Psychology Class Notes > Child Psychology (Birth - Adolescence)

Definition: Developmental Psychology is the study of how individuals become more advanced and effective as they age, and focuses on the process of BECOMING (how people become who and what they are) as opposed to BEING (the current state of who and what people are)

What is Development? sequence of age-related changes that occur as a person progresses from conception to death. We go through different types of changes:

physical development - motor skills, bone structure, weight, etc.

cognitive development - thought patterns and skills, problem solving, etc.

social development - emotional changes, personality, etc.

The Developmental Psychologist does the following:

Examines past experiences and influences in order to understand current behavior.

Uses current behavior to predict future behavior. Who we are is assumed to be a function of past experiences.

Development begins long before the child is born. From conception, there are changes happening all of the time. In addition, many factors influence how the child develops before birth - in fact, I am often find myself thinking how amazing it is that ANY child is born healthy. One major influence, is MATERNAL HEALTH.

I. Maternal Health

1) Maternal Drug Taking

although most Introductory Psychology books mention (only briefly) the effects of drugs on prenatal development, they fail to mention Fetal Alcohol Syndrome which affects 1 out of every 750 children born in the U.S.

a) Fetal Alcohol Syndrome -- a 1991 study found that mothers who consumed just 1 alcoholic beverage a day during pregnancy (and assuming these are drinks that contain moderate alcohol levels per drink), had children who scored lower on IQ tests at age 4 than children whose mothers did not drink. Even when environmental factors were accounted for, IQ scores were still lower.

2) Maternal Smoking

has immediate effects such as hindering oxygenation of blood to the baby, as well as long-term effects like deficits in growth and learning abilities.

3) Obstetrical Medication

although prescribed by a doctor, studies have found that pain medication given during labor (in larger doses) have been correlated with sluggish, less animated infant behavior during the first few weeks of life. This has a common effect of hindering the parent-infant bond. In addition, these children have been found to have poor motor coordination and cognitive deficits up to a year old.

4) Maternal Emotional State (Just hang on a second before you make any comments)

often overlooked; since more than half of the pregnancies in this country are unplanned, there nay be guilt, anxiety, and depression, all of which are mediated by hormonal reactions which pass through the placenta to the baby. Thus, a rise in adrenaline in mom also occurs in baby. This can be damaging when prolonged, but temporary reactions are not as damaging.

Highly emotional mothers during pregnancy have been linked with highly active, irritable infant behaviors, as well as infants who are abnormal sleepers and eaters. Finally, emotionality in mothers has been correlated with miscarriages (greater emotionality is positively correlated with incidences of miscarriage)

5) Maternal Age

Both Down's Syndrome and infant mortality increase with mother's age. Women age 40 have a 1/100 chance of giving birth to a child with Down's Syndrome. Women age 50 have a 1/10 chance!

Mortality rate is also higher in young mothers (meaning adolescents). This is possibly due to the body's inability to handle pregnancy before a certain developmental level.

6) Nutrition (for years, my mother has been screaming about the importance of nutrition on everything in life)

this has become popular in more recent years...especially the notion of how much weight to gain during pregnancy. Today, it is more common for a doctor to recommend gaining between 25 and 30 pounds as opposed to 15-18 that was common just a few years ago.

7) Environmental Factors

such as RADIATION that can occur from jobs (X-ray technicians, flight attendants) and lead to low birth-weight, stillborns, birth defects, etc.

This is not only for mothers - men exposed to radiation also may contribute to prenatal health problems like chromosomal alterations and mental retardation.

II. Infancy (from age 0 - 2)

A. Developments:

1) Sensory Development

It was once believed that a neonate (new born) was an empty-headed, passive organism that was unable to perceive. Simply ate, drank, slept, etc.

BUT more recently, the consensus is that infancy is an active time of exploration and acquiring information through primitive but effective means (sight, hearing, etc.).

a) Visual Perception - Recent research has shown that neonates are more advanced visually than once believed. Two Examples:

1. visual cliff - a researcher places a checkered cloth over a a table or other raised surface that extends over the table, floor, everything around. Then, a piece of clear plastic or glass is placed on the raised surface so that it extends out from the surface. This gives the appearance, when looking from the top of the clear material, that there is a cliff. A child is placed on the table/surface and the mother stands at the end of the clear plastic or glass, and calls for the child to crawl to her. If the child simply crawls to her, over the edge of the table on the plastic, then the child has not yet developed depth perception. If the child stops at the edge of the table and looks down, but refuses to crawl to the mother, than it can be inferred that the child does have depth perception.

depth perception is usually exhibited between 6 - 14 months; At that point, children are less likely to crawl over the edge of the table.

