University of Chester

Programme Specification
Family and Child Psychology MSc
2014 - 2015

Master of Science

Family and Child Psychology

Family and Child Psychology

University of Chester

Department of Psychology, University of Chester

Chester Campus

Postgraduate (Taught)

Full-time and Part-time

Classroom / Laboratory,

1 year full-time, 2 years part-time

6 Years

Annual - October



17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Social Science Psychology


Friday 1st November 2013

The MSc Family and Child Psychology programme aims to develop:

1) a systematic understanding of classic and contemporary theories and research in family and child psychology.

2) the ability to critically evaluate current research and advanced scholarship in family and child psychology.

3) a comprehensive understanding of research techniques applicable to family and child psychology

4) critical insight into professional and ethical issues relevant to family and child psychology

5) a set of professional and transferable skills that will prepare graduates for doctoral research, research careers, and further professional training, as well as generally enhancing employability and career prospects.


Knowledge and understanding

  1. A comprehensive and systematic knowledge of concepts and theories in family and child psychology (programme wide, but especially PS7304 Child and Adolescent Development, PS7305 Family Psychology in Society, PS7306 Family Lifestyle and Transition and PS7112 Research Dissertation)
  2. A comprehensive knowledge of a range of quantitative and qualitative research methods appropriate to postgraduate research in family and child psychology (programme wide, but especially PS7301 Researching Thought and Behaviour, PS7302 Practical Skills for Research and PS7112 Research Dissertation).
  3. A critical appraisal of professional and ethical issues related to family and child psychology (PS7301 Researching Thought and Behaviour, PS7302 Practical Skills for Research, PS7303 Advanced Skills for Research and Practice, PS7304 Child and Adolescent Development and PS7305 Family Psychology in Society).
  4. The design, conduct and report of an independent piece of research commensurate to study at level 7 (PS7112 Research Dissertation).

Thinking or cognitive skills
  1. Critical evaluation of primary sources (throughout programme)
  2. Critical reflection on one’s own learning and academic experiences (throughout programme but particularly PS7304 Child and Adolescent Development)
  3. Demonstration of the ability to make informed and appropriate methodological decisions (PS7112 Research Dissertation).
  4. Demonstration of effective analytical reasoning in a range of contexts commensurate to study at level 7 (e.g., devising systematic and effective data analysis strategies; appropriate interpretation of results, etc) (PS7112 Dissertation).

Practical Skills
  1. Demonstrate proficiency in data handling and analysis, including the effective collection, preparation and analysis of data (throughout programme).
  2. Use a range of specialist research-based and analytical software packages (e.g., SPSS and Excel) (mainly PS7301 Researching Thought and Behaviour and PS7302 Practical Skills for Research).
  3. A critical appraisal of the writing of research proposals and grant applications, including selling the idea, designing the research, time scaling and costing the project) (PS7303 Advanced Skills for Research and Practice).
  4. Formulation and presentation (both oral and written) of structured arguments (written arguments throughout the programme; oral arguments PS7303 Advanced Skills for Research and Practice).
  5. Demonstrate a range of qualitative methodological skills (PS7301 Researching Thought and Behaviour; PS7302 Practical Skills for Research; PS7304 Child an Adolescent Development; PS7306 Family Lifestyles and Transitions).
  6. Demonstrate a range of quantitative methodological skills (PS7301 Researching Thought and Behaviour; PS7302 Practical Skills for Research).

Key Skills

  • IT skills and skills in statistical and research software packages.
  • Research skills: qualitative and quantitative.
  • Data preparation, handling and analysis.
  • Critical thinking and evaluation.
  • Critical reflection.
  • Time management and meeting deadlines.
  • Research grant writing and costing.
  • Project management.
  • Team-working skills.
  • Written and presentation-based communication skills.
  • Effective listening.
  • Decision making.

  • The MSc programme is studied over one year full-time or two years part-time (up to a maximum of six years). The programme is modular in structure and consists of six 20-credit taught modules and a 60-credit research dissertation.  Each 20-credit module represents approximately 200 hours study time, supported by approximately 2 hours per week of staff-student contact time. The total student independent study time for each 20-credit module is approximately 176 hours.

