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Psychology (research): Developmental Psychology


Students who choose to take the Research Master’s track Developmental Psychology acquire in-depth knowledge of emotional and cognitive development during childhood and adolescence, including normal development and the development of psychopathology. The development of emotion and cognition, and the relationship to the developing brain, lie at the forefront of scientific enquiry. Key questions are: How does intelligent behaviour emerge over the course of early childhood and adolescence? How do cognition and emotion interact and affect behaviour across development? How does autism or deafness affect emotional development? How does the brain develop to shape our mind, thoughts and behaviour? How can we perform research on gender differences that is societally relevant?


Emotion, cognition, and their interaction, are manifested at various behavioural levels and in different brain systems. Hence, multi-method approaches are used to address the complex and dynamic interplay between emotion, cognition and the developing brain. Students will gain hands-on experience with various assessment procedures: self-report, behavioural observation, experimental manipulations, psychophysiological assessment (skin conductance, heart rate, cortisol, etc.), EEG, and fMRI. Read more on the webpage Master’s programme – Track Developmental Psychology.

Research programmes:

The multi-method approach in the training programme is realized in the context of four research programmes.

  • Developmental cognitive neuroscience

Program leader: Berna Guroglu

  • Social stress and anxiety in adolescence: Developmental, neurobiological and clinical perspectives

Program leader: Michiel Westenberg

  • Emotional functioning and regulation in typically and atypically developing children

Program leader: Carolien Rieffe


General coursework

Eight obligatory general courses (40 EC) are taken by students of all four tracks. These courses cover the research skills needed in the empirical cycle. Students learn how to design an empirical study, how to collect data, how to analyse data with advanced statistical techniques, and how to report and present their findings.

Track coursework

The obligatory coursework consists of four advanced-level theoretical courses which will provide the basis for understanding changes in cognitive and affective systems across childhood and adolescence. These modules can be combined with elective courses from other programmes (see below), allowing an interdisciplinary perspective on development.


Students can further specialize in their area of interest by choosing 20 EC from a wide range of relevant courses offered in the other three tracks of the Research Master’s program and/or from courses offered in the one-year MSc in Psychology. Research master students have access to all extensive courses offered in the one-year MSc program, and to intensive courses on the condition that there are places available for additional students. Students who wish to take electives outside the Institute of Psychology (or outside Leiden University) are required to ask approval from the Board of Examiners of the Institute of Psychology. Students are responsible for verifying whether an elective course fits into their schedule of obligatory coursework.

Internship and master thesis

In their second year, students acquire hands-on research experience. In their Research Internship (20 EC), they become acquainted with various research designs and/or methods of data collection and analysis. In addition, they carry out a relatively independent project to gain experience with all phases of empirical research in psychology, including the writing of a Master Thesis (20 EC) in the form of a research article. Students are encouraged to conduct the research for their Research Internship and/or Master Thesis at a research institute abroad.

Master's Kick Off

At this day (beginning of September for students starting in September / late January for students starting in February) your attendance is strongly advised.

During the Master's Kick Off you will be handed important information on how to organise your studies at Leiden University. A representative of your specialisation will be present. You do not want to miss this!

Once the event page of the Master's Kick Off is available, you can find it on the right-hand side of this page.

First Year

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2

Compulsory coursework

Scientific Writing 5
Evaluating an Empirical Study 5
Experimentation I: Programming Psychological Experiments 5
Experimentation II: Neuroscientific Research Methods 5
Applied multivariate data analysis (fall) 5
Applied multivariate data analysis (spring) 5

Track-specific compulsory coursework

(A)typical Emotional Development: Autism, Deafness and Somatisation 5
Developmental Psychophysiology and Psychopathology 5
Current Research Practices in Cognitive Development 5
Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience 5

Relevant track-specific electives

Overview of all possible electives

Behaviour Training with Children 5
Solution Focused Therapy 5

Relevant general elective

Research Apprenticeship Psychology 5

Second Year

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2

Compulsory coursework

Responsible Research in Practice 5
Presenting Your Research 5
Master Thesis in Research Master Psychology 20
Research Internship Psychology (RMSc) 20

Post-master preparation

Post-master clinical training

The structure of the MSc Psychology (Research) programme allows research master’s students to prepare for post-master clinical training in the Netherlands (GZ-opleiding) and thus pursue a clinical registration:

  • The Clinical & Health Psychology track can be combined with parts of the 1-year MSc specialisations Clinical Psychology or Health and Medical Psychology.

  • The Developmental Psychology track can be combined with parts of the 1-year MSc specialisations Child and Adolescent Psychology.

Students need to choose the appropriate electives from these 1-year specialisations:

  • Clinical & Health Psychology students are advised to take the three clinical skills courses Basic Therapeutic Skills (mandatory); Cognitive Behavioral Interventions (mandatory); and Clinical Interviewing and Assessment (recommended).

  • Developmental Psychology students are advised to take the two clinical skills courses Child and Adolescent Psychology: Advanced Psychodiagnostics; and Behaviour Training with Children or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy with Young People.

In addition, research master’s students must carry out an extracurricular 20-ECTS clinical internship at the end of their programme, resulting in a total study load of 140 ETCS. As a consequence it is unlikely that students will complete the entire programme within 2 years. Students can contact their mentor for help with planning their personalized course schedule.


  1. The electives mentioned above are mandatory courses for students in the 1-year MSc specialisations.
  2. It is the student’s own responsibility to find a clinical internship. The clinical internship has the same requirements as for the 1-year MSc students.
  3. Whether students can apply for post-master clinical training and which electives they must take also depends on the courses that they took during their bachelor’s program. The criteria for this can be consulted here: Students may also consult the MSc study advisor Jack Wiltjer with specific questions on whether they fullfil the criteria.

Career Perspective

A master's degree in Psychology at Leiden University combines theoretical knowledge with academic and professional skills, making you an attractive candidate for many employers.

After graduation, you will be able to conduct research, analyse data and be able to write scientific papers in the field of Developmental Psychology. You will be able to review relevant literature, apply your knowledge in the field of Developmental Psychology and know how to present your findings.

Please also see our website


Mentor, internship and thesis coordinator

Dr. Anne Miers

Student representative

Find your student representative in the overview of programme committee members: Student representative