2. preference for visual stimuli - Frantz (1961) showed infants different pictures of shapes that, to varying degrees, represented a human face. There was a range - some of the pictures just looked like a bunch of unrelated images, while at the other end, some looked like a human face. He found that up to 40% of fixation time was on human face, 20% on complex non-face, 10% on solid color stimuli. REASONS - complex images provide more stimulation; humans may be biologically programmed to keep contact with care givers (survival).

b) behavioral development - includes reflexes such as rooting, Moro, etc.

What about crying? The average neonate spends 6-7% of awake time crying. Early cries are reflex to discomfort; biological method of communication with care-givers. Many different types of crying - research shows that adults (not just parents) can identify types of cries (pain, anger, etc.). Of course, the all important question is:

Should you respond to a crying baby? There are two primary perspectives:

John Watson - he stated that responding to crying was not a good idea because it produces a reward for crying. Thus, the baby learns to cry anytime it wants to see mom or dad, not when it actually is in need.

Mary Ainsworth - impossible to respond too often. Responding establishes secure attachment. Research is INCONCLUSIVE.

2) Attachment

process of forming close emotional bonds of affection that develop between infant and care givers.

a) Mary Ainsworth - developed the strange situation procedure to measure attachment in infants. From this research, she has established that there are 3 main categories of child-parent attachment:

1) avoidant attachment - infant avoids mother when reunited.

2) secure attachment (65%) - infant actively seeks out contact with mother.

3) ambivalent attachment - seek contact but then resist once contact is made.

3. Language

are we more capable to learn language at a younger age?

III. Childhood (2-11)

As infants become children, they become less socially dependent on their parents and more responsive to peers. This becomes particularly prevalent during adolescence, but for now, let's just look at childhood.

A. Social Developments

1) Identification

at approximately age 4-5, children become less egocentric begins to identify with parents.

Identification is a process of adopting the attitudes, values, and behaviors of their parents. In addition, children start to imitate same-sex parent (act like daddy).

During this time, children also begin to develop their SELF-CONCEPT (knowledge of who you are as an individual) by beginning to focus on external factors like name, age, where you live, friends, etc. For example, during this time, ask a child who they are, and you may get responses that include "I am kid" "I am a kid with lots of friends" "I am a kid with lots of friends who lives in Washington DC", etc....

2) Early social influences

at approximately age 6-10, children begin to expand their social contacts beyond family and friends. They may become members of clubs or groups at school, play on sports teams, etc.

Also, they begin to experience pressure from peers and observe how others act and how they should act. This is the time during which that drive to be like others begins to pick up steam (bring a certain toy to school because everyone else has one). They need to feel ACCEPTED by peers to develop confidence.

B. Jean Piaget (Cognitive Development)

One of the most important Figures in Psychological understanding of Childhood development in Jean Piaget. Let's take a look at some of his work and influences. His theories of cognitive development is a "stage theory" in that in each stage of development, children are faced with challenging situations which must deal with and overcome through increased mental abilities. Once the challenge is successfully dealt in that stage, the children can move on to the next stage of cognitive development. There are several key components of Piaget's theory of cognitive development:

1) Schemas

mental models that incorporate characteristics of people, places, objects, etc., that the child uses to complete a series of actions (ex. - to stand, an infant may have to reach up, grab side of crib, hold firmly, etc.). These schemas are adaptable to our we age and change so do the schemas by two processes:

a) assimilation - incorporate new information with previous schemas.

b) accommodation - alter an existing schema to compensate for new information.

2) Stages of Piagetian Development

a) Sensorimotor - ages 0-2. Stage is marked by infant's increasing ability to organize and coordinate sensations and perceptions with their actions.

