Research on Child Development

Research on Child Development

The scientific method typically involves three major steps:

  1. Identifying a question of interest (i.e., based on a theory)
  2. Specifying a hypothesis
  3. Carrying out research to test the hypothesis

A researcher using the information-processing approach to memory (i.e., a theory) expects children to form memories better at seven than at five (i.e., a hypothesis). If, through research, the researcher finds that children’s memory is better at seven than at five, the researcher has provided support for his theory.

When developing the hypothesis, the researcher is mindful that predictions determine the type of research methodology to use. The researcher must begin by operationalizing the hypothesis. In doing so, the hypothesis is made specific and measurable.

Continuing with the above example, the researcher could operationalize “memory” by measuring the exact number of words that a child remembers from a word list. If the child remembers significantly more words at seven than at five, then the researcher can conclude that age influences memory formation abilities.

Additional Materials

Research on Child Development

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Research on Child Development Types of Research The two major types of psychological research are correlational and experimental research. With correlational research, we can simply state that two constructs are related to each other. For example, age and memory may be positively correlated such that older children have better memories (i.e., as age increases, memory increases). Correlational studies usually involve conducting naturalistic observations, surveys, or brain scans. We choose to conduct correlational research when we expect that two naturally occurring constructs are associated with (or related to) each other but not when we want to determine whether one construct causes the other. A correlation between two variables can imply that there may be a causal relationship between two factors. However, because of the potential of other intervening variables, the correlation cannot guarantee that the effect is causal. In the memory and age example, the relationship between these variables can be explained by other factors, such as intelligence. To investigate cause-and-effect relationships, we have to conduct experimental research. The researchers control experimental studies. Experimental studies typically occur in laboratory settings. For example, if a researcher wants to conduct an experiment to determine whether age causally influences memory abilities, he or she would select children with equal intelligence levels. By controlling this variable (intelligence), he or she can be more confident that any difference between two age groups in memory abilities is due to age and not due to intelligence. Correlational and experimental studies are common across all types of psychological investigations, but there are also specific research strategies that must be considered when conducting developmental research. The objective of developmental research is to examine changes over time. Both correlational research and experimental research typically provide us with a snapshot of one time period, but neither of these options allows us to examine changes over time. Techniques To examine changes over time, we must use one of the three major developmental research techniques: cross-sectional research, longitudinal research, and sequential research.