    The award of Master of Science is awarded for the successful completion of 180 module credits (equivalent to 9 modules including the dissertation). However, in line with University policy, as long as they have successfully completed the six taught modules (120 credits), students who do not wish to do the dissertation may graduate with a Postgraduate Diploma.  Furthermore, students who successfully complete 60 credits (typically the three core content modules) have the option of graduating with a Postgraduate Certificate.

    The programme contains three sets of modules: (1) three 20-credit core content modules; (2) three 20-credit research and professional skills modules; and (3) a 60-credit research dissertation. The course is designed so that full-time students complete a core content module (PS7304) and two research modules in the first third of the year (PS7301 and PS7303), two core content modules (PS7305 and PS7306) and the advanced research methods module (PS7302) in the second third, and the research dissertation (PS7112) in the final third of the year, during the summer period. Part time students may be flexible in terms of the order in which they take the modules, but they must complete PS7301 Researching Thought and Behaviour in the first year of their studies and end with the dissertation (PS7112).

    The three core content modules (20-credits each) cover theoretical and methodological approaches to family and child psychology, and where appropriate, contemporary applications, and the relationships between psychology and social policy. Inevitably, there will be some overlap in the content of these modules, especially for key themes, such as attachment. However, as each module has a different focus (for example, child development compared to the functioning of different types of family unit), any overlap should broaden and enrich the student’s understanding of the topic rather than be simple repetition. PS7304 Child and Adolescent Development addresses classic and contemporary theories in developmental psychology, focusing on development through infancy, early and later childhood and adolescence (for example, social, cognitive, emotional and symbolic development). PS7306 Family Lifestyle and Transition focuses on the changing family, with change conceptualised as both diversity in the family unit, and the adjustment of family members to transitions within the life cycle, such as the transition to parenthood. The final core content module, PS7305 Family Psychology in Society, focuses on the interface between psychology and social policy, and other relevant social, educational and legal issues, such as child protection, domestic abuse, deprivation and related interventions.

    In addition to the core content modules, two 20-credits modules provide the research-orientated backbone to the programme. PS7301 Researching Thought and Behaviour and PS7302 Practical Skills for Research provide a thorough grounding in quantitative and qualitative research skills relevant to family and child psychology, including practical training in techniques such as interviewing, and other methods of data collection which are suitable for use in research with children and families. These modules also cover a range of quantitative and qualitative methods of analysis, and the use of specialist software, such as SPSS.

    The final taught module, PS7303 Advanced Skills for Research and Practice, differs considerably from typical research methods training, by developing competence in research development and management, including the generation of research income, the development and costing of research proposals, networking  and other relevant professional issues. PS7303 is very focused on the development of strong transferable skills that are very much in demand by contemporary students and employers. Furthermore, the development of these skills may offer career advancement opportunities for those already in employment.

    Finally, the 60-credit module, PS7112 Research Dissertation, encourages students to develop research expertise in a particular area of family and child psychology. Preparation for this module will commence early in the programme, but delivery of PS7112 will occur mainly during the summer period.


    Mod-Code Level Title Credit Single
    PS7112 7 Research Dissertation. 60 Comp
    PS7301 7 Researching Thought and Behaviour 20 Comp
    PS7302 7 Practical Skills for Research 20 Comp
    PS7303 7 Advanced Skills for Research and Practice 20 Comp
    PS7304 7 Child and Adolescent Development 20 Comp
    PS7305 7 Family Psychology in Society 20 Comp
    PS7306 7 Family Lifestyle and Transition 20 Comp

    Postgraduate Certificate

  • 60 credits (usually PS7304, PS7305, PS7306)
  • Postgraduate Diploma
  • 120 credits (as above, plus PS7301, PS7302, and PS7303
  • Master of Science
  • 180 credits (as above, plus PS7112)

  • Candidates will normally possess an honours degree in psychology (minimum 2.ii) or a related discipline. Students who have successfully completed the PG Certificate or PG Diploma intermediate award(s) of this programme will be eligible to continue their studies and complete the full Masters degree. In addition, as our introductory research methods provision is shared with the Psychology conversion programme, which assumes no previous experience in psychology, we are willing to consider applications from graduates from outside the social sciences who can demonstrate that they have sufficient interest and motivation to pursue studies in a field that is different to their first degree. Exceptionally, we may consider applicants with relevant professional qualifications and experience, where there is evidence of ability to carry out research at postgraduate level. Where appropriate, applicants will be interviewed by a representative of the programme team. Applicants whose first language is not English must have an appropriate level of English proficiency certification before applying (e.g., IELTS, TOEFL).

