Developmental research is a vital approach to understanding changes that occur in living organisms such as human beings as they progress through various stages of life. The most commonly used methods of developmental research are cross-sectional and longitudinal designs. Researchers use the cross-sectional method when the main objective is to evaluate behavioral patterns portrayed by participants from different age groups (Maes et al., 2019). For instance, researchers may be interested in the relationship between age and social intelligence. Therefore, they might opt to test how well participants aged 20-35, 36-50, 51-65, and above 65 can recognize other people’s emotions. Although the cross-sectional developmental research method provides information on age variation, it is limited to one particular period and cannot evaluate changes over time.
The longitudinal method of developmental research uses one demographic group. The technique involves studying participants who may be belonging to a similar age group and background and assessing them regularly over a long period. Researchers use this method to examine the same individuals’ behavior over time (Orth et al., 2018). For instance, a study that focuses on evaluating the relationship between social intelligence and aging can concentrate on examining whether 25-years-old individuals become more or less socially intelligent over time. In this case, the researchers can opt to administer social intelligence tests to the participants after every ten years until they are 75 years old. A longitudinal research method is an imperative approach to studying changes within individuals over years and it provides useful developmental analysis (Orth et al., 2018). However, this developmental research design is more expensive than the cross-sectional method, has higher risks for participants’ attrition, is limited to a single cohort, and takes a long time.
Maes, M., Nelemans, S., Danneel, S., Fernández-Castilla, B., Van den Noortgate, W., Goossens, L., & Vanhalst, J. (2019). Loneliness and social anxiety across childhood and adolescence: Multilevel meta-analyses of cross-sectional and longitudinal associations. Developmental Psychology, 55(7), 1548-1565. Web.
Orth, U., Erol, R., & Luciano, E. (2018). Development of self-esteem from age 4 to 94 years: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin, 144(10), 1045-1080. Web.