Developmental Psychology

July 29, 2011


This course examines human development from conception through early adulthood with special a special focus on issues related to race, class & gender.  It involves a 12-hour service-learning component in Head Start preschool classroom in Bridgeport CT where you will have the opportunity to act as “participant observers” and learn directly from the children, their teachers, and their families about child development and the complex array of biological, psychological, social, and political issues that impact on the course of healthy development. This course fulfills the U.S. Diversity requirement.

Required Text:

Berk, L.E.  (2012).  Infants, children and adolescents. (7th Edition).  Boston:  Allyn & Bacon.


For this course we will be using Blackboard for quizzes & videos and access through Mozilla Foxfire works best.

Determination of Final Grade:

20% – 5 online quizzes

20% – Head Start (service learning) journal assignment – there are 3 assignments journals. It is expected that you will integrate your on-site observations with material from your textbook, the class videos, and outside research with your classroom observations.

20%   – essays – You will have a choice of doing 3 of 4 optional assignments.  Late assignments

will not be accepted. If you do all 4 essays, the lowest grade will be dropped.

20% – class research project – we will design the study, collect the data, discuss results as a class but you will write your own individual report

20% – final exam – a take-home written assignment designed to assess your cumulative knowledge of what you have learned this semester.

Class participation & attendance:

This class is designed for active involvement in the learning process; you are expected to participate & contribute to class discussion. This course deals with the development of a person from conception into young adulthood.  Since you are all human beings and since you all have experienced developing into a young adult, I expect that you will have many valuable insights to contribute to our discussions.  However, you have to be there to contribute.  Excessive absences will detract from your final grade.

Course Schedule:

Tues – Friday class @ 10 am – 12:15 pm

Head Start days 9:20-noon

1/18     Introduction to course; Theory & Research   (Chapter 1)

1/21     Overview: Healthy Dev. in Adolescence & Early Adulthood (skim Chap 14, 15, 16 & 17)

1/25     Environmental Foundations  (Chapters 2 & 3)

– a focus on issues of race, class & gender

1/28     Genetics, Biological Foundations; Prenatal Development  (Chapters 2 & 3)

2/1       Head Start staff visit to class to meet us

SERVICE LEARNING JOURNAL #1 due in class Tuesday Feb 1

2/4       Birth & Infancy  (Chapters 4 & 5; skim 6 & 7;

QUIZ 1 on chapters 1 – 4 must be taken by Wednesday night Feb 9 @ midnight

2/8       Infancy (Chapter 6)

2/11     Infancy (Chapters 7)

2/15     first Service Learning trip to Head Start – meet inside Kelley Center at 9:20 am

2/18     Infancy (Chapter 7)

2/22     no class; Monday classes meet on Tuesday

ESSAY #1 due in class Friday Feb 25

2/25     Early Childhood  (chapters 8, 9)

3/1       second Service Learning trip to Head Start – meet inside Kelley Center at 9:20 am

QUIZ 2 on chapters 5 – 7 must be taken by Wednesday night March 2 @ midnight

3/4       Early Childhood  (chapters 9, 10)

3/8       third Service Learning trip to Head Start – meet inside Kelley Center at 9:20 am

ESSAY #2 due in class Friday March 11

3/11     Early Childhood  (chapters 9, 10)

3/15     fourth Service Learning trip to Head Start – meet inside Kelley Center at 9:20 am SERVICE LEARNING JOURNAL, Part 2 due in class Friday March 18

3/18     Early Childhood  (chapters 9, 10) & discuss research paper

spring break

3/29     fifth Service Learning trip to at Head Start – meet inside Kelley Center at 9:20 am

QUIZ 3 on chapters 8 – 10 must be taken by Wednesday night March 30 @ midnight

4/1       Middle Childhood  (Chapters 11, 12)  Seasons of Life Video

4/5       sixth Service Learning trip to Head Start – meet inside Kelley Center at 9:20 am

