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Chapter 1

Making a Difference in the Lives of Children & Adolescents

Summary
The Field of Child Development
The field of child development examines how human beings change from the time of conception,
throughout infancy and childhood, and into adolescence. Each child's developmental journey is guided by
three factors: nature, nurture, and the child's own activity. Developmental theorists typically focus on the
progression of children in three domainsphysical, cognitive, and social-emotionaland look at how a
variety of environmental contexts affect children's developmental course.
Basic Issues in Development
Three basic issues characterize developmental change during childhood and adolescence:
(1) nature and nurture (the extent to which development involves a genetically controlled unfolding of
characteristics and is guided by environmental factors);
(2) universality and diversity (cases in which developmental progressions are common to all young
people and others for which individuals differ because of inherited endowments and unique
environmental conditions); and
(3) qualitative and quantitative change (the extent to which development involves major
reorganizations in functioning and other minor, trendlike modifications).
Theories of Child Development
Developmentalists have proposed a wide variety of explanations as to how and why children and
adolescents change over time. These explanations can be categorized into seven theoretical frameworks:
biological,

behaviorist and social learning,


psychodynamic,
cognitive-developmental,
cognitive process,
sociocultural,
developmental systems perspectives.

These perspectives often focus on different domains of development and may place
greater or lesser importance on nature versus nurture, universality versus diversity,
and qualitative versus quantitative change.

Developmental Periods

Infancy (birth to 2 years) is a remarkable time of rapid growth and emergence of basic human
traits, including emotional bonds to other people, language, and motor mobility.
Early childhood (26 years) is a time of imaginative play, rapid language development, advances in
gross motor and fine motor skills, and expansion of social skills.
During middle childhood (610 years), children tackle in earnest the tasks that they will need to
participate effectively in adult society; they also develop friendships and internalize many of
society's rules and prohibitions.
In early adolescence (1014 years), youngsters are preoccupied with the physical changes of
puberty and sensitive about how they appear to others; at the same time, they are beginning to
think in abstract and logical ways.
Late adolescence (1418 years) is a period of intensive interaction with peers and greater
independence from adults. Although many older adolescents make wise choices, others engage in
risky and potentially dangerous behaviors.

From Theory to Practice


Effective care of youngsters is based on universal developmental pathways and respect for individual
differences. As a future educator, you can identify and capitalize on individual children's strengths and
nudge children toward increasing responsibility. Through ongoing education, conversations with colleagues,
and participation in professional organizations, you can keep up to date on advancements in child
development and maintain an optimistic outlook on your ability to help children.
Chapter Notes
The Study of Child Development
Child development: seeks to identify and explain changes in the physical, cognitive and
social-emotional development of child and adolescents
A childs developmental journey is guided by four factors:
o Nature: the genetic inheritance guiding the childs growth
o Nurture: the influences of the social and physical environment in which the child
lives
o Existing conditions for the child: the physiological and psychological foundations
upon which new advancements can be built
o The childs own activity: the childs choices, mental processes, emotional
responses and behaviors
Three developmental domains
o Physical development: concerned with the biological changes in the body
o Cognitive development: refers to the age-related transformations that occur in
childrens reasoning, concepts, memory, language and intellectual skills
o Social-emotional development: includes the many modifications that occur in
emotions, self-concept, motivation, social relationships, and moral reasoning &
behavior
Effects of context on development
o Context: experiences in families, schools, neighborhoods, community
organizations, cultural & ethnic groups and society at large
o Cultures: long-standing groups with defined values, traditions, and symbol
systems

Three key, yet unresolved, issues in child development


Nature vs. nurture
Universality vs. diversity
Qualitative vs. quantitative
Nature and Nurture
o Nature: inherited characteristics that influence growth
Temperaments: characteristic ways of responding to emotional events,
novel stimuli and impulses; affected by genetic makeup
Maturation: genetically guided changes that our over the course of
development
o Nurture: environmental conditions that additionally affect the progression of
changes
o Both are partners in a childs growth
o Nature and nurture exert their effects in development:
Both are constrained by the developmental process
The relative effects of heredity and environment vary for different areas of
development
Inherited tendencies make individual children more or less responsive to
particular environmental influences
Some genes exert their effects only in certain environments
Individual differences in heredity may exert stronger effects when
environments are favorable than when environments are impoverished
Timing of environmental exposure matters
Sensitive period: a long time frame of heightened receptivity to
particular environmental experiences
Childrens actions effect their environment
Universality and Diversity
o Universality: developmental changes that occur in just about everyone
o Diversity: developmental changes that highly individual or are different between
groups
Qualitative and Quantitative Change
o Qualitative changes: development that reflects changes in the essence or
underlying structure of a characteristic
o Quantitative changes: developmental change that occurs as a gradual process,
or trend, which many small additions and modifications to behaviors and thought
processes
Stage Theories
o Stage: a period of development characterized by a particular way of behaving or
thinking
o Stage theory: individuals progress through a series of stages that are
qualitatively different from one another; emphasize universal progressions
o Stage theorists:
Jean Piaget [1896-1980]: hierarchical levels
Erik Erikson [1902-1994]: set of primary challenges that individuals face
at different points in their lives
Applying Lessons from Basic Issues in Child Development
o Accept the powerful influences of both nature and nurture
o Become familiar with general developmental trends and common variations
o

