Friday October 19, 2012
FRHD 1010-Human Development
Chapter 6- Early Childhood
Section 1:Physical Development
Growth from age 3 to 6
The typical 3 year old is 35 inches tall and weighs about 30 pounds; the typical 6-
year old is about 45 inches tall and weighs about 45 pounds. By their third birthday
y most children have a full set of 20 teeth. These are their primary or baby teeth that
will be replaced by 32 permanent teeth in the course of childhood, beginning at
about age 6, and lasting until about age 14.
Brain Development and “Infantile” Amnesia
At age 3 the brain is about 70% of its adult weight, and at age 6 about 90%. The
average 6 year olds body weight is less than 30% what it will be in adulthood, so the
growth of the brain outpaces the rest of the body.
The increase in brain size and weight during early childhood is due to an increase in
dendritic connections between neurons and to myelination. Four parts of the brain
are especially notable for their myelination during early childhood.
In the corpus callosum, the band of neural fibers connecting the right and left
hemispheres of the cerebral cortex myelination peaks during early childhood,
although it continues at a slower pace through adolescence. The corpus callosum
allows for coordination of activity between the two hemispheres, so increased
myelination of this area of the brain enhances the speed of functioning throughout
the cerebral cortex.
Myelination also takes place in early childhood in the cerebellum, a structure at the
base of the brain involved in balance and motor movements. Increased myelination
enhances connections between the cerebellum and the cerebral cortex. This change
underlies the child’s increasing abilities to jump, run, climb, and throw a ball.
In the reticular formation, a part of the brain involved in attention, myelination is
completed by age 5, which helps explain the increase in attention span that takes
place in the course of early childhood.
Similarly, myelination in the hippocampus is completed by age 5. The hippocampus
is involved in the transfer of information from short term to long-term memory, so
the completion of myelination by age 5 may explain why autobiographical memory
is limited prior to this age. Myelination in the hippocampus is gradual and most
adults can remember some autobiographical events that happened before age 5.
The inability to remember anything prior to age 2 is known as infantile amnesia.
One recent theory proposed that autobiographical memory before age 2 is limited
because the awareness of self becomes stable at about age 2 and serves as a new
organizer around which events can be encoded, stored, and retrieved in memory as
personal, as having happened “to me”. Encoding memories is promoted by language development, because language allows us to tell ourselves a narrative of events and
experiences; consequently, most autobiographical memory is encoded only after
language development accelerates at age 2.
May also be partly cultural. In a study comparing adults’ autobiographical
memories, British and American adults remembered more events prior to age 5
than Chinese adults did, and their earliest memory was 6 months earlier on average.
The greater individualism of British and American cultures promotes greater
attention to individual experiences and consequently more and earlier
Health and Safety in Early Childhood
Nutrition and Malnutrition
The majority of children under age 5 in developing countries experiences iron
deficiency, known as anemia. Anemia causes fatigue, irritability, and difficulty
sustaining attention, which in turn lead to problems in cognitive and social
Handedness appears long before early childhood, infact prenatally fetuses show a
definite preference for sucking a thumb of their right or left hand, with 90%
preferring the right thumb.
Section 2: Cognitive Development
Theories of Cognitive Development
Piaget’s Preoperational Stage of Cognitive Development
Early childhood is crucial turning point in children’s cognitive development because
this is when thinking becomes representational. During toddlerhood and in early
childhood we become representational thinkers. Language requires the ability to
represent the world symbolically, through words, and this is when language skills
develop most dramatically.
Age 2-7 is the preoperational stage, emphasizing that children of this age were not
yet able to perform mental operations, that is, cognitive procedures that follow
certain logical rules.
Conservation is the principle that amount of a physical substance remains the same
even if it s physical appearance changes. Children make two mistakes on
conservation tasks, the first centration meaning that young children’s thinking is
centered or focused on one noticeable aspect of a cognitive problem to the exclusion
of other important aspects.
Second, young children lack reversibility, the ability to reverse an action mentally.
Egocentrism is the inability to distinguish between your own perspective and
another person’s perspective. Animism is the tendency to attribute human thoughts and feeling to inanimate
objects and forces.
Preoperational children also lack the capacity for classification according to Piaget,
meaning they have difficulty understanding objects can be simultaneously part of
more than one “class” or group.
Preoperational Sub stages: Symbolic Function and Intuitive Thought
The symbolic function sub stage is the first sub stage, lasting from 2-4 years of age.
This is when the child becomes capable of representational thought and of using
symbols to represent the world.
Second stage is the intuitive thought sub stage, lasting from 4-7. They become highly
curious about the world frequently asking why when other provide them with
information. This shows they have begun to think logically, because their questions
indicate they are wondering about how one event leads to another.
Evaluating Piaget’s Theory
Critics focus on two issues: claims that he underestimated children’s cognitive
capabilities, and claims that development is more continuous and less stage like
than he proposed. Piaget’s stage theory asserts that movement from one stage to
another represents a wholesale cognitive shift, a change not just in a specific
cognitive skills but in how children thing. Research has generally shown that the
ability to perform mental operations changes gradually over the course of
Understanding Thinking: The Development of “Theory of Mind”
One popular area of research in recent years is theory of mind; the ability to
understand thinking processes in one’s self and others.
At age 2 children begin to refer to mental processes, and by age 3 children
know it is possible to image things that are not physically present
Perspective taking ability advances considerably from age 3-6
By age 6 nearly all children solve false-belief tasks easily
Cultural Learning in Early Childhood
In Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory of learning children learn not through their
individual interactions with the environment but through the social process of
guided participation, as they interact with a more knