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Child development

This module shows how psychological enquiry can help us to improve our understanding of the development of children and young people. It is organised in four parts: Psychological development and early childhood introduces children’s early development from a psychological perspective; Children’s personal and social development follows development in a social context; and Cognitive and language development in children explores the development of cognitive and linguistic understanding and the developing child as an active agent. Finally, Developmental psychology in action presents areas in which developmental psychology plays a part in education, remediation, health psychology and the legal system with children of all ages.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
2 9 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
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Entry requirements
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What you will study

This module will be attractive to anyone with an interest in (and concern for) children’s development, including those who work with children and who want to learn more about contemporary theories and research in this area. 

By the end of the module you will be:

  • able to describe the main theoretical approaches in current developmental psychology
  • able to apply the theories, concepts and methods presented in the module to developmental questions or problems of your own choosing
  • capable of understanding and evaluating the research literature of developmental psychology
  • familiar with some aspects of the professional application of developmental psychology and its place in our society, so that you can appraise its various roles and functions
  • aware of the research methods used to study child development and able to understand them.

The module is based around four books that are outlined below. Each book and its associated materials occupies about a quarter of the study year. The first three parts of the module explore theory and research in different areas of children’s development. The final part of the module considers some of the practical applications of this knowledge to children’s lives, with particular attention to the work of clinical and educational psychologists.

Psychological Development and Early Childhood looks at the development of very young children, dealing with topics such as the development of perception, knowledge and relationships. The way in which biological, social and cultural influences interact in a child’s development is a central theme, examined from different points of view in modern psychological research and theory. This book introduces the main theoretical approaches to child development that are explored further throughout the module.

Children’s Personal and Social Development considers some of the formative elements in children’s lives in their families and communities, and the influence that these have on the module of development. The topics include children’s early attachments, the development of the self, and the origins of disturbing behaviour. The book explores the interlinking themes of identity and relationships and describes how psychologists have investigated them.

Cognitive and Language Development in Children examines the two interlinked themes: how children learn language, and how knowledge and thinking develop. The development of thinking, talking and scientific reasoning are among the topics in the treatment of these themes. The book covers a variety of contemporary ideas and research in these areas, examining as well the part played by the child’s social and cultural world. The book extends the module's coverage of developmental theory by examining in more detail theories of cognition.

Developmental Psychology in Action takes the module's approach to developmental psychology beyond a conventional presentation of research and theory by looking at the many ways in which psychologists and their work actually affect the development of children. The book covers several areas where the psychologist’s role is to intervene, directly or indirectly, in children’s development; for example, with children who have challenging behaviours, or when a psychotherapeutic approach is taken. The use of psychological theory and techniques in teaching, the legal system, institutional settings and clinical topics are also critically examined. You are required to study just one of these topics in detail, supplementing your knowledge through guided independent literature search.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module. 

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Three of the TMAs are essays, two are practical, and one is methodology focused. 

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2014 when it will be available for the last time. A replacement is planned for October 2015.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


ED209 is an OU level 2 module and certain levels of study skills are required, such as the ability to follow an argument; to relate information from tables and graphs to text discussions; and to formulate a reasoned case in discussion and written work. Although statistics are used in the module, they are fully explained in a handbook; complex computational skills are not required. 

You do not need to be professionally engaged in work with children in order to follow this module, and access to children is not required. Although knowledge of psychological theory is not necessary, if you intend to follow the undergraduate psychology pathway, we recommend that you study Exploring psychology (DSE212) before taking this module.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Preparatory work

If this is your first psychology module and you would like to know more about what the study of child development involves before registering, you can find out more about the module on the Faculty of Education and Language Studies website

You may also like to do some reading before it begins. You could start with one of these introductory books on child development:

P. K. Smith, H. Cowie and M.Blades (Eds) (2003) Understanding Children’s Development, 4th edition, Blackwell

M. Donaldson (1986) Children’s Minds, Fontana

H. R. Schaffer (2004) Introducing Child Psychology , Blackwell.


Start End England fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015 -

Registration now closed

The deadline for financial support applications has now passed

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your annual fees and spreads them out over up to a year, enabling you to pay your fees monthly and walk away with a qualification without any further debt. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in 10 OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Gift vouchers

You can pay for part or all of your tuition fees with OU gift vouchers. Vouchers are currently available in the following denominations, £10, £20, £50 and £100. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. You may, for example wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser.

Note: Your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is based upon current details for  year 1 August 2014 to 31 July 2015.
This information was provided on 19/09/2014.

What's included

Module books, other printed materials, computing software, DVD-ROMs, website.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module. It includes online activities – you can access using a web browser – and some module software provided on disk.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer running Windows since 2008 you should have no problems completing the computer-based activities.
  • A netbook, tablet or other mobile device is not suitable for this module – check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you have an Apple Mac or Linux computer – please note that you can only use it for this module by running Windows on it using Boot Camp or a similar dual-boot system.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

If you have a disability

We will make sure that suitable support for practical work is offered. The written study material is available in comb-bound format. Written transcripts are available for the audio-visual material. Some diagrams are available in tactile format. The printed study materials are available in the DAISY Digital Talking Book format.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.