Notebook, 1993-

Return to - Notes for a Perspective on Art Education -- NOTES on Child Development

Notes from: Coon, Dennis. Introduction to Psychology, Exploration and Application. St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1989.

The Brain, Biology, and Behavior - Sensation & reality - Perceiving the World - States of Consciousness

Conditioning & Learning - Cognition & Creativity - Artificial Intelligence - Enhancing Creativity

Emotion - Health, Stress & Coping - ANS Effects

Theories of Personality - Dimensions of Personality - From Birth to Death - Child Development

Child Development

Developmental psychology. The study of progressive changes in behavior and abilities from conception to death.

Neonate. [neo: new; nate; born] - Completely helpless at birth and will die if not cared for. Can't lift head. Can't turn over by itself. Can't feed itself. Can see, hear, smell, taste, and respond to pain and touch. Although their senses are less acute at birth, babies are immediately responsive to their surroundings. They will follow a moving object with their eyes and will turn in the direction of sounds. As early as 9 months of age, infants can also imitate other actions and they can repeat them the next day (Meltzoff, 1988) Such mimicry is obviously an aid to rapid learning in infancy. Robert Fantz found that 3-day old babies prefer complex patterns, such as checkerboards and bull's-eyes, to simpler colored rectangles. Others have found that infants are more excited by circles and curves and that they will look longer at red and blue than at other colors. Familiar faces preferred to unfamiliar faces. This preference for the familiar reverses at about age 2 --at this time unusual objects begin to hold greater interest for the child.

A child is born with the following reflexes:

Maturation. The emergence and development of personal characteristics in an orderly sequence as a result of underlining physical growth. Maturation refers to physical growth and development of the body - especially the nervous system. Maturation underlies the orderly sequence observed in the unfolding of many basic abilities, particularly motor abilities, such as crawling and walking.

Orderly sequence. While the rate of maturation varies from child to child, the order is almost universal. In general, increased muscular control in infants proceeds from head to toe, and from the center of the body to the extremities. For example: the strength and coordination a child needs to sit without support appears before that needed for crawling --sit before crawl, crawl before stand, stand before walk, and so on --except --when rolling, creeping, or shuffling are substituted for crawling....

Readiness [principle of motor primacy]. Maturation often creates a condition of readiness for learning. Until the necessary physical structures are mature, no amount of practice will be sufficient to establish a skill. Impossible (and cause for needless frustration) to try to teach a child to walk or to toilet train a child before it is ready. Rapid learning is produced if ready, otherwise the learning is inefficient or unsuccessful.

Temperament. Refers to the physical foundations of personality, such as prevailing mood, sensitivity, and energy levels. Newborn babies differ noticeably in activity, irritability, distractibility, and other aspects of temperament. Because of inborn differences in readiness to smile, cry, vocalize, reach out, or pay attention, babies rapidly become active participants in their own development --especially their social development. They alter parents behavior at the same time they are changed by it.

Children can be separated into three major categories:

Heredity and Environment: There is a fascinating interplay of forces shaping the child's development so that, by the third year of life the child stands, walks, talks, explores, and has a unique personality. Nature versus nurture. Heredity shapes development by providing a framework of personal potentials and limitations that are altered by learning, nutrition, disease, culture, and other environmental factors.

Developmental Level. We might say that three factors combine to determine a person's developmental level at any stage of life. These are heredity, environment, and the individual's own behavior - each tightly interwoven with the others.

Hereditary instructions carried by the chromosomes influence development throughout life by affecting the sequence of growth, the timing of puberty, and the course of aging. It is estimated that the genetic information carried in each human cell would fill thousands of 1000-page books (in fine print). It effects eye color, skin color, and the susceptibility to some diseases. It underlies maturation and the orderly sequence of motor development. Exerts considerable influence over body size and shape, height, intelligence, athletic potential, personality traits, and a host of other details.

Nucleus of every cell of human body consists of 46 chromosomes - threadlike structures

Chromosomes transmit coded instructions of hereditary behavior. We receive one-half of our chromosomes (and genes) from each parent. [Child who inherits 2 x chromosomes (x + x) will be a female. Child who inherits an x chromosomes paired with a Y chromosome (x + y) will be male.]