ESSAY #3 due in class Friday April 8

4/8       Middle Childhood  (Chapters 12, 13)  Mad Hot Ballroom

SERVICE LEARNING JOURNAL #3 due in class Tuesday April  12

4/12     Process Head Start service learning experience

QUIZ 4 on chapters 11 – 13 must be taken by Wednesday night April 20 @ midnight

4/15     Middle Childhood  (Chapters 12, 13)  Middle School Confessions

4/19     Adolescence  (Chapters 14, 15) – Seasons of Life Video

Easter Break

4/26     Adolescence & Young Adulthood  (Chapters 16 & 17)

ESSAY #4 due in class Tuesday April 26

4/29     Adolescence & Young Adulthood  (Chapters 16 & 17) age 21 & up

QUIZ 5 on chapters 14 – 17 must be taken by Monday night May 2 @ midnight

5/3       young adulthood & a look to the future

Final Exam: hand in take home exam (typed) by Wednesday May 11 by 12 noon – Bannow 122

Head Start Service Learning Component:

As a service learning component of PY264, you will be participating in the Adrienne Kirby Family Literacy Project at ABCD Head Start in Bridgeport, CT.   We will be traveling to Head Start together in university vans for 6 visits.  Be in the Kelley Center lobby at 9:20 SHARP!   You will be assigned to work with preschool children in their classrooms in the hopes of enhancing their language and school readiness skills.   There is a Journal assignment worth 20% relating your service learning experiences to your readings and class discussions.  Attendance for labs in Bridgeport are mandatory.  However, if for some good reason, you miss a lab session it is your responsibility to (1) notify me by calling my cell phone BEFORE 9:15 am and (2) to make up the session by arranging transportation to Head Start on your own.  Documentation of the make-up session will be required.

Head Start Journal Project:

PART 1:  Background Information – due 2/1/11

As psychologists from a university about to enter a community agency, it is important that you know something about the community setting you are about to form a partnership with.  On 2/1/11, teachers and site managers from Action for Bridgeport Community Development’s Head Start program will come to our class to meet you and to introduce you to ABCD, to the Head Start model, and to classroom etiquette and expectations.  Before their visit, you will do some research about both ABCD as an agency and about the history of the Head Start program, its original purpose, the controversy over its effectiveness, the research about its long term outcomes, etc.

Answer the following questions:

1. When did Head Start begin?

2. What was its purpose?  What was the rationale for creating Head Start?

3. What types of services did Head Start originally provide?

4. How many children are served today?  What is the family income criteria?

5. Under the Nixon administration there was a controversy over Head Start’s effectiveness – what was it?  What types of research did opponents of Head Start use to try to disband it?  What were the arguments supporters of Head Start used to save funding?

6. What are some of the areas where there have been documented positive long term effects of Head Start?

7. Edward Zigler & others have argued that Head Start is cost effective because it prevents many of the problems faced by low income children & their families … what are those statistics?

8. What are the major challenges Head Start faces today?  What is stopping it from being effective?

9. Look at ABCD’s website: ABCD was created in the 1960’s as a part of President Johnson’s War on Poverty, what services does this agency provide to the greater Bridgeport community?  How many people does it serve?

PART 2: First Service Learning Journal – due 3/15/11

Additional Readings for this journal first assignment:

Berk, L.E., Mann, T.D., & Ogan, A.T. (2006). Make-believe play: A wellspring for development of self-regulation. In D.G. Singer et al. (Eds). Play = learning: How play motivates and enhances children’s cognitive and social-emotional growth. NY: Oxford University Press.

Use the notes that you kept from each of your first three sessions at Head Start and respond thoughtfully to each of the following prompts integrating your classroom observations, assigned course readings, assigned course videos, and additional library and internet research.