    There is currently no benchmarking statement produced by the QAA for postgraduate psychology, only for undergraduate honours degrees. The QAA benchmark statements are being reviewed 2013-2015. Following a review in 2004 the BPS did distribute draft benchmark statements relating to specific areas of Applied Psychology at postgraduate level. While none of these directly relate to the areas of Family and Child Psychology they are a useful indicator of the knowledge and skills requirements needed for individuals working in areas of applied psychology and hence have been referred to in the development of this programme. Furthermore analysis of the content of existing, competitor programmes has been utilised in benchmarking. Finally, the QAA FHEQ guidelines were consulted and adhered to in the development of the curriculum. In terms of descriptors for Masters degrees these stipulate the following (taken from FHEQ (2008, pp.20-21)):

    Masters degrees are awarded to students who have demonstrated:·        

    • a systematic understanding of knowledge, and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of their academic discipline, field of study or area of professional practice.       
    • a comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship.
    • originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline.
    • conceptual understanding that enables the student:·        
    • to evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline.
    •  to evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, to propose new hypotheses.

     Typically, holders of the qualification will be able to:·        

    • deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, make sound judgments in the absence of complete data, and communicate their conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences.        
    • demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level.
    • continue to advance their knowledge and understanding, and to develop new skills to a high level.

     And holders will have:·        

    • the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring:        
    • the exercise of initiative and personal responsibility.   
    • decision-making in complex and unpredictable situations.
    • the independent learning ability required for continuing professional development.

    Before the course, during the induction programme, students will be given a day of initial training and support for their learning. This will draw on expertise within the team and other psychology staff, from the faculty's e-learning specialist, and other available support, such as the Library and Information Services (LIS) . The focus of the event will be in giving initial training in study and research skills. Students will be introduced to the library and library catalogue and to the Sharepoint system and associated E-Portfolio. The session will therefore help to orientate students in terms of the support and facilities that are available at level 7.

    Students will each be allocated a personal academic tutor (PAT) during induction. The PATs will provide pastoral support and take an overview of the student's academic performance during the course. In addition to the support provided by PATs in typical situations, PATS will direct students to other, more specialised resources when appropriate, such as the resources provided by the Learning Support Unit (LSU) and Student Support and Guidance Services (SSGS) when this is required. SSGS can offer more specialised support and counselling for students, for example, in relation to personal or financial problems that they may face. International students may also be provided with the additional support that is offered via the International Office if necessary, which includes mentoring and 'buddy' programmes to help them settle into their new environment.

    Student learning will be facilitated through a wide range of learning and teaching methods. These diverse methods will enable students of varying abilities to reach their full potential. The teaching team, most of whom are accredited to teach in higher education by the Higher Education Academy (HEA), will use their knowledge of learning and teaching methods to create a strong team teaching ethos with an emphasis on the critical evaluation and reflection required at level 7. The programme team will make use of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) throughout the modules offered.

    The approach to learning and teaching will also be informed by the current experience of the department. The team have been regularly praised, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels by external examiners and accrediting teams who were extremely impressed by the breadth and range of learning and teaching methods employed on existing programmes.

    Students will be taught primarily through small group teaching sessions, seminars, tutorials and workshops, allowing a more student-centred approach compared to traditional lectures. These structures will allow the team to use a broad range of teaching approaches, making their teaching generally more interactive and less didactic. Many sessions will be structured in a way that encourages classroom interaction and encourages student participation, discussion and critical reflection, which will help to promote deeper levels of learning and understanding. Taught sessions will be supplemented with individual and/or group-based in-class tasks to aid learning and consolidation. Students' cognitive skills are developed further through assessment and through critical evaluation of published material throughout the programme. Furthermore, critical evaluation of research is embedded throughout the programme.

    Students will receive both summative and formative feedback throughout the course. The use of electronic submission and marking systems will allow students to submit and receive their feedback at times and from places that may be more convenient for them. The team will make use of discussion boards and module spaces within the VLE to occur maintain communication between staff and students, something that is especially important when teaching takes place mainly on one day per week.

