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Developmental psychology is the scientific study of how and why humans grow, change, and adapt across the course of their lives. Originally concerned with infants and children, the field has expanded to include adolescence, adult development, aging, and the entire lifespan. Developmental psychologists aim to explain how thinking, feeling, and behaviors change throughout life. This field examines change across three major dimensions, which are physical development, cognitive development, and social emotional development. Within these three dimensions are a broad range of topics including motor skills, executive functions, moral understanding, language acquisition, social change, personality, emotional development, self-concept, and identity formation.
Developmental psychology examines the influences of nature and nurture on the process of human development, as well as processes of change in context across time. Many researchers are interested in the interactions among personal characteristics, the individual's behavior, and environmental factors. This includes the social context and the built environment. Ongoing debates in regards to developmental psychology include biological essentialism vs. neuroplasticity and stages of development vs. dynamic systems of development. Research in developmental psychology has some limitations but at the moment researchers are working to understand how transitioning through stages of life and biological factors may impact our behaviors and development.
Developmental psychology involves a range of fields, such as educational psychology, child psychopathology, forensic developmental psychology, child development, cognitive psychology, ecological psychology, and cultural psychology. Influential developmental psychologists from the 20th century include Urie Bronfenbrenner, Erik Erikson, Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud, Jean Piaget, Barbara Rogoff, Esther Thelen, and Lev Vygotsky.