(1) Observation: social ecology: Your textbook stresses the importance of the social ecology of an individual’s environment.  Do an ecological assessment of the Head Start environment both at the site level and the classroom level. Remember that all environments have positive resources that contribute to a child’s ability to develop resilience as well as risk factors and liabilities that have the potential to detract from optimal development.  For this part of the assignment, you are expected to provide an assessment of two important ecological factors: the school and the individual classroom. Suggest what impact you think this “ecology” might have on the children’s development (positive and/or negative). Consider the following:  the “feel” of the school when you enter, the “feel” of the classroom; its physical lay-out; the quality, quantity, and developmental appropriateness of learning materials available; cleanliness; structure vs. chaos; the behavior of the adults; the noise level, and the “mix” of the children (ask your teacher about this-gender, age, behavior problems, special needs, etc.).  NOTE: You are expected to relate your observations to research/theory in your textbook AND you are expected to do some additional research related to school-classroom factors related to school adjustment/success.

(2) Observation: Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development. Your textbook and the reading by Berk, Mann & Ogan (2006) provide you with a good description of how much cognitive development depends on social dialogues & social interaction.  Work with a child – you be the more knowledgeable person and stretch a child’s cognitive development a bit.  Describe one example of a child’s learning being advanced using the zone of proximal development.  Are there instances of children being asked to do things out of their zone of proximal development? Describe one example.  As a developmental psychologist, what is the “take home” lesson you have learned from these observations?


(3) Observation:  make believe play & self regulation Refer to the article by Berk, Mann & Ogan (2006).  Either on your own or with the help of your teachers identify TWO of the youngest children in your classroom and TWO of the oldest children.  Spend time talking to an interacting with these four children, try to engage each of them in make-believe  play.  Use the Berk et al. (2006) article and discuss the differences you see in (a) the children’s language skills and (b) the children’s self-regulation skills. Describe and discuss (using professional psychological terminology) your observations of the connection between make-believe play, language & self- regulation.  As a developmental psychologist, what is the “take home” lesson you have learned from these observations?

(4) Personal reflection: discuss your personal reactions to the experience thus far :

(a) what were some of your thoughts in reaction to your experience?

(b) how do you feel (personally) when you are at Head Start and/or when you leave?

(c) discuss one link/connection to your personal life & experience.

(5) Questions: And, since every experience should generate more questions & encourage you to wonder “why?”   What did your experience at Head Start this week make you wonder about?  What do you want to know more about?  (please do not say “what will happen to these children when they grow up”  –  you are capable of much deeper thinking that that.)

(6) References: give the complete and correct APA style formatted citations for the resources you used.

PART 3: Second Service Learning Journal – due 4/12/11

Additional Readings for this journal second assignment:

Albee, G.W. (1992). Saving children means a social revolution. In G.W. Albee et al. (Eds). Improving children’s lives. Newbury Park: Sage.  Zigler, E.F. & Styfco, S.S. (2007). America’s Head Start program: An effort for social justice. In C. Wainryb (Ed.). Social development, social inequalities, and social justice. Hoboken: Erlbaum.


(1) Observation: discipline style & behavior The preschool years are noted for being a time of “socialization.” Adults “teach” children about how society expects them to behave through discipline.  Similar to what we learned about attachment, the type of discipline style a child is exposed to provides additional information to the child’s “internal working model” about self-worth, how relationships work, and the rules that govern behavior in the world. Do a behavioral assessment of your classroom – what can you say about the relationship between rewards/punishments and the children’s behavior?  Just like families, classrooms can be categorized can according to the predominant discipline style used and there is a rich research literature about the effects of teacher discipline style on children’s behavior.  How would you describe the discipline style in your classroom – authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, or neglectful/uninvolved?  Explain your reasons for that classification.  Identify at least one child you know well and evaluate the impact that that discipline style is having on his/her development.  Be sure to consider the bidirectional interaction of child characteristics & discipline style.  [use your textbook; the videos & additional research as resources]


(2) Observation & Reflection: Head Start Social Justice

Read Zigler & Styfco (2007) and Albee (1992). These two readings should encourage us all to think about how we can use our knowledge of psychology to encourage an approach to child development that is truly “socially just.”  Nearly two decades ago, Albee (1992) proclaimed that saving children would require a “social revolution” … Zigler & Styfco’s (2007) tell us that the benefits of a high quality early intervention like Head Start may not level the playing field between the poor children and their middle class counterparts but it is better than having nothing at all.  Here is my question to you:  Is this the best we can do for the children of the poor?  Answer the following questions:

(a) How do you evaluate the children’s preschool experience your Head Start classroom in terms of social justice?  Remember to consider strengths as well as weaknesses

(b) Using your knowledge of developmental psychology (textbook, readings, videos), suggest two policy changes that would help level the playing field and make Head Start a more “socially just” early childhood intervention.

