Developmental Psychology Section

Invitation for articles and blogs

The BPS Developmental Psychology Section welcomes your recently published journal articles and blog posts on any topics, related to developmental psychology, and we are happy to promote these on this page. All received items are considered for inclusion and we make sure our members can find quality reads about the latest findings and trending ideas. Please contact Emily Mather,  Viola Marx or Tibor Farkas by emailing [email protected] !


Abbie Cahoon, University of Ulster

Longitudinal studies are often considered to be a gold standard for research (Vincent et al., 2012). Developmental scientists have argued that the application of longitudinal methods is necessary, as these studies have the capacity to provide invaluable information for understanding developmental change and specifically causal mechanisms (Stevenson, 2016; Magnusson & Stattin, 2006). However, most analytical strategies invoke a variable-oriented approach, as opposed to a person-oriented approach. In variable-oriented approaches, such as regression analysis, factor analysis, and structural equation modelling, the emphasis is on identifying relations between variables, and it is assumed that these relations apply across all people. In contrast, in person-oriented approaches, such as cluster analysis, latent profile analysis and latent transition analysis, the emphasis is on the individual, looking at subtypes of participants that exhibit similar patterns of individual characteristics (Bergman & Magnusson, 1997). This self-reflective article investigates my experience of exploring the use of Mplus (Muthén & Muthén, 2009) for complex longitudinal methods though my PhD research program.

During my PhD I had the pleasure of completing a longitudinal study on how young children develop mathematical skills over time. At first, the largescale work load felt truly impossible. However, I knew the benefits of this type of research would be vast and looking at changes in development though longitudinal methods seemed fascinating. A year later and I’m finished, after working with some wonderful people, I feel a sense of discovery and realisation that the largescale work load was actually possible.

Many mathematical cognition research questions require methods that take a person-centred approach, yet this is rarely achieved. Latent profile analysis and latent class analysis are types of models that are used to trace back the heterogeneity in a group to a number of underlying homogeneous subgroups, at a specific measurement point (Hickendorff et al., 2017). Thus, the profiles that are formed obtain as much similarity within a profile while at the same time as much difference between the profiles as possible (Lanza & Cooper, 2016). A Latent Transition Analysis (LTA) is the longitudinal extension of these models where the transitional component reflects changes in learners’ profiles over time, demonstrating potential non-linear learning pathways (Hickendorff et al., 2017).

In order to make an informed decision on the precise learner profiles and pathways of individuals during the transition between pre-school and school in mathematical skills I decided to use LTA. This method was very insightful for understanding children’s profile characteristics as children vary substantially in their level of number knowledge prior to school-entry (Manolitsis, Georgiou & Tziraki, 2013; Zill & West, 2001). I embarked on a massive learning curve by self-teaching myself this analysis method. Below are some recommended reads for those looking to explore person-oriented approaches, in particular latent transition analysis, to statistical analysis. I found these really helpful:

1) Collins, L. M., & Lanza, S. T. (2010). Latent class analysis with covariates. Latent class and latent transition analysis: With applications in the social, behavioral, and health sciences, 149-177.

2) Hickendorff, M., Edelsbrunner, P. A., McMullen, J., Schneider, M., & Trezise, K. (2017). Informative tools for characterizing individual differences in learning: Latent class, latent profile, and latent transition analysis. Learning and Individual Differences.

3) Kam, C., Morin, A. J., Meyer, J. P., & Topolnytsky, L. (2016). Are commitment profiles stable and predictable? A latent transition analysis. Journal of Management, 42(6), 1462-1490.



Bergman, L. R., & Magnusson, D. (1997). A person-oriented approach in research on developmental psychopathology. Development and psychopathology, 9(2), 291-319.

Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., Klebanov, P., ... & Sexton, H. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental psychology, 43(6), 1428.

Fryer, L. K. (2017). (Latent) transitions to learning at university: A latent profile transition analysis of first-year Japanese students. Higher Education, 73(3), 519-537.

Hickendorff, M., Edelsbrunner, P. A., McMullen, J., Schneider, M., & Trezise, K. (2017). Informative tools for characterizing individual differences in learning: Latent class, latent profile, and latent transition analysis. Learning and Individual Differences.

