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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 (31 August 2023 for students starting in September and 1 February 2024 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. The coordinator of your specialisation will be present. You do not want to miss this!

You can find the event page of the Master's Kick Off on the right-hand side of this page.

First Year

Vak 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
Advanced Psychodiagnostics in Children and Adolescents 5

Relevant general elective

Research Apprenticeship Psychology 5

Second Year

Vak 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

Career preparation in the Research master specialisation Developmental Psychology

In addition to offering you a solid university education, Leiden University aims to prepare you as well as possible for the labour market, and in doing so contribute to the development of your employability. In this way, it will become easier for you to make the transition to the labour market, to remain employable in a dynamic labour market, in a (career) job that suits your own personal values, preferences and development.

'Employability' consists of the following aspects that you will develop within your study programme, among others:

  1. Discipline-specific knowledge and skills
    Knowledge and skills specific to your study programme.

  2. Transferable skills
    These are skills that are relevant to every student and that you can use in all kinds of jobs irrespective of your study programme, for example: researching, analysing, project-based working, generating solutions, digital skills, collaborating, oral communication, written communication, presenting, societal awareness, independent learning, resilience. But also think of job application skills: preparing a CV, formulating a cover letter, compiling a LinkedIn profile, networking, practising job interviews, preparing and holding a pitch.

  3. Self-reflection
    This involves reflecting on your own (study) career (choices), reflecting on your own profile and your personal and professional development. Gaining insight into, among other things, your competences and personality, your (work) values and motives. what can you do with your knowledge and skills on the labour market?
    Who are you, what can you do well, what do you find interesting, what suits you, what do you find important, what do you want to do?

  4. Practical experience
    Gaining practical experience through practical and social internships and work placements, external research internships and projects, practical assignments, which are integrated into an elective, minor or graduation assignment, business challenges etc.

  5. Labour market orientation
    Gaining insight into the labour market, fields of work, jobs and career paths through, for example, guest speakers from the work field, alumni presentations and experiences, career events within the study programme, the use of the alumni mentor network, interviewing people from the work field, and shadowing/visiting companies in the context of a particular subject.

Employability in the Research master specialisation Developmental Psychology

In your programme, you will also find these employability elements.

Subject-specific and transferable skills
These skills are addressed in the various courses of the programme. Check the specific course descriptions in the study guide to see which skills are involved.

Examples of courses that pay attention to the other employability elements are:


  • Responsible Research in Practice

  • Research Internship Psychology

  • Relevant electives: Research Apprenticeship Psychology; Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Practical experience

  • Responsible Research in Practice

  • Research Internship Psychology

  • Research Master Thesis

  • Relevant electives: Research Apprenticeship Psychology; Behaviour Training with Children; Solution Focused Therapy; Advanced Psychodiagnostics; School-based Prevention and Intervention; Needs-based Assessment at School; Coaching in Inclusive Education

Labour market orientation

  • Responsible Research in Practice

  • Research Internship Psychology

  • Research Master Thesis

  • Relevant electives: Research Apprenticeship Psychology; Behaviour Training with Children; Coaching in Inclusive Education; Advanced Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Activities to prepare for the labour market outside the curriculum

Every year, various activities take place, within, alongside and outside of your study programme, which contribute to your preparation for the labour market, especially where it concerns orientation towards the work field/the labour market, (career) skills and self-reflection. These may be information meetings on decision moments within your programme, but also career workshops and events organised by your own programme, the faculty Career Service or your study association.

For example:

Career Service, LU Career Zone and career workshops calendar

Faculty Career Service
The Career Service of your faculty offers information and advice on study (re)orientation and master's choice, (study) career planning, orientation on the labour market and job applications.

Leiden University Career Zone Leiden University Career Zone is the website for students and alumni of Leiden University to support their (study) career. You can find advice, information, (career) tests and tools in the area of (study) career planning, career possibilities with your study, job market orientation, job applications, the Alumni Mentor network, job portal, workshops and events and career services.

Workshops and events
On the course calendar you will find an overview of career and application workshops, organised by the Career services.



Mentor, internship and thesis coordinator

Dr. Anke Klein

Student representative

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