    Students also learn practical research skills within the modules, for example, PS7301 Researching Thought and Behaviour and PS7302 Practical Skills for Research modules, but also within other core modules. For MSc students these skills are further developed through the process of planning and producing a research dissertation. Additional vocational skills are developed through PS7303 Advanced Skills for Research and Practice, and through the use of E-Portfolios.

    To enable students to study by day release, all teaching will be delivered on one day per week on this this programme. On this programme, 'part-time' therefore reflects the number of modules a student is taking during the year, rather than taking separate modules at different times. Therefore, as part-time students attend the same modules as their full-time counterparts, they will have the same levels of access to staff and resources as full-time students. Furthermore, specialist resources and facilities will be made available to both part-time and full-time students outside of normal teaching times as necessary, by arrangement with members of the teaching and/or technical staff.


    The assessment strategy for this programme was developed with two core issues in mind. Firstly students will be assessed using a wide variety of methods, something that has been praised by external examiners and accrediting teams generally for psychology programmes. Secondly assessment has been designed in line with the need to develop a strong base of transferable skills in our graduates.

    Assessment on this programme is entirely through coursework, which will include the use of extended essays, critical reviews, case studies, scientific reports (both qualitative and quantitative) and presentations (individual, group and by poster). Formative feedback will also be provided within group discussions in seminars, workshops and tutorials, with the aim of encouraging students in their use of critical reflection. Formative feedback is also provided on the assessments, including opportunities to discuss assignments and drafts in workshops and tutorials.


    The programme is aimed at:

    1) graduates from the social sciences in the UK and overseas who wish to develop their conceptual understanding of families and child development. 

    2) graduates wishing to differentiate themselves from the growing number of jobseekers with a degree.

    3) graduates wishing to gain postgraduate experience as a precursor to applying to undertake professional training to become a psychologist.

    4) graduates wishing to develop their research skills as a precursor to a research career and/or doctoral studies.

    5) early and mid-career professionals working in the fields of health, education, social welfare and social policy, looking for opportunities for continuing professional development and career advancement

    6) graduates hoping to find employment in fields such as health, education, social welfare and social policy.

    Graduates from this programme will be equipped with substantial knowledge and understanding of theoretical and methodological approaches to family and child psychology. Furthermore, they will possess excellent transferable skills which are developed through the research methods and skills modules.

    The University is committed to the promotion of diversity, equality and inclusion in all its forms; through different ideas and perspectives, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. We are, in particular, committed to widening access to higher education. Within an ethically aware and professional environment, we acknowledge our responsibilities to promote freedom of enquiry and scholarly expression.

    A number of sources inform the University's approach to diversity and equality. The Department recognises its duty not to discriminate because of age, disability, gender identity or expression, race or ethnicity, religion or belief or sexual orientation in the educational opportunities it provides. The programme, as with the whole of the Department, conforms with relevant codes of practice and guidance, specifically when implementing the Race (2001), Disability (2005) and Gender (2006) Equality Duties. Guidance from the Commission for Equality and Human Rights , such as the code of practice for post-16 education, and the Equality Challenge Unit serve to inform programme developers of their duties and responsibilities. In practical terms, the Department works with colleagues from Student Support & Guidance, Learning Support Services and from Marketing Recruitment and Admissions to ensure the various agendas are taken into account. In addition, the Institution's Teaching and Learning Strategy (reflected in the Departmental and the Programme strategies) sets out specific aims as part of the diversity agenda. The programme team have little influence over who applies to the programme, but will provide support and guidance for students with for example, diverse abilities, through the formative approach to teaching and learning which is embedded in the programme. A departmental member of staff is a member of the University's Diversity & Equality Committee and works to ensure that the Department is kept up to date with developments.

    Safeguarding children during the MSc Family and Child Psychology assessments

    The University of Chester is committed to compliance with all those legal, statutory and regulatory requirements which pertain to safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults from harm.  The University operates a web based application process to check whether the applicant has a criminal record, facilitated by the Disclosure and Barring Service. Students intending to carry out research with children or vulnerable adults (e.g., in their dissertation) should discuss the research fully with an appropriate tutor, and adhere to University procedures for obtaining ethical clearance for the research, as well as obtaining clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service, before undertaking the research. Failure to follow these procedures may be considered academic malpractice. The student is liable for any costs that are incurred in checking their criminal records.

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