(3) Reflection

Consider the following passage taken from “Ordinary Resurrections” by Jonathan Kozol:

“The lives of children in poor neighborhoods are studied, and their personalities  examined and dissected, often with a good deal of self confidence, by grown-ups far away who do not know them but rely on data generated by researchers to come up with various conclusions that are used to justify political decisions.  This is inevitable, I guess.  Societies and governments need to rely on generalities to organize their understandings and establish policies.  Sometimes, though, these generalities seem much too big, too confident, and too relentless.  It feels at times as if the world of adult expertise is taking hundred-pound cement blocks, labeled “certitude” and “big significance,” and lowered them down onto the shoulders of a [young child], then telling him, “Okay, you carry this for ten years or fifteen years.  Then, if we learn something new, we will come back and give you new labels you can carry.”  Sometimes the size and weight of all this significance make it hard to see if there is still a living body underneath” (Kozol, 2000, p. 14-15).


The children you have gotten to know at Head Start are known by many stereotypes – they are called low income children, children at risk, poor children, disadvantaged children, etc.  The children you have come to know are innocent victims of these stereotypes and many “generalities” researchers report in our professional journals and politicians use to make social policies.  For the past 6 weeks you have been able to see these children for who they really are … With that in mind, answer the following:


What did the children at Head Start teach you about the lives of children (and their families) who researchers “study” and “explain” & who politicians pass policies about that no textbook or published research study ever could tell you? Give two specific examples from your time at Head Start. Use whatever resources you think will help you make your argument.

(4) Personal reflection: How has your time at Head Start affected you?  Consider your personal development and your world view & attitudes.  Explain.  (please give this question some serious thought)


(5) References: give the complete and correct APA style formatted citations for the resources you used.

ESSAYS for PY264:  Spring 2011


You are to do three out of the four essay assignments; anyone wishing to replace a low score can do all 4 and I will take the best 4 scores when determining your assignment/essay grade for the course.  No late essays will be accepted unless you have discussed an important need for an extension with me.

The essays are open book and you are expected to use your textbook, additional library/internet research, the course videos, and your service-learning experiences at Head Start.

NOTE:  For all of you, but especially those of you who are not good multiple choice test takers, these essays are meant to showcase your understanding of the material covered each week.   That is, it will allow you to use a different type of intelligence and academic skill.  So make it good – integrate your thoughts into the best essay possible.  Take the time to think, write & revise before handing it in.

A NOTE ON DOING ADDITIONAL OUTSIDE RESEARCH:  when doing library or internet research for these essays, please be sure that you are using a reputable source.  Avoid people’s personal websites and fringe-group websites.  Try searching the websites of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society, the Children’s Defense Fund, federal websites, AARP, and look at the university’s library’s recommendations:

ESSAY #1 –  due in class Feb 28

For this essay you will need to:

(1) watch the movie “Spellbound”

(2) read the textbook assigned chapters

(3) read the Aber article “The impact of Poverty on the Mental Health and Development of Very Young Children”


Topic:  The Influence of social class

The nature-nurture issue is often debated with regards to how “smart” a person is as measured by intelligence tests and school achievement.  Research has shown that there IS a strong genetic component to intelligence (and thus you cannot deny the role of genetics when it comes to things like  school achievement and excelling in tasks like the National Spelling Bee)…but research also tells us that even a person who is genetically programmed to be intelligent if he/she is being raised in a toxic, chaotic, or otherwise negative environment will have problems living up to his/her potential.  So this essay is about the role of the environment, specifically, the role of social class.

The movie Spellbound follows the lives of students from a variety of different social environments as they prepare for and compete in the National Spelling Bee.

