From time-tested theories on growth and learning to more modern methods of acquiring knowledge and skills, the child development field offers many research paper topics. Whether you're writing your first paper for an intro-level course or pursuing a graduate degree, you'll find an array of options that range from specific aspects of development to more general theories.
While modern theorists may author the most up-to-date articles available, tackling established research can help you to learn about some of the widely accepted theories of child development. For example, the 20th century academic Erik Erikson's well-known theory posits that each stage of human development includes a struggle for the individual to overcome within a greater framework of society and social contexts. Other notable theorists whose research contributed heavily to the child development arena include Albert Bandura and his ideas that the child's environment helps shape learning, constructivists Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, and maturationist Arnold Gessell. Writing a research paper on any of these well-known figures could include a background on the individual's research, the specific aspects of child development it includes, and ways that it relates to more contemporary research.
Development in Context
Even though there are generally accepted milestones for child development, outside influences can impact learning and skill-growth. Paper topics on development in context may include ways in which schools, parents, extended family and peers influence the child. For example, a study on the effects of early child care in the journal Child Development associated quality early childhood care with higher cognitive abilities and academic achievement during the teen years.
The developmental domains -- cognitive, motor, social and emotional -- provide opportunities to write narrowly focused research papers that feature a specific area. Choose either one domain or a particular aspect within that theme. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics' HealthyChildren website notes that at one year old, most children have the hand and finger skills to build a tower with up to four blocks, to scribble and to pick up small objects. A research paper on this topic might include information on these and other motor skill milestones, ways in which children build this type of motor development and methods experts use to identify a delay.
Disorders and Delays
Not every child follows the typical pattern of development. If your research paper topic includes issues such as developmental delays, you'll need to choose a specific problem and illustrate the impact that it has. For example, a paper with a disorder or delay focus may tackle an aspect of autism, such as communication, like the academic article,"Rating Parent-Child Interactions: Joint Engagement, Communication Dynamic, and Shared Topics in Autism, Downs Syndrome, and Typical Development," published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
- Erikson Institute: About Erik Erikson
- North Central Regional Educational Laboratory: Theories of Child Development and Learning
- National Institutes of Health: Child Development: Do Effects of Early Child Care Extend to Age 15 Years? Results From the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development
- HealthyChildren.org: Hand and Finger Skills: 1 Year Old
- National Institutes of Health: Journal of Autism Development Disorders: Rating Parent-Child Interactions: Joint Engagement, Communication Dynamic, and Shared Topics in Autism, Downs Syndrome, and Typical Development
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