Conceptualising and studying development

Learning outcomes:

By the end of this module, we hope you will be able to:


  • describe the influence of genetic and environmental factors on development


  • identify and explain the main models and theories proposed in order to outline how development occurs (including cognitive and moral development)


  • outline the main methodologies used in the study of development


  • define and describe cross-sectional studies, cohort and longitudinal studies and their role in studying development (using specific examples)


  • apply the knowledge gained and be able to focus on an area of development to study, whilst choosing the most appropriate method to study it 


  • list the pros and cons of using different study methodologies.


Module introduction

In this module we will explore the basic frameworks for conceptualising development. This includes consideration of the roles of genetics and environment, and how these may vary depending on the trait or condition.


We will also look at how the timing of adverse life experiences can impact on development, and how environmental factors can have both protective and detrimental effects. To set the idea of development in context, we will examine some of the theories proposed about how we develop through childhood into adulthood.


Finally, we will give an overview of the methodologies used to study development and why you may choose to use a particular method.


We hope you enjoy this module and feel inspired to learn more through the further reading included at the end of the module.

Learning notes

We recommend that you make some notes as you work through this module.


The 'TrOn Notebook' facility can be accessed throughout the module (allowing you to make notes on each page), and these notes will be saved in your personal area 'My TrOn', for future reference. However, you will not be able to print these notes as one single document.


If you would prefer to make your notes in a separate document you may wish to download the 'learning notes' below. This downloadable Word document will allow you to keep a personalised record of your learning, which you can then save and/or print for future reference.


Download the learning notes document for this module


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