1. Object Permanence - most significant accomplishment during this stage - approx. 8 months old, infant acquires the ability to understand that objects that are out of sight still exist.

b) Preoperational - ages 2-7. During this stage mental reasoning begins, egocentrism reduces as child approaches end of stage, magical belief system disappears, etc.

1. Egocentrism - infant is only able to perceive the world from their own point of view.

c) Concrete operational - ages 7-12. child develops the ability to perform complex intellectual operations such as conservation, classification, seriation, and temporal relationships.

1. conservation - realization that changing the form of an object/substance does not change it's amount.

2. classification - ability to group items according to identifying characteristics (cats & dogs).

3. seriation - putting items in order according to size.

4. temporal relations - concept of first, second, last, before, after, etc.

d) Formal operational - ages 11-15. period when the person learns hypothetical reasoning. Now they can function purely on a symbolic, abstract level.

3) Some Problems with Piaget's Theory

a) Piaget may have underestimated the cognitive abilities of children (especially when very young) - object permanence may occur earlier; children also may be less egocentric (or at least be able to understand another persons perspective).

b) What about individual differences? What about when a child displays behaviors from several different stages? Ever seen an infant do something incredible and sophisticated cognitively?

c) This theory is a true stage theory, which may be inappropriate. His estimates for passing through each stage are based on age. However, it is possible that children advance through stages in response to environmental factors, not just age. For example, children may begin to walk, on average, between ages 1-2 years, but the the old adage "he/she will walk when ready, may be correct. A child may be capable of walking at 1 year old, but not receive proper motivation or environmental factors to go ahead and actually begin walking.

IV. Adolescence

A. Characteristics:

Occurs between the ages of approximately 11-22. There is usually some debate about the exact age range, but most agree that adolescence is correlated with the onset of puberty.

This stage is often characterized as a state of Flux - intermediate zone between childhood and adulthood.

The adolescent no longer wants to be w/mother or father all the time. Now has drive to become independent, search for own solutions and ideas, opinions, and beliefs. But, still not prepared to be self-supporting.

Very confusing time - seek to answer one question "WHO AM I?" answered when an individual establishes their own sense of identity. This term, "Identity" is a major theme of adolescence.

Identity - a total concept of self - this is a combination of physical, sexual, social, vocational, moral, ideological, and psychological characteristics. This will be covered in more detail shortly.


B. Why is adolescence so much more difficult than other stages???

1) Rapid Physical Changes - often leads to self-image concerns. More than at other developmental stages, adolescents are concerned (often overwhelmingly so) with fitting in with others, looking a certain way, appearing "pretty" or "god looking", etc. In addition, the sense of identity is sometimes based on physical appearance at this stage in life.

2) Cognitive Changes - the use of introspection (this is new) and abstract reasoning to consider complex ideas and hypotheses can cause many, many problems. For example, "what happens if I don't look good? Are they going to dislike me because I am ugly?"

3) Career Concerns - desire to know who we will become often arises here.

C. Development of Identity

1) Erik Erikson (7 parts of identity - substages of Identity vs Identity/Role Confusion)

a) Temporal Perspective VS Time Confusion -- gaining a true sense of time and the continuity of life. Needed to make plans for future. Usually occurs around ages 15-16.

b) Self Certainty VS Self Consciousness -- use past experiences to gain self-confidence and realize that you can succeed in the future. Must go through a period of self-awareness & self-consciousness, during which the adolescent focuses on self-image both physically and socially to accomplish self-certainty. Very Crucial Time.

c) Role Experimentation VS Role Fixation -- try out different roles, ideas, philosophies, etc to find own way of thinking and acting.

d) Appreticeship VS Work Paralysis -- try out jobs to get insight into possible career. Jobs can be very important for improving self-identity. Poor self-image can lead to failure at work, school, etc., and to one's own self opinion.

e) Sexual Polarization VS Bisexual Confusion -- (criticized greatly for this stage) Searching for a sexual identity people now have to understand and accept their role as either a man or woman, and everything that comes with that role (reason for "Polarization").

f) Leadership & Followership VS Authority Confusion -- do we become leaders or followers, or do we not know our place in society. Demands from many places and people on the adolescent so now he must decide who to listen to - who is an authority figure.

g) Idealogical Commitment VS Confusion of Values -- "search for fidelity" - find something/someone to believe in.

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