuss the influence of maturation and experience on the brain and motor development

  6. Describe Piaget's view of how the mind develops.

  7. Discuss the effect of body contact and familiarity and responsive parenting has on social attachments

  8. Describe the benefits of secure attachment and impact of parental neglect

  9. Describe the early development of self-concept.

  10. Describe the physical changes that occur during adolescence

  11. Describe Kohlberg's theory of moral development

  12. Discuss the adolescent's search for identity

  13. Describe people's life satisfaction across the life span and their reactions to death or the prospect of dying


Developmental Psychology: Branch of psychology that studies physical, cognitive, and social change throughout the life span.

Zygote: Fertilized egg – It enters a 2-week period of rapid cell division and develops into an embryo

Embryo: Developing human organism from about 2 weeks after fertilization through the 2nd month

Fetus: Developing human organism from 9 weeks after conception to birth

Teratogens: Agents, such as chemicals and viruses, that can reach the embryo or fetus during prenatal development and cause harm

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS): Physical and cognitive abnormalities in children caused by a pregnant woman’s heavy drinking – In severe cases, symptoms include noticeable facial disproportions 

Rooting Reflex: Baby’s tendency, when touched on the cheek, to open the mouth and search for the nipple

Habituation: Decreasing responsiveness with repeated stimulation – As infants gain familiarity w/ repeated exposure to a visual stimulus, their interest wanes and they look away sooner

Maturation: Biological growth processes that enable orderly changes in behavior, relatively influenced by behavior

Schema: Concept or framework that organizes and interprets information

Assimilation: Interpreting one’s new experience in terms of one’s existing schema

Accommodation: Adapting one’s current understanding (schemas) to incorporate new information

Cognition: All the mental activities associated w/ thinking, knowing, and remembering

Sensorimotor Stage: In Piaget’s theory, the stage (from birth to about 2 years of age) during which infants know the world in terms of mostly their sensory impressions and motor activities

Object Permanence: The awareness that things continue to exist even when not perceived

Preoperational Stage: In Piaget’s theory, stage (from about 2 – 7) during which a child learns to use language but does not yet comprehend the mental operations of concrete logic

Conservation: Principle (which Piaget believed to be a part of concrete operational reasoning) that properties such as mass, volume, and # remain the same despite changes in the form of the object

Egocentrism: In Piaget’s theory, the inability of the preoperational child to take another’s point of view

Theory of Mind: People’s ideas about their own and others’ mental states – About their feelings, perceptions, and thoughts and the behaviors these might effect

Concrete Operational Stage: In Piaget’s theory, the stage of cognitive development (from 6-11 years old) during which children gain the mental operations that enable them to think logically about concrete events

Formal Operational Stage: In Piaget’s theory, the stage of cognitive development (normally beginning at age 12) during which people begin to think logically about abstract concepts

Stranger Anxiety: Fear of strangers that infants commonly display, beginning by about 8 months of age

Attachment: An emotional tie w/ another person – Shown in young children by their seeking closeness to the caregiver  and showing distress on separation

Critical Period: Optimal period shortly after the birth when an organism’s exposure to a certain stimuli or experiences produces proper development

Imprinting: Process by which certain animals form attachments during a critical period very early in life

Basic Trust: According to Erik Erickson, a sense that the world is predictable and trustworthy – Said to be formed during infancy by appropriate experiences and responsive caregivers

Self-Concept: 1 – Sense of one’s identity and personal worth – 2 – All our thoughts and feelings about ourselves, in an answer to the question, “Who am I?”

Adolescence: The transition period from childhood to adulthood, extending from puberty to independence

Puberty: Period of sexual maturation, during which a person becomes capable of reproducing

Primary Sex Characteristics: The body structures (ovaries, testes, and external genitalia) that make sexual reproduction possible

Secondary Sex Characteristics: Non-reproductive sexual characteristics, such as female breasts and hips, male voice quality, and body hair

Menarche: First menstrual period

Identity: One’s sense of self – According to Erikson, the adolescent’s task is to solidify a sense of self by testing and integrating various roles

Intimacy: In Erikson’s theory, the ability to form close, loving relationships – A primary developmental task in late adolescence and early adulthood

Menopause: Time of natural cessation of menstruation – Also refers to the biological changes a woman experiences as her ability to reproduce declines

Alzheimer’s Disease: Progressive and irreversible brain disorder characterized by gradual deterioration of memory, reasoning, language, and finally physical functioning  

Cross-Sectional Study: Study in which people of different ages groups are compared w/ one another

Longitudinal Study: A study in which the same people are restudied and retested over a long period of time

Crystallized Intelligence: One’s accumulated knowledge and verbal skills – Tends to increase w/ age

Fluid Intelligence: One’s ability to reason speedily and abstractly – Tends to decrease during late adulthood

Social Clock: Culturally preferred timing of social events such as marriage, parenthood, and retirement