Developmental Psychology focuses on describing, explaining, modifying, and optimizing human life from birth to death. Capturing the plasticity and variety of development over the life span, theoretical approaches and research aim to identify universal and but also (culture-)specific processes in human development. Individual courses of development are best explained by a conjoint consideration of genetic, personal, and contextual factors. Culture is considered a primary source for shaping an individual’s life. Therefore, the study of an individual's development must be framed within the context of its adaptation to the social, cultural, and physical world.
During their development, individuals have to solve certain fundamental tasks to succeed in life. According to Erik Erikson, this process begins with basic trust in early childhood and ends in old age with acceptance of life's finiteness. Based on this theoretical background, our research focusses on these universal developmental tasks and their accomplishment.
Our current projects center on:
- development and effects of implicit motives on psychological and behavioral processes in childhood,
- identity development in adolescence and emerging adulthood,
- motives and interpersonal intimacy,
- processes of successful aging (generativity and life review).
Particularly, we are interested in the impact of implicit motives on behavior and on the solution of universal developmental tasks (e.g., in the commitment to goals and values while searching for identity in adolescence as well as a source of generative behavior in adulthood).
The second main focus of our projects is the cross-cultural perspective. Many of our studies have been realized in cooperation with research partners in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. By conducting research in non-western cultural contexts, we are able to examine the meaningfulness of findings on human development that have primarily been reported for individuals in Euro-American cultural contexts. Cross-cultural research allows to identify universal and culture-specific effects on human behavior.
As part of the "Persönlichkeits- und Kompetenzentwicklung im Lebenslauf" (development of personality and competences over the life-span) track, we teach current developmental theories, concepts, and empirical findings in theoretical and practical courses (lectures, seminars, and projects for undergraduate and graduate students). Moreover, we contribute to cross-departmental training in research methods.