How we all learn

Developmental Psychology
November 29, 2002

Nowadays psychology textbooks seem to be getting larger and heavier while at the same time having less and less information in them. Not so with Development Psychology: A Student's Handbook .

Most developmental psychology textbooks begin with a section discussing the history and background of the area, as well as a history of prominent figures in the field. Often, so much is included in the introduction that each topic receives very little attention. But in this book, the introductory section leads with a discussion of the ideas of Karl Ernst von Baer, who proposed that development proceeds in successive stages. Although this is the principle upon which much research in developmental psychology is based, it is rarely discussed in textbooks.

Ideas on how evolutionary theory and comparative research have influenced development are also included. But what makes this section superior is that the student is left in no doubt as to what developmental psychology is; how theories are tested; and which methods should be used to assess children's abilities.

The rest of the book is laid out chronologically, with each section examining the interplay between cognitive and social development.

The second section begins by looking at development from conception through to birth. This is discussed in many other textbooks, but not in as much detail as here. Different stages of early cognitive and perceptual development are illustrated. Piaget's theory receives in-depth coverage and is compared and contrasted with different theories of development.

Interestingly, a number of topics are discussed in more than one section. For example, in the section on pre-school development, the reader learns how children first learn language. Later on in the book, language learning is extended to include reading and writing as well as developmental disorders of reading such as dyslexia.

The book includes a great deal of information about child development, with each section well laid out and thoroughly researched. However, unlike some developmental textbooks, this is not a book full of glossy pictures and diagrams. The authors have not tried to cover every aspect of development from cradle to grave. Instead, they have concentrated on providing the reader with a balanced and up-to-date account of the major topics in developmental psychology from conception through to adolescence. For example, the final section examines the effect of culture and peer relationships on a child's development.

This is one of those rare textbooks that is both informative and engaging. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the scientific study of childhood.

Janine Spencer is lecturer in cognitive and developmental psychology, Brunel University.

Developmental Psychology: A Student's Handbook. First edition

Author - Margaret Harris and George Butterworth
ISBN - 1 84169 110 0 and 192 5
Publisher - Psychology Press
Price - £50.00 and £16.50
Pages - 371

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