Genes are scattered on each chromosome-smaller areas on chromosomes. There are genes determining eye color, skin color, sex. Each gene carries instructions that affect a particular process of personal characteristic. There are at least 100,000 genes in every human cell, and perhaps more. In some cases, a single gene is responsible for a particular inherited feature, such as eye color. Most characteristics, however, are polygenetic, or determined by many genes working in combination. Genes are made up of DNA.

DNA [deoxyriboneucleicacid] is a long, ladderlike chemical molecule that is made up of smaller molecules. The order of these smaller molecules, or organic bases, acts as a code for genetic information.

Dominant genes - When a gene is dominant, the trait it controls will be present every time the gene is present. The brown gene is dominant.

Recessive genes - When a gene is recessive, it must be paired with a second recessive gene before its effect will be expressed. The blue gene is recessive.

Humans today are very similar to cave dwellers who lived 20,000 or 30,000 years ago, yet, a bright baby born today could become almost anything --a computer programmer, an engineer, or a biochemist who likes to paint in water colors, for instance. Environmental forces continue to modify inborn potentials with each passing year. Consistent differences in temperament can be detected for at least the first 2 years of life. Yet by age 10, children's personalities show little connection to irritability, activity, or attentiveness observed in infancy (Kagan, 1976).

3 ways the Environment can impact on Heredity:

Intrauterine environment. Prenatal environment of the womb is protected and stable, but a number of conditions can affect embryonic or fetal development before birth if mother's health or nutrition is poor, if she contracts certain diseases, such as German measles or syphilis, uses drugs, or is exposed to X-rays or atomic radiation, the fetus may be harmed. Resultant damage is referred to as a congenital problem (or "birth defects"). Genetic problems are inherited.

Social development. Infants are social creatures from the day they are born. Examples of their sensitivity to others is their ability to imitate adults and their interest in the human face. Two major elements of early social development are infants' growing self-awareness and their increased awareness of others.

Self-awareness. Like many other events in development, self-awareness depends on maturation of the nervous system. When coupled with an increased awareness of others, self-awareness begins to form the core of social development.

Social Referencing. Glancing at the facial expressions of others to decide how to respond to them. By about 12 months of age, most babies reference (glance at) their mothers when placed in an unfamiliar situation. By the end of their first year, babies are aware of the facial expressions of others and seek guidance from them --roots of an important social skill. Real core of social development is found in the emotional attachments that babies form with their caregivers.

Critical period. A time of increased sensitivity to environmental influences (both positive and negative). Often certain events must occur during a critical period for a person or an animal to develop normally. Existence of critical periods for acquiring particular behaviors is why experiences early in life often have lasting effects.

Imprinting. Limited to birds and some other animals. Rapid and early learning of a permanent behavior pattern. If ducklings are not allowed to imprint on their mother or some other object within 230 hours after hatching, they never will.

Attachment. Bonding to their primary care giver. Developing an emotional and physical relationship with primary person during first year of life. Infants securely attached to their parents or a parent later show:

Separation anxiety. Crying when separated from parent which occurs at about 8 to 12 months. Frequent and short separations a good cure to problem --breaks down anxiety, makes it a routine event.

Affectional needs are as important as other forms of nourishment - no attention can cause child to loose trust in environment.

Deprivation in development The loss or withholding of normal stimulation, nutrition, comfort, love, and so on; a condition of lacking. Destructive effects of lack of stimulation in infancy.

Enrichment in development Any attempt to make a child's environment more novel, complex, and perceptually or intellectually stimulating. Infants like to reach out and touch things, but normally it takes about 5 months after birth for this skill to develop. In an enriched environment, visually directed reaching occurred an average of 6 weeks early. And, children in early childhood education programs show real improvements in later school performance --this is especially true for the most needy children.

Causes of deprivation:

Signs of deprivation:

Hospitalism. A pattern of deep depression marked by weeping and sadness and long periods of immobility or mechanical rocking. A lack of normal responsiveness to other humans is also typical of the problem. Babies in a foundling home-high rate of infant death, and development of the living babies was severely retarded.

Contact comfort. One of the most important dimensions of early stimulation, supplied by touching, holding, and stroking an infant. Mother's warmth or coldness, relaxation or tension, and acceptance or rejection are more important than the choice of breast or bottle. Breast-feeding advantage is that colostrum, a fluid (rather than milk the first few days after birth) rich in proteins that carries antibodies from the mother to the newborn and helps prevent certain infectious diseases.


[Notes from: Coon, Dennis. Introduction to Psychology, Exploration and Application. St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1989.]



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