Five Great Books For Developmental Psychologists

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One field that’s really taken off in recent years is developmental psychology. Initially developmental psychologists were only interested in how toddler developed into young children. Today, however, developmental psychology encompasses numerous fields, including adolescent psychology, language acquisition, neuroplasticity, and personality formation. At its core, developmental psychologists are concerned with how the human being matures over time.

In addition to working in the health care industry, many people with developmental psychology degrees work at universities, public schools, and in research facilities. Not only is developmental psychology a rewarding field, it also pays well. According to the American Psychological Association, professional developmental psychologists make annual salaries between $69,000 and $91,000. Since developmental psychology is now such a broad field of inquiry, it can be hard to decide what you want your area of expertise to be. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of five great books for developmental psychologists. Each one of the popular books on this list will give you profound insight into various topics of great importance to developmental psychologists in the modern world.

1. Theories of Development: Concepts and Applications

Often used as a textbook in introductory courses, Theories of Development by William Crain is still considered a great primer for those interested in learning the history of developmental psychology. Crain’s text is neatly organized into 18 chapters examining the lives and works of 24 crucial theorists in the field of developmental psychology. The book starts off with a quick overview of both Locke and Rousseau’s contributions to the field. After examining the roots of childhood psychology and the nature/nurture debate, the book moves on to analyze the ideas of psychologists such as Arnold Gesell, Maria Montessori, B. F. Skinner, and Sigmund Freud. If you’re entirely new to the study of developmental psychology, this textbook will let you in on all of the most important figures and ideas in the field.

2. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain

Anyone interested in language acquisition, neuroplasticity, or reading disorders should definitely check out Maryanne Wolf’s classic Proust and the Squid. In this work, Wolf uses her extensive knowledge both of child development and cognitive neuroscience to attempt to explain the actual biology of how the brain learns to read. She also explores the differences between multilingual brains, as well as the brains of children with dyslexia.

3. Re-Visioning Psychology

James Hillman’s Re-Visioning Psychology is an “oldie but a goodie.” First published in the 1970s, Re-Visioning Psychology sent shockwaves throughout the psychological establishment with its powerful critique of egocentric “depth psychology.” Hillman, who was trained as a Jungian, much prefers a polytheistic mode of psychology that seeks inspiration not only from science, but also from poetry, history, myth, and philosophy. This method of psychological healing Hillman calls “soul making” is an interesting contribution to the field of developmental psychology. Chockfull of references both to scientific and philosophical sources, this work also offers key insights into the West’s current malaise. Readers who enjoy this work might also like to check out Hillman’s interviews with author Michael Ventura in the book We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy – And the World’s Getting Worse.

4. The Shallows

Students entering the field of developmental psychology nowadays must confront the issue of the Internet. As Marshall McLuhan was famous for saying, “The medium is the message.” Our iPhones, TVs, and computers are literally re-wiring the circuitry of our brains. Nicholas Carr’s celebrated work The Shallows examines this issue in detail, surveying the history and biology of book learning versus the World Wide Web. People interested in neuroplasticity and neurology will most likely find great insights in Carr’s work. The Shallows, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011, documents the neurological changes that have been directly caused by the advent of the Internet. Although Carr’s clear prose makes this work an easy read, the ideas contained within this book are dense and thought provoking. This is an essential read for developmental psychologists interested in educating children in the Information Age.

5. Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal

Ever since Freud, developmental psychology has focused obsessively on the issue of childhood trauma. While it’s well known that childhood trauma can lead to emotional issues for adults, author Donna Jackson Nakazawa believes that the traumas we experience as children can actually manifest as physical symptoms in adulthood. Nakazawa’s latest book, Childhood Disrupted, explores this very issue in depth. Through her research, Nakazawa found that the stress hormones produced during traumatic events are connected to physical health problems in the future. Some diseases Nakazawa was able to trace back to childhood issues include autoimmune disorders and even certain cases of cancer. Thankfully, Nakazawa presents practical methods developmental psychologists can use to help patients overcome these serious emotional blockages. People interested in child development, trauma, and psychosomatic disorders should definitely pick up this book.

Related Resource: 5 Great Books for Clinical Psychologists

Even if you’re not going into the field of developmental psychology, there’s a great deal of wisdom to be garnered from these exceptional books. All five of these books are highly reviewed in the psychological community, and they all continue to inspire scholarly debate and study. Taking the time to read these five texts will certainly help you formulate your own theories on psychological development and discover your interests in this major field of inquiry.