Child psychology is an area of psychology that studies the mind, emotional, and social development of children from birth through adolescence. This is a fascinating field of psychology since it contains a lot of debate and unknowns in the profession. For instance, there are questions as to whether earlier experiences in a child’s life are more formative than later experiences. It also includes the debate of whether nature or nurture enact a greater role in a child’s life. Many people base their diagnoses on genetics while others take social and cultural factors, such as relationships with families and peers and education and values, into account. A child’s psyche can be impacted by socioeconomic status, such as amount of education in the household, family income, professions, health care and nutrition, and cognitive and sexual development.
An enormous number of factors can influence a child’s life, a fact which encourages many people enter the profession. Professionals who work in the field are interested in assisting children’s cognitive, emotional, physical, social, and educational growth. Child psychologists may specialize in a particular area of child development or work with all age groups. Some of the careers in child psychology include:
- Abnormal child psychologists who mostly work with disorders, evaluations, diagnoses, and testing
- Adolescent psychologists working with children between the age of 12 to 18
- Development psychologists who study disciplinary tactics, communication, nurturing, maturity, and control
- School psychologists who diagnose learning disorders and provide guidance to parents and children in the education system
- Educational psychologists who spend time improving how children learn in schools
Many professionals provide psychotherapy to help children with behavioral problems. Others work in the field of scientific research or administer psychological tests. Some compelling areas of research have recently found a link between pregnant mothers smoking cigarettes and developmental delays in the child. This study showed that many of these children end up on antidepressants, stimulants, or experience drug addiction. To read more on this study, click this link:http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/26/us-moms-smoking-idUSTRE77P74F20110826.
Other research shows that girls in the United States are reaching puberty earlier than in the past. Based on this study, the child psychologist will then research the impacts this will have on the social, mental, and physical aspects of a child’s life.
People who work in the field of child psychology frequently work with a team of health-care professionals to develop a treatment plan for a child. To practice in the field, most professionals possess at least a master’s degree in child psychology. Being that the mind is so complex; the requirements to practice in the field are very stringent. A PhD or PsyD in clinical or counseling is in demand and becoming more of a requirement. After completing a degree, an individual must complete a supervised clinical internship and pass state and national tests to become licensed. The clinical internship typically takes about two years to complete, but this can vary by state. Professionals who study school psychology can apply for the Nationally Certified School Psychologist award which will allow the person to transfer and practice between states without taking another state exam. Once the person has received licensure, she may open a private practice or work in a school, hospital, law enforcement, or in mental health clinic.
This field is expected to grow throughout the year of 2018. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average salary for a child psychologist is about $64,000 a year with the highest salaries reaching $150,000.
Many times, a child psychologist will work with a child to diagnosis a problem, as well as the adults in his life to design a treatment plan. Therapists go through special training since children often express themselves differently than adults when it comes to depression, grief, loss, trauma, and behavioral and developmental delays. Younger children cannot adequately express themselves in works, so tests and visuals are often used to help describe their feelings.
Developmental Psychology: Nature vs. Nurture
Developmental psychology is the scientific study of physiological and emotional changes that occur during a person’s life. Otherwise known as human development, this field examines the entire life span, from infancy through childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and aging. The developmental psychologist will study the changes that take place with a person’s physical, cognitive, language, social, and emotional development and identity formation. Studies are conducted based on innate reactions versus learned behavior. Lots of controversy exists in the field exists regarding what behaviors are genetic versus environmental. Psychologists want to know if development happens in stages or occur gradually. Do childhood experiences form personalities and behaviors, or do later life experiences have the same impact?
These psychologists examine the impact environmental and societal factors have on development. This field incorporates other disciplines, such as biology, anthropology, sociology, education, and history to help explain how people grow and change during their lifespan. The debate about what traits are inborn versus experience-based has converged a bit over the years. Most psychologists now believe that some aspects of development are biological, such as puberty; however puberty can be affected by eating habits which can be societal and environmental. The controversy of early childhood developmental versus later life experiences has now found that many well adjusted adults have overcome a less than perfect childhood, which shows that early childhood events do not dictate one’s behavior throughout his life.
The subject of how, when and the rate at which people change is examined in developmental psychology. Psychoanalytical theories, such as those presented by Sigmund Freud, suggest that development occurs through a series of psychosexual stages. This theory suggests that most of a child’s personality is formed by the age of five and is driven by a series of childhood stages and pleasure-seeking energies. Freud suggests that if a child progresses through the psychosexual stages then development will be normal, however if issues are not resolved at the appropriate stages, then fixations such as smoking, overeating, or drinking may occur.
Most people are aware of developmental psychologists because of the work they do to study the behaviors and growth of children. During a child’s annual medical physical, a doctor will check for developmental, educational, social, and physical milestones. If a child falls behind the norm, a physician may be concerned about these differences. Some of these deficits are so severe that they point to abnormal development. Other differences may result from environmental changes, and these risk factors can be modified.
Some professionals in the field work with a specific population, such as adolescents or autistic children. Certain aspects that are studied in developmental psychology include evaluating language skills, moral reasoning, and independence.
A developmental psychologist can work in a variety of settings, such as education, health care, psychiatric clinics, rehabilitation centers, government, and assisted living. Many people choose to teach courses about evaluating and treating patients. Average salaries vary depending on geographic location and work setting, but the median earnings range from $69,000 to $100,000 per year.
For the most part, individuals in this field will have a Ph.D. or Psy.D in developmental psychology. These people can apply for most employment opportunities including teaching and private practice. Many students start their career with an undergraduate or master’s degree in psychology or and then enter a Ph.D. program. Employment opportunities may be found with only an undergraduate or masters’ degrees, however the competition is quite high with lower salaries in these positions. Job growth is expected to grow in this field due to immense pressure in our society to evaluate and diagnose people with mental, developmental, and emotional issues. Two areas that are growing is working with the aged population, a sector called geropsychology, and working with veterans from the war.
The study of developmental psychology begins with a hypothesis. Based on this hypothesis, research is conducted to prove or disprove the theory. For example, the notion that boys are genetically predisposed to perform better on tests is a theory that a developmental psychologist may want to research and test. Data collection, analysis, and conclusions are drawn based upon observations, case studies, experiments, and questionnaires.