Lanza, S. T., & Cooper, B. R. (2016). Latent class analysis for developmental research. Child Development Perspectives, 10(1), 59-64.

Magnusson, D., & Stattin, H. (2006). The person in context: A holistic‐interactionistic approach. Handbook of child psychology.

Manolitsis, G., Georgiou, G. K., & Tziraki, N. (2013). Examining the effects of home literacy and numeracy environment on early reading and math acquisition. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(4), 692-703.

Muthén, B., & Muthén, B. O. (2009). Statistical analysis with latent variables. Hoboken: Wiley.

Stevenson, N. (2016). Reflections upon the experience of longitudinal research into cultural event production in a developing destination. International Journal of Tourism Research, 18(5), 486-493.

Vincent, K. B., Kasperski, S. J., Caldeira, K. M., Garnier-Dykstra, L. M., Pinchevsky, G. M., O’grady, K. E., & Arria, A. M. (2012). Maintaining superior follow-up rates in a longitudinal study: Experiences from the College Life Study. International journal of multiple research approaches, 6(1), 56-72.

Zill, N., & West, J. (2001). Entering Kindergarten: A Portrait of American Children When They Begin School. Findings from the Condition of Education, 2000.

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 07:09


Dr Brenda Todd, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, City University of London.


In the average classroom, two or more children will look into a box of coloured pencils and only be able to recognise four of the colours. That is because one in 12 boys and one in 200 girls are red-green colour blind. In many cases their colour blindness will go undiagnosed for years, and they will be seen as ‘slow’ by teachers and teased by schoolmates.

Colin work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

According to a review of this topic by Chan et al (2014), colour blind children might become socially withdrawn, and fall into dysfunctional coping strategies (such as guessing colours, or avoiding subjects that require normal colour vision) that can last throughout the lifespan. These maladaptive coping strategies may be exacerbated in an educational system where routine screening for colour blindness isn’t carried out in schools, and where the needs of colour blind children are often neglected in lessons and exams.

There are many situations, cited by Chan et al, in which colour blind children experience embarrassing difficulties, for example:


Maths: problems understanding colour-coded graphs and charts

Biology: unable to accurately read stained slides under microscope, identify plant species,

carry out dissections accurately, understand coloured diagrams

Physics: experience difficulty with coloured wiring, use of prisms, coloured diagrams

Chemistry: unable to read litmus paper accurately, identify colours of different chemical solutions, identify metals by colour of flame produced when burned

Sports and play: cannot differentiate team colours

Art class: unable to appreciate how colours are mixed, unable to use colour inappropriately

School meals: deemed ‘fussy eaters’ because the colour of some foods appear to be unpalatable

As colour blind boys and grow up, the condition and the psychological impact it can impose on them, has the potential to diminish their quality of life as well as limit their choice of career (Barry et al, 2017).


Given that colour blindness has so many dimensions of potential concern to a large number of individuals, families and schools, you might think that taking action on colour blindness is a black and white issue. But why aren’t more developmental psychologists working in this field? Perhaps, as  Seager et al (2016) suggest, we currently suffer from another type of blindness, ‘male gender blindness’, which means that we tend not to notice when boys are having difficulties as much as we notice problems for girls. Perhaps we think that boys are better able to cope or are less likely to appreciate being helped – or that they are simply being disruptive. 


Whether you agree with this explanation or not, I believe we need to take a fresh perspective on topics in psychology that are sensitive to gender differences, and consider how such differences might affect the children and adults who experience them. A greater awareness of the potential difficulties, and a school-based strategy to address them early in life, can open up opportunities to improve outcomes. Hopefully, the creation of a Male Psychology Section of the BPS – the national ballot is taking place in May - will enable us to turn our attention to some of the concerns which particularly affect the development of boys and can have lifelong consequences for them. Some would say this Section is long overdue, given that we have had a Psychology of Women Section since 1988, and the APA have had a Division for men’s psychology since 1995.



Barry, J. A., Mollan, S., Burdon, M. A., Jenkins, M., & Denniston, A. K. (2017). Development and validation of a questionnaire assessing the quality of life impact of Colour Blindness (CBQoL). BMC ophthalmology, 17(1), 179.