Look for both quantitative and qualitative changes in childrens characteristics

Theories of Child Development


Biological theories
o Focus on the adaptive capacity of childrens brains and bodies in supporting their
survival, growth, and learning (Maria Montessori [1870-1952])
o Key notes:
Childrens maturational levels impose limits on their abilities and interests
Childrens age-related motivations serve valuable functions of them, such
as prompting exploration
Individual children are born with unique dispositions that interact with
environmental experiences to influence learning, emotional expression,
and interactions with other people
Behaviorism and Social Learning Theories
o Behaviorism: children actively work for rewards, such as food, praise or physical
contact and tend to avoid behaviors that lead to punishment (B.F. Skinner [19041990])
o Social learning theories: childrens beliefs and goals have crucial influences on
their actions
Social cognitive theory: incorporation of thought processes into
explanations of learning
Psychodynamic theories
o Focus on the interaction between a persons internal conflicts and the demands
of the environment (Sigmund Freud [1856-1939])
Cognitive-Developmental theories
o Emphasize thinking processes and how they change, qualitatively, over time
(Lawrence Kohlberg [1927-1987])
Cognitive Process theories
o Focus on basic thinking processes (Robert Siegler)
Sociocultural theories
o Concentrated on the impact of social systems (i.e., families, teacher-child
relationships, and community agencies) and cultural traditions (customs with
print, types of household chores, and uses of memory aids) (Lev Vygotsky [18961934])
Developmental Systems theories
o Help clarify how multiple factors combine to promote childrens development
(Urie Bronfenbrenner [1917-2005])
Taking a Strategic Approach to Theory
o Self-regulation: the processes by which children direct their own actions, learning
and emotions to meet their personal goals and standards
Developmental Periods
Infancy (Birth 2 Years)
Early Childhood (2 6 Years)
Middle Childhood (6 10 Years)
Early Adolescence (10 14 Years)
Late Adolescence (14 18 Years)

From Theory to Practice


Developmentally appropriate practice: instruction and caregiving adapted to the age,
characteristics, and developmental progress of individual youngsters
Applying knowledge of child development in the classroom and the community
o Develop warm relationships with children
o Consider childrens age-related abilities
o Capitalize on each childs strengths
o Recognize that childrens immaturity serves a purpose
o Nudge children toward advanced thinking and behaving
o Integrate childrens cultural values and customs into lessons
o Consider how you might accommodate bioecological factors in childrens lives
Strengthening the commitment
o Continue to take courses in child development
o Find colleagues who share your concerns about children
o Obtain perspectives from colleagues

Quiz
Which of the following children is undergoing the best example of a non-developmental change?

Amy falls and breaks her arm.

Which one of the following examples illustrates the issue of nature versus nurture in development?

Dr. Hepburn thinks that the course of children's development is largely predetermined at birth,
whereas Dr. Tracy thinks that how children develop is influenced by children's home lives and
educational experiences.

Which of the following is not an example of quantitative versus qualitative change in development?

Dr. Bogart believes that 6-year-olds think in very different ways than 12-year-olds do, whereas Dr.
Bald believes that the only difference between the two age groups is how much they know.

Which one of the following best illustrates a probable environmental influence on physical development?

Sara does not receive adequate nutrition from her meals at home.

Jane switched from teaching middle school English to high school English. She has noticed that the high
school students think very differently from her former middle school students. Jane's new students are able
to reason abstractly whereas her former students seemed more concrete in their thinking. Which theoretical
perspective is Jane using to describe her observations?

Cognitive-developmental

Which theory would be the most helpful in studying the influence of family, peers, and community on
learning and development?

Ecology / Socio-historical theory

Which theory would be the most helpful when studying the recollection and recall of information?

Information processing theory

Which of the following contexts would have the greatest effect on the development of a child?

Marge is the youngest of three in a wealthy family.

A teacher observes her students as they gather in groups on the playground during recess. All the girls
from the class are jumping rope together. All the boys have gathered together to take turns throwing and
catching a football. What is the age group of the children described in this scenario?

610 years

Ms. Holmes believes that effective teachers are those who adapt curriculum and instruction according to
the ages and abilities of their students. She is thinking about learning from what perspective?

developmentally appropriate practice

Terry studied an extra hour for her arithmetic test because she wanted to receive another sticker depicting
a happy face like the one she received on her last test. The scenario just described is an example of what
theory?

behaviorism theory

Which of the following best exemplifies the universality of human development?

Thomas, age nine months, learns to crawl before he learns to walk.

Which of the following assertions about stage theories is accurate?

Stages theories are hierarchical: each stage serves as a building block for the next.

Cindy is at an extremely creative point of her life. She is role playing and quickly learning more words every
day. Into which age bracket does Cindy most likely fall?

26 years

Mr. Fox is a teacher who applies his knowledge of developmental systems theory to his classroom. Which
of the following practices does he follow?

Mr. Fox recognizes that students experience and synthesize life events.