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Discuss the pros and cons of Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal approaches to the study of development.

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Introduction

Discuss the pros and cons of Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal approaches to the study of development. Word Count: 1103 The study of development, also known as Developmental psychology is all about the study of change over time. It is about understanding the nature and processes that are involved in biological, social, cognitive and emotional changes. The main interest and focus of developmental psychology lies in childhood development from birth through to adolescence. However the main responsibility is to study change from infancy to old age. The goal is to establish a core understanding of changes and the processes that generate them. Psychologists want to do more than simply describe, they want to understand the processes and causes of developmental change. They want to be able to explain changes in behaviour in order to be able to control or prevent it. In order to comprehend developmental change over time, psychologists have employed a number of research methods both experimental and non-experimental. One of the fundamental things that psychologists often examine is the change that occurs with age. That is to say performance at 2 or more age points. ...read more.

Middle

It has been known for studies that start out with one hundred participants can end up with as little as thirty-five participants resulting in a participant attrition rate of 65%. A further disadvantage is that of the test carried out. It is possible for it to be revised over time to include new items with new norms. The question of whether to use the original or revised test is raised. Furthermore environmental changes may occur over time such as changes in education, for example the approaches to teaching and the implementation of the national curriculum. Development of this kind may affect the comparison of data taken from a five year old to that taken from a ten year old resulting in less meaningful and distorted findings. In spite of these problems the longitudinal design is useful for giving detailed descriptions of changes and raising questions with regards to the process of development. Nonetheless there is an alternative approach that also examines change with age. The cross-sectional approach, which uses different children at the same age point, is known for being quick; data can be collected in a matter of hours regardless of the age points. ...read more.

Conclusion

If this study was simply longitudinal it would have taken six years before data collection was complete, therefore the combination of both approaches represents a fifty percent saving in time. It also allows for a check to be carried out on a possible cohort effect. Both data collection methods, the longitudinal and cross-sectional approach, can produce different findings on the same study. Weschsler's cross-sectional study showed a decline in intelligence from the age of twenty. In contrast Schaie and Willis' longitudinal study of intelligence showed an increase in intelligence up until the age of fifty. The reasons for the different findings is firstly the cohort effect, different past histories, connected to the cross-sectional approach and secondly participant attrition, that is to say participant drop out, associated with the longitudinal approach. In conclusion the longitudinal design is not the preferred approach for developmental psychologists because of the costs, time involved and participant attrition. On the other hand the cross-sectional design is very popular and is the preferred method as data covering a wide range of age points can be collected in a very short period of time. It is also cost effective and developmental questions can be answered quickly and efficiently. ...read more.

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