The psychology of childhood and youth

Tatlow-Golden, Mimi (2023). The psychology of childhood and youth. In: Cooper, Victoria and Tatlow-Golden, Mimi eds. An Introduction to Childhood and Youth Studies and Psychology. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 24–42.



This chapter introduces you to the psychology of childhood and youth. Psychology is a wide-ranging field that seeks to apply the scientific method to explaining minds, brains, and behaviour and to achieve the best outcomes for children and young people, and it has become dominant in interpreting childhood and youth and particularly child and adolescent development. Yet the field itself is beginning to question its century-long assumptions that universal ‘norms’ can be identified from research with urban, wealthy White children in the global North. The chapter introduces principles of key quantitative and qualitative psychological research methods with multiple illustrative examples, including the ‘marshmallow test’, to show how psychological research findings evolve over time. It also makes the case that children and young people may be more competent than adults, that they are differentially sensitive to their contexts, and that culture is a crucial feature of childhood development.

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