Developmental Communication Research Paper Topics

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Developmental Communication Research Paper TopicsSee our list of developmental communication research paper topics. Developmental communication is an area of study grounded in psychological as well as sociological research. Pecchioni et al. (2005) in their text “Life-span Communication”, which was published to update Nussbaum’s (1989) book “Life-span Communication: Normative Processes” define life-span developmental communication as a perspective that “deals with description, explanation, and modification of the communication process across the life span” (p. 10). They also outlined five propositions exemplifying the need for this approach to answer many communication- related inquiries.

Developmental Communication Research Paper Topics

  • Advertising Responses across the Life-Span
  • Age Identity and Communication
  • Attention to Media Content across the Life-Span
  • Children’s Responses to Educational Television
  • Communication Skills across the Life-Span
  • Computer Games and Child Development
  • Conflict and Cooperation across the Life-Span
  • Death, Dying, and Communication
  • Family Communication Patterns
  • Family Decision-Making
  • Fantasy-Reality Distinction
  • Fear Induction through Media Content in Children
  • Friendship and Communication
  • Intergenerational Communication
  • Internet Use across the Life-Span
  • Language Acquisition in Childhood
  • Media Regulations for Child Protection
  • Media Use across the Life-Span
  • Media Use and Child Development
  • Media Use by Children
  • News Processing across the Life-Span
  • Parental Mediation Strategies
  • Personality Development and Communication
  • Pornography Use across the Life-Span
  • Violence as Media Content Effects on Children

Significance of Developmental Communication Research

First, they note that it is important to recognize that communication is, by nature, developmental. In other words, communication is a process over time rather than a single event. Second, they advocate acknowledging multiple influences in order to obtain a comprehensive understanding of interactive behavior. Their third proposition asserts that when scholars examine communication change over the life-span, they must appreciate both quantitative and qualitative change because quantitative changes are useful in depicting “a difference in degree,” whereas qualitative changes display a “fundamental departure in the meaning of an event or a relationship” (Pecchioni et al. 2005).

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In their final two propositions, they address theory and method. The fourth proposition advocates including all theories that are testable. Most communication theories lack any consideration of development, yet life-span scholars fully appreciate that any theory may be useful in expanding knowledge of communication behavior. Moreover, this perspective does not exclude any theory of behavior or development. As a result, developmental communication studies have been firmly grounded in communication theory (Nussbaum & Friedrich 2005).

Incorporating Communication Theory

Developmental communication studies can incorporate theory from all paradigms of thought (Pecchioni et al. 2005). Pecchioni and colleagues note that, at one end of the spectrum, interpretive and critical theories are useful in attributing meaning to social interaction as well as in unveiling factors that influence these experiences. For instance, an interpretive perspective is useful in examining how we communicatively make sense of our social experiences across time through the use of stories. Similarly, critical approaches, such as power and language studies, aid in illuminating factors, like power, that impact communication over the life-span. At the other end of the spectrum, scientific theories enable scholars to examine more universal communicative patterns by using scientific methods to control variables in order to reach more generalizable conclusions from multiple data sets (Pecchioni et al. 2005). The latter approach is more common in the communication discipline as communication theory has typically been generated from this approach.

In addition to the above-mentioned scientific theories, communication accommodation theory (CAT) has greatly contributed to developmental communication research as well as to the communication discipline as a whole (Ryan et al. 1986). Like many life-span studies, CAT views age as a marker related to change. In this case, age is a group identifier that influences behavior leading to generational differences in attitude and behavior. CAT posits that younger adults influenced by negative age stereotypes will over-accommodate their speech with elderly adults. As a result, older adults may encounter negative social experiences with younger generations, which may lead to their avoidance of future interactions. Scholars have also used CAT to advance various models of communication and aging stereotypes. Ryan et al. (1986) introduced the communication predicament of aging model (CPA) to demonstrate that in social interactions, age-related cues (i.e., physical appearance, age, behavior, and socio-cultural signs) activate age-related stereotypes that negatively affect intergenerational interactions, leading for example to over- or under-accommodation results (Coupland et al. 1988). Hummert, Wiemann, & Nussbaum (1994), on the other side, discovered that some stereotypes are positive.

Capturing Communication Development over Time

While developmental communication scholars should be attuned to integrating theory in their investigations, they must also choose methodologies that enable them to capture change over time (Nussbaum et al. 2002; Nussbaum & Friedrich 2005; Pecchioni et al. 2005). A critical area of concern is the issue of capturing intra- versus interindividual change. To date, most life-span communication research has examined interindividual change. These researchers typically utilize cross-sectional designs to compare communicative behavior between age groups. By doing so, scholars can only suggest behavioral change over the life-span. Consequently, cross-sectional studies often produce findings that lead to misinterpretations of intra- versus interindividual changes over time (Schaie & Hofer 2001; Nussbaum et al. 2002; Pecchioni et al. 2005), illustrating the point that in order to fully appreciate, examine, and interpret communication change, designs and methodologies need to capture developmental change utilizing longitudinal methods.


  1. Baltes, P. B. (1987). Theoretical propositions of life-span developmental psychology: On the dynamics between growth and decline. Developmental Psychology, 23, 611–626.
  2. Baltes, P. B. & Nesselroade, J. R. (1979). The developmental analysis of individual differences on multiple measures. In J. R. Nesselroade & H. W. Reese (eds.), Life-span developmental psychology: Methodological issues. New York: Academic Press, pp. 1–40.
  3. Baltes, P. B., Reese, H. W., & Nesselroade, J. R. (1988). Life-span developmental psychology: Introduction to research methods. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  4. Coupland, J., Coupland, N., Giles, H., Henwood, K., & Wiemann, J. (1988). Elderly self disclosure: Interactional and intergroup issues. Language and Communication, 8, 109–133.
  5. Hummert, M. L. (1994). Stereotypes of the elderly and patronizing speech. In M. L. Hummert, J. M. Wiemann, & J. F. Nussbaum (eds.), Interpersonal communication in older adulthood: Interdisciplinary theory and research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 162–184.
  6. Hummert, M. L., Wiemann, M., & Nussbaum, J. F. (1994). (eds.), Interpersonal communication in older adulthood: Interdisciplinary theory and research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  7. Nussbaum, J. F. & Friedrich, G. (2005). Instruction/ developmental communication: Current theory, research, and future trends. Journal of Communication, 55, 578–593.
  8. Nussbaum, J. F., Pecchioni, L., Robinson, J. D., & Thompson, T. (2000). Communication and aging, 2nd edn. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  9. Nussbaum, J. F., Pecchioni, L., Baringer, D., & Kundrat, A. L. (2002). Lifespan communication. In W. B. Gudykunst (ed.), Communication yearbook 26. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 366–389.
  10. Pecchioni, L. L., Wright, K., & Nussbaum, J. F. (2005). Life-span communication. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  11. Ryan, E. B., Giles, H., Bartolucci, G., & Henwood, K. (1986). Psycholinguistics and social psychological components of communication by and with the elderly. Language and Communication, 6, 1–24.
  12. Schaie, K. W. & Hofer, S. M. (2001). Longitudinal studies in research on aging. In J. E. Birren & K. W. Schaie (eds.), Handbook of the psychology of aging, 5th edn. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, pp. 55–77.
  13. Williams, A. & Nussbaum, J. F. (2001). Intergenerational communication across the life span. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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