Department of Developmental Psychology - Prof. Dr. Jan Hofer

Caspar David Friedrich: "Lebensstufen [Life Stages]" (circa 1834), Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig

Welcome to the Department of Developmental Psychology

What is Developmental Psychology?

Developmental Psychology focuses on describing, explaining, modifying, and optimizing human life from the very beginning to death. Within these boundaries, theory and research are both about making out universalities and differences in developmental processes and capturing the plasticity and variety of development over the life span. Reasons for the diversity of humanity are to be found in the combination of personal, genetic, and contextual factors. One major issue of Developmental Psychology is finding out how these factors combine within the context of family, peers, school, profession, and culture. Cultural background is considered a primary source for shaping an individual’s life. Therefore, to be understood, 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 gain the different skills necessary 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 past projects centered on:

  • development of identity in adolescence
  • interpersonal intimacy
  • commitment for subsequent generations (generativity) in adulthood
  • processes of successful aging (ego integrity) in late adulthood
  • life review (including feelings of pride or regret)

One subject of our particular interest is the impact of implicit motives on individual experiences, behaviours, and resolving developmental tasks (e.g. in the formation of goals and values while searching for identity in adolescence as well as a source of generative behaviour in adulthood). Implicit motives determine the situations people feel comfortable or uncomfortable with, and what situations they would seek out spontaneously. To learn how implicit motives develop from early childhood on, two research questions need to be addressed: What are the influencing social factors, and how do implicit motives express themselves in childrens' behaviour and psychological processes?

A second focal point of our projects is the cross-cultural perspective. A lot of our studies have been realised in cooperation with research partners in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. By performing research in non-western cultural contexts, we are able to put existing results in Developmental Psychology to the test. Furthermore, universal and culture-specific influences can be identified.

As part of the "Kompetenzentwicklung im Lebenslauf" (development of competence over the life-span) track, our teaching (lectures, seminars, and projects for undergraduate and graduate students) aims to cover on-going developmental scientific findings and concepts in a theoretical and practical manner. We also contribute to cross-departmental training in research methods.

We offer research internships during the semester as well as during the semester breaks for students interested in gaining detailed insight into our research.