Child psychology is the study of the psychological development of children from birth until adolescence. Child psychologists focus on the interaction of physical, emotional, mental and social child development. The field overlaps with that of developmental psychology and educational psychology, all of which seek to support healthy child development. Child psychologists are often called in to help children who have special educational or emotional needs. The job of the child psychologist is to assess, from a psychological point of view, the reasons for a child's developmental issues, delayed learning, or problem behavior, and to help provide a solution. Child psychologists often work in teams with parents, teachers, doctors, etc. Child psychologists can also help children who've suffered abuse, or been affected by family problems such as divorce, or bereavement.
Child Psychology Career
As mental health awareness grows in the United States, the demand for trained child psychologists in many areas of education, social work and healthcare is also on the increase. If you're considering a career in child psychology, you'll need to be academically oriented, because a doctorate degree, as well as relevant work experience and a license to practice, are required.
Your degree options for child psychology are a Ph. D (short for Doctor of Philosophy - although in this case you're not studying philosophy, that's just the formal title of the qualification) or a Psy. D (Doctor of Psychology). If you want to work within the school system rather than practice privately, you'll probably need an advanced Ed. S (Education Specialist) degree.
As part of these studies, the child psychology topics you'll cover may include:
- The history of child psychology and the child development theories of traditional psychologists (such as Freud)
- Genetics and prenatal development
- Social and personality development
- Language development
- Gender roles
- Cognitive development
- Sexual development
All practicing psychologists in the United States are required to have a license, but the criteria for acquiring a license vary from state to state. In most states, you have to take a standard licensing exam.
Even if you have a doctorate in child psychology and a license to practice, you'll find it difficult to get a job unless you have some relevant work experience. Work experience in child psychology is usually acquired through an internship working with children. Finding an intern position as an assistant to a practicing child psychologist is one of the most common ways to gain experience in this area.
Child Psychology And Parenting
A little knowledge of child psychology can be useful to parents even if their kids aren't demonstrating any particular problems related to development. If your family has gone through a recent upheaval, such as a divorce, or a death, exploring child psychology to learn about the consequences of the situation for your kids can help you to support them. Sometimes things like moving house or a parent being made unemployed can really affect children, who may try to hide their stress or worries for fear of adding to the financial or emotional pressure already on their parents. Reading child psychology books is one way of learning how best to talk to your child about such issues. If your child is showing symptoms of depression, or exhibiting problem behaviors at school, you may need the help of a professional child psychologist to get to the root of the problem.
Finding A Child Psychologist
Child psychologists often work in cooperation with schools, so you may be able to contact one through your child's teacher. A psychologist who works with your child's school may already have a good working relationship with the teaching staff there, allowing him or her to work effectively as part a team to support your child. Alternatively, you could contact a child psychologist with a private practice, you'll find contact details online or in your local telephone book.