The movie will hopefully provide you with many insights and questions regarding the potential impact of social class as well as other key environmental factors on school achievement.

For your essay:

There are 8 children featured in the film.  All of them are clearly very bright but they live in very different social environments which impact on their motivation to achieve, the strategies they use to achieve success, the resources and opportunities they have access to, and the obstacles/challenges they face in achieving their goals.

(1) choose 3 children, one from each of the three social classes: lower income/working poor (Angela from Texas; Ted from Missouri; Ashley from Washington DC) , middle income/working class (Nupur from Florida; April from Pennsylvania)  & upper income (Emily from Connecticut; Neil from California) – forget about Harry.

(2) using either RESILIENCE research  you are to compare & contrast:  (a) the resources each of the 3 children have available to them and (b) the obstacles/challenges each of the 3 children face in their attempts to develop their competence as a student.

(3) be sure that you use your textbook and the Aber article when you write this paper to formulate your thoughts about how social class affects a person’s achievement.  Be sure to USE APPROPRIATE PSYCHOLOGICAL TERMINIOLOGY. This is a course in psychology and you are expected to talk and write like one.

(4) be sure that you use CITATIONS to reference the ideas and facts that you get from your sources.  DO NOT “cut and paste” material from a source – that is plagiarism!  You are supposed to rephrase what you read in your own words.

NOTE – do not debate nature vs. nurture – this is a paper focused solely on the nurture side, more specifically, social class.



ESSAY  #2 – due in class March 11

For this essay you will need to:

(1)  read the textbook assigned chapters

(2) do additional outside research

(4) consider your Head Start service-learning experiences AND ask the classroom teachers their opinions on the assigned topics

(3) watch Seasons of Life video segment 2


Topic:  School Readiness & Gender

The current trend in educational reform focuses on getting children “ready” for formal schooling by teaching 3 & 4 year olds “academic” skills such as recognizing letters and numbers, writing their name, counting to ten, reading, etc.  Some psychologists are concerned about the negative impact of “hurrying” or “pushing” young children too soon to do tasks that they are not physically or cognitively able to do.  Research & theories of positive child development suggests that there is much more important “readiness” skills that should be developed BEFORE formal academic skills are introduced.  Research also shows that boys are being particularly “hard-hit “ by the imposition of rigorous academic curricula in preschool & kindergarten.  Indeed, as many of them become “school failures” (at worse) or discouraged learners (at best) at the tender age of 5 or 6.

Do some outside research regarding the development of young boys and their readiness for formal school.

For this essay,

(1) discuss 2-3 important NON-ACADEMIC skills/abilities that children need to develop first BEFORE any type of formal instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic can possibly be of any value.

(2) make one specific policy change for preschool and kindergarten education that would help assure that all children have a opportunity to be successful in their first exposure to school.  (I think that you will find that any recommendation you make relevant to boys is also relevant to girls as well)


ESSAY #3 –  due in class April 8

For this essay you will need to:

(1)  read the textbook assigned chapters

(2) watch the videos: Seasons of Life video for middle childhood & adolescence,  Mad Hot Ballroom, Middle School Confessions

(3) do additional library research (if you wish)


Topic: Developing a Sense of Competence in Middle Childhood

In your textbook and in the Seasons of Life video you have learned about Erikson’s tasks of development for middle childhood and adolescence (industry & identity). That is, in middle childhood an individual is supposed to be developing a sense of being good at something, a sense of competence that leads to a positive self concept , positive moral values, the motivation to achieve, and a stable and positive identity that prepares them for a psychologically healthy and productive adult life. In the textbook and in the Seasons of Life video you have also learned about resilience (a person’s ability to successfully cope with life challenges) and the environmental factors that promote the development of resilience.

For this assignment I want to think about Erikson’s “industry” (competence) as the entry point into adolescent identity (how you define “self” in terms of motivation for future success; moral values; etc.) by comparing the children in the movie Mad Hot Ballroom and the young people you meet in two specific segments of Middle School Confessions (the girls in the first segment dealing with sexual behavior and the same girls with their male counterparts in the later segment on drinking and drug use).  According to folklore and even the psychological literature, the children from the winning team in Mad Hot Ballroom are supposed to be the ones at higher risk for negative developmental outcomes (drugs, sex, poor school performance, behavior breaking social norms, etc), yet it is the more privileged youth in Middle School Confessions who seem “lost” in their quest for a sense of industry (competence) and identity.

