Quantitative Behavioural Genetics and Developmental Psychopathology – 3rd year optional psychology module

Quite a mouthful I know but a really interesting module so far. I thought I would write a bit about what this module entails to get some of you thinking about what areas of psychology interests you.

Firstly the ‘quantitative behavioural genetics’ part of the title refers to the study of how genetics and the environment impact on human behaviour and children’s development. This includes a person’s risk and resilience to certain disorders. When looking at resiliance, we may see how a person’s risk to something may be either expressed or not.  For instance,  many twin studies show that if one identical twin has, for example, schizophrenia, there is a greater chance that the other will also shows symptoms of this in comparison to siblings or people who are not related to one another. This would suggest a genetic influence of schizophrenia. However, studies have also shown that some people with a high  genetic pre-disposition, or risk of a certain disorders, or certain traits,  are actually very resilient and never exhibit these.

In these cases, differences in people’s environments are considered. For this we will be looking at abnormal and normal contexts, to see how these may influence normal and abnormal behaviour.  For instance, if a child has had a very abnormal context, such as a traumatic experience at a young age,  but shows completely normal behaviour, this would be abnormal, in the sense that it differs from what we would expect and predict. Likewise, if a child has had very positive experiences but goes on to be very violent this would also be considered abnormal.

‘Developmental psychopathology’ concerns studying individual differences in the causes of abnormal development across the lifespan.   To do this we also have to consider what normal development of children is based on their life experiences and backgrounds.

In first year psychology modules we started to cover nature/nurture debates, which to those of you who don’t know is how much of behaviour can be attributed to genetics and how much of it derives from environmental influences. In this module we are not just looking at them as being one versus the other, but also how they interact simultaneously.

The lecturers are Professor Gordon Harold and Dr. Kit Elam, both who seem to have a great passion for this topic and teach it really well. I think, as a module, it is more complex than other ones I have done but I like a challenge and it’s good to experience a module that is so unique.

The other optional module I am doing this term is ‘Child Forensic Psychology’ and in a later blog, I will try and give some of you an idea of what we learn about in this 🙂



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Joanna graduated from the University in Summer 2013 and is no longer blogging for this site.

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