Chan, X. B. V., Goh, S. M. S., & Tan, N. C. (2014). Subjects with colour vision deficiency in the community: what do primary care physicians need to know? Asia Pacific Family Medicine, 13(1), 10.


Seager MJ, Barry JA & Sullivan L (2016). Challenging male gender blindness: Why psychologists should be leading the way. Clinical Psychology Forum, 285, 35 - 40.

Thu, 26/04/2018 - 13:13

Dr. Sue Fletcher-Watson, University of Edinburgh

Winning the 2016 Margaret Donaldson Award was first and foremost a deeply humbling experience. Not just because of the honour of the receiving award itself, and the association with a pioneer of developmental psychology, but because of the waves of congratulation that poured in from friends and colleagues after the announcement. They were all thrilled by my success, and this got me thinking about that ‘success’ and its nature.

I am certainly not the first person to point out that ‘success’ in the context of an academic career is a tricky thing to measure. Success is often viewed through the lens of REF returns – still heavily focused on journal publication with a reliance on impact factor and other metrics as a proxy for scientific quality. It is true that the last REF incorporated more on the research environment, giving Universities a chance to get credit for such things as systems to support students and early career researchers, or networks to promote interdisciplinary collaboration. In addition, impact case studies provided a way for researchers whose work has led to policy change or community benefit to share their success. But the relative weighting given to these domains, and the ease with which they can be fudged by the use of clever rhetoric, means that the high-impact journal article remains a staple of our notion of success. Of course, the other main marker of success is grant income. This seems less important in the REF context but certainly plays a major role in individual career progression.

Sue meeting Margaret Donaldson for tea!

So, here I am. 2016 winner of this illustrious prize.  That makes me a success, doesn’t it? Well, as any academic will tell you, it certainly doesn’t feel that way, at least judging by those two metrics of journal output or grant income. One recent paper was submitted to five journals, receiving a total of 16 reviews over 18 months. In 2015, I was principal investigator or a co-applicant on no less than ten grant proposals, of which just two received funding. My academic career to date is littered with similar experiences of rejection and failure, though to the external observer it may seem that I have followed a smooth and ‘successful’ path.

If you are an academic, this is almost certainly not the first time you will have heard this message.  But it is a message so important that it bears repeating, especially to anyone in the early stages of the academic career. These rejections – the tough reviews, the grants which aren’t awarded – these are not failures.  This is not just an inevitable, but also an essential part of the research process.  No matter how brutal, I cannot think of a time when I didn’t learn something useful from a reviewer’s comments (even if what I learnt was “this type of research is not acceptable to that type of academic.”) Every time you re-draft an article for a new journal, you are honing your craft as a writer.  When you stay up into the wee hours pulling together a grant proposal in time for the deadline, even if it isn’t funded, you have created ideas and built a network of professional partners which will lead on to bigger and better things. You may feel you are measured by your output, but your success comes from your ability to identify problems and generate ideas to address them. To make an intellectual contribution to your discipline and to the world.

So next time you hear your paper or proposal didn’t make it, remember, you are a success.


Thu, 15/12/2016 - 16:08

Dr. Victoria Simms, Ulster University.

Over the summer I was thinking a lot about communication. We had the influence of propaganda exposed by the Brexit campaign, the powerful (mis)use of words in Trump versus Clinton and on a more personal note the inevitable academic summer pressure of submitting articles for publication. So, it was with great excitement that I attended the Developmental Section preconference workshop on impact, an event designed to enable developmental psychologists to reach out and communicate their research to wider audiences.

The morning session focused on the transfer of research findings to policy. Bethany Waterhouse-Johnson and Claire-Anne Mills  (Ulster University) expertly discussed their experience and knowledge of the policy process cycle. Both Bethany and Claire-Anne provided us with insider knowledge of the systems and processes involved in policy development. The speakers emphasised the importance of generating contacts in the civil service and voluntary sector, researching the lifespan of policies that may be coming up for renewal and communicating research findings in an accessible way. A real wake up call for me was the suggestion that civil servants have very little time to read material, thus by making findings of a paper genuinely accessible (i.e. one A4 page summary) could dramatically increase readership (and potential uptake) by policy makers.

