Developmental Psychology

History of Psychology

  1. Ross D. Parke PhD1,
  2. K. Alison Clarke-Stewart PhD2

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop201012

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Parke, R. D. and Clarke-Stewart, K. A. 2012. Developmental Psychology. Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 1:10.

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of California, Riverside, Department of Psychology and the Center for Family Studies, Riverside, California, USA

  2. 2

    University of California, Irvine, Department of Psychology and Social Behavior, Irvine, California, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012


The goal in this chapter is to trace shifts in major theories and methods of developmental psychology from Charles Darwin to the present. In the earliest period (1880–1915), the field of developmental psychology was established as a distinct scholarly domain, independent of philosophy and other disciplines. J. Mark Baldwin, G. Stanley Hall, Alfred Binet, and Sigmund Freud were the individuals who were most directly responsible. In the second period (1915–1940), an organization supporting developmental psychology, the Society for Research in Child Development, was formed, and institutes of child development were established across the United States. Three theorists with competing views of development vied for followers: Watson, the behaviorist; Gesell, the maturationist; and Piaget, the interactionist. In the third period (1940–1960), the research agenda in developmental psychology was dominated by learning theorists such as B. F. Skinner, who promoted operant conditioning, and Robert R. Sears, who attempted to fuse learning theory with psychoanalytic theory. In the next quarter century (1960–1985), themes rather than theorists dominated the field. These themes included a return to a focus on cognition, a greater appreciation of precocity, and increased attention to culture and context. Finally, in the most recent period (1985–present), there has been a renewed focus on biology, an intensified appreciation of culture, increased interdisciplinary collaboration, and notable expansion of methods and analytic strategies. Developmental psychology today reflects both the concerns of its founders and techniques of contemporary methodologists and statisticians.


  • developmental psychology;
  • historical changes;
  • theoretical trends;
  • methodological advances