The International Convention of Psychological Science was held this year in Amsterdam, its first time out of the States. The conference featured prominent researchers from all over the world covering a wide range of psychological research including child development. Belsky, top researcher in the field of gene-environment interactions, talked about how genes may play a role in protecting some children from adverse environmental influences while making others vulnerable. The influence of adverse conditions came up again with research surrounding the influence of poverty on development and experience of later life. An interesting take home message here was that helping parents tackle poverty rather than providing parenting tips may have a bigger influence on their children’s development and future wellbeing. Multiple talks from state of the art research focused on our ability to control our attention and that the development of this ability may be influential in things like anxiety. This followed with a call for a better understanding of this ability over time and to look at how it relates to anxiety in children.
As researchers we were encouraged to think about our methods. A lot of attention was given to how we can best research different thought processes to better understand behaviour. There was also discussion of how we can best use our data to produce reliable statistics to make valid conclusions. Again issues within research with children and adolescents were not left out, with discussions occurring around the use of eye-tracking to assess and train attention control and psychophysiological measures to assess empathy.
It was an interesting conference that showed that researchers have their eye on the importance of doing good scientific research with honest statistics. This is good news as this is the only way we will be better able to understand children and adolescents if we are going to helpful in treating and addressing the difficulties they face.