The afternoon session focused on the communication of research findings to general audiences through blogging. Sinead Rhodes (Strathclyde University) led this session and provided excellent tips and case studies from her involvement in “Research the Headlines”. This blog aims to unpick research covered by the media in an accessible way for the general public and has also generated a schools competition in training children and young people to do the same. The huge impact of this communication program is evident through the popularity of the site and the funding that has been awarded to the “Research the Headlines” group. Sinead discussed the process of identifying a story, constructing a post and, importantly, mediating your own on-line responses. The take home message for me was to not “become the third reviewer”. The purpose of these communications should be to represent and critique the study and its coverage and then to make fair appraisal. We don’t blog to be nasty, instead we blog to be informative.  Of course this can be applied to all online communications, a useful reminder for a Twitter obsessive!

We rounded off the day with a public lecture for parents, teachers and early years workers by Suzanne Zeedyk on the topic of what 21st century parents should know about child development. Our workshop had focused on discussing communication with different audiences and we ended the day with a clear example of this. The feedback I received afterwards from parents and teachers was overwhelmingly positive. Suzanne also stimulated conversations with the academics who attended the session, or who followed it on Twitter. It’s important that we express scientific findings effectively to different audiences and observing different approaches can be a real learning experience for us all.

I suspect that I will be increasingly thinking about communication with wider audiences as I continue in my academic career, but this workshop really provided me with clear practical tools to aid this process.  Hopefully future conferences will also include useful preconference workshops to increase the profile and impact of developmental psychology in the UK!


Wed, 19/10/2016 - 17:52

By Dr. Sarah Rose, Staffordshire University

This year’s conference was in Belfast and included a wonderful mix of applied and more theoretical developmental psychology. The Conference was preceded by an inspiring public lecture in which Dr. Suzanne Zeedyk emphasised the importance of infant parent bonds not only on the child’s developing brain but for our vision for the kind of society we wish to build. This emphasis on the connections between children and the people around them was reflected in the Conference keynotes (Prof. Susan Golombok, University of Cambridge; Prof. Peter Hobson, University College, Tavistock Clinic; and Prof. Teresa McCormack, Queens University).

While at the conference I gave two research talks, presenting my work investigating the immediate impact of television on young children’s creativity and describing a new measure of creativity that I have been working on with Dr. Elena Hoicka from the University of Sheffield. Both talks were well attended and it was a great opportunity to get some feedback from others with interests in these areas.

Dr Sarah Rose presenting her children’s creativity research at the BPS Developmental Psychology conference (Photo credit: Dr. Sian Jones)

I also took to opportunity to present a poster showcasing work done by final year project students. This student, Grace Aldridge, developed an idea that I had become interested in when attending a symposium at the 2014 Developmental Section Conference, this was that children have problems recognising angry dogs and this may contribute to them being at an increased risk of being bitten by a dog. For a third year project it was ambitious! One hundred and thirty-five young children were shown 15 images and 15 video clips of dogs and asked firstly what emotion they thought each dog was experiencing and secondly their intention to approach the dog.

Dr Sarah Rose presenting her scientific poster at the BPS Developmental Psychology Section conference (Photo credit Dr. Suzanne Zeedyk)

We found that the children were actually relatively good at recognising the dogs’ emotions. However, we also found that although children were less likely to approach an angry dog there was no difference in their inclination to approach a happy or frightened dog. Suggesting that they may be unaware that there might be a problem approaching a frightened dog. We think that this could contribute to the increased likelihood of them being bitten by a dog. A press release was made about this research and there has been some great coverage in the National and International press. We hope that our evidence can be used to emphasise the importance of teaching children how to behave safely around dogs, especially regarding approaching a frightened dog.

The BPS Developmental Psychology Section Annual Conference is very friendly and welcoming. To find out more about the Section and plans for our 2017 Conference in Stratford Upon Avon see our website. Maybe see you there?

This Blog post was originally written for InPsych @ Staffordshire University and is reproduced here with permission from Dr. Sarah Rose.

Sun, 02/10/2016 - 16:36



Share page with AddThis

The BPS and the BPS Developmental Section do not necessarily endorse the views expressed in the presented articles, blogs and tweets.