The myth of normative development

Samuel H. Forbes, Prerna Aneja, Olivia Guest

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Over the past decade, the field of psychology has come under increasing fire for the replicability of purported findings, for the transparency of the methods used, and for the generalisability of the claims. In general, these criticisms have focused on the methodological and statistical aspects of published work. Herein, we highlight the importance of diversity of both our participant samples in empirical studies and of our researchers within developmental psychology as a barrier to generalisability. Far beyond being a purely methodological question, for example, of heterogenous sampling, ignoring the importance of context and environment in development implies risking failing to comprehend pivotal facets of development. Importantly, we discuss the harms done to our science's theoretical contributions as a direct result of defining and maintaining misplaced “norms” or “normative” developmental scenarios. Finally, we outline how even small steps by individuals can be impactful, such as ceasing to request unsubstantiated comparisons to the Western “norm” in peer review.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2393
JournalInfant and Child Development
Issue number1
Early online date23 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024


  • child development
  • cross-cultural research
  • generalisability
  • structural bias

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