For your essay, address the following:  What do these two films teach you about resilience and the necessary factors leading to positive outcomes of Erikson’s tasks of industry & identity?  In other words – what do young people need in their lives to achieve a sense of competence and a psychologically healthy adult identity?

While writing this essay, be sure you understand what it meant by resilience. Developing resilience depends on maximizing the presence of positive protective factors and minimizing the potential damage of negative risk factors in a child’s environment

ESSAY # 4 – due in class April 26

For this essay you will need to:

(1)  read the textbook assigned chapters

(2)  do additional library research

(3)  watch Seasons of Life segments 4 & 5; Middle School Confessions


Topic:  Identity formation and gay-lesbian youth

Establishing Identity is the primary task of adolescence and young adulthood.  We know that there are commonalities in the experiences of adolescents of difference races, social class, and genders face the task of identity formation and that there are also unique challenges and opportunities for male versus female, rich versus poor, etc.  The same holds true for sexual orientation.  Like race, class & gender, a person’s sexual orientation offers the gay-lesbian youth a set of unique challenges as well as a set of unique opportunities for psychological growth.  Thus, sexual orientation ( like race, class & gender) is a key factor influencing the outcome of a person’s quest for identity and finding an adult life “niche” that is emotionally satisfying.

For your essay, discuss some of the unique challenges and unique opportunities facing a gay-lesbian individual as he/she grapples with the tasks of adolescence and young adulthood AND how might those unique challenges& opportunities result in an adult who is perhaps psychologically healthier, more skilled, etc. than their heterosexual counterparts?

FINAL EXAM for PY264:  Spring 2011


In 1979, the Carnegie study “Small Futures: Children, Inequalities, and the Limits of Liberal Reform” (Richard de Lone, principle investigator) found that a child’s future was largely determined by social status and not their intelligence, that more than any other factor social class determines where a child ends up in life.  For your final exam you can either agree or disagree with this statement.  It is a very complex issue, so remember that the best answer it “it depends” – be sure that you “chunk off” an interesting subset of development to discuss and that you state your thesis clearly.

What is expected:

FIRST: The word “future” is vague and undefined so you will need to indicate what behaviors or traits you are using to define what a “successful” and “psychologically healthy” person is.  All semester we have looked at the areas of development related to “sense of self,” “relationships,” and “mastery” so that would be a good place to start.

SECOND, once you have chosen your definition of “successful & psychologically healthy,” start with infancy and follow the path of that healthy development through adolescence. Consider the question, “What are the psychological tasks that a child must master at each stage of development to achieve the goal of successful development that you have outlined in step #1 above AND discuss how social class affects those tasks.”  What unique opportunities and obstacles do children face in the lower, middle and upper social classes?  Discuss all three stages: (1) early childhood including infancy through age 5, (2) middle childhood ages 6 to 12, and (3) adolescence.

FINALLY, as a psychology-savvy advocate for social justice, make one social policy suggestion that uses psychological knowledge (what we know in terms of research & theory) with the goal of having greater numbers of children successfully begin their adult life.  [one policy suggestion only, not three]. Be sure that your social policy suggestion reflects the target behaviors you used to define healthy development.


IMPORTANT! The purpose of the essay is for you to show your cumulative knowledge of course material.  You should use your textbook, the assigned readings, the videos, & your service learning experiences.  You should not need to do outside research unless you need to find some statistic to prove a point you are trying to make.  Be sure to use proper psychological terminology — you are trying to prove that you understand the material we covered this semester so speak like a psychologist!   Warning:  think & organize … do not present a host of random or loosely connected ideas.

School: Fairfield University
Professor: Dr. Judy Primavera
  • update-img-new

    Get updates on what's new in the Campus Compact Network