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PSYC436 Topical Issues in Adolescent Behaviour

Exploration of theoretical and methodological issues in research on adolescent development and behaviour.

Adolescents have been referred to as "engines without skilled drivers", and many argue that they are "programmed to take risks". PSYC 436 will take a critical look at the research conducted on adolescent brain development and behaviour. The issues covered in class will be framed as questions such as, "Do violent video games cause adolescents to become violent?" and "Does marijuana impact adolescent brain development?".

Paper title Topical Issues in Adolescent Behaviour
Paper code PSYC436
Subject Psychology
EFTS 0.0833
Points 10 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2023 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $704.22
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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PSYC 467

Entry into Psychology 400-level normally requires a major in Psychology, a B+ average or higher in Psychology 300-level papers, and a pass in PSYC 311 Quantitative Methods. We highly recommend that students have completed PSYC 310. Students from other universities must show evidence of an equivalent level of competence.


Dr Damian Scarf -

Teaching staff

Dr Damian Scarf

Paper Structure

Seven classes will consist of a 90-minute lecture followed by a 60-minute class discussion. Three classes will consist of a mini-conference on adolescent mental health, in which students present a research paper to the class. Two classes will involve a round-table discussion. For the round-table discussion, the class will select the topic and students will be tasked with finding an article they think will inform the class discussion.

PSYC 436 Paper Outline

Students meet for three hours each week. The paper requires engagement in the material and active in-class participation. Below is an example course outline. The exact topics will change from year to year.

  1. Models of adolescent brain development and their relationship to risk taking
  2. Marijuana, gateway drugs, and developmental vulnerability
  3. Violent video games and aggression
  4. The impact of alcohol consumption on brain development
  5. Models of Positive Youth Development (PYD)
  6. Social media and mental health
  7. Hot topics in adolescent development


  • Class participation 10%
  • Oral presentation (20 minutes) 10%
  • Essay (2,000 words) 20%
  • Examination (3 hours) 60%

Note: The grade for class participation will reflect the degree to which students actively contribute to class discussions, raise questions during lectures, and ask other students questions following their class presentation.

Teaching Arrangements

This is a one-semester paper consisting lectures and class discussions.


Textbooks are not required. Readings will be primary articles and reviews.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this paper will:

  • Understand prominent theories of adolescent brain development and risk-taking behaviour
  • Engage in critical analysis and scientific discussions regarding research findings in adolescent behaviour
  • Develop oral presentation skills

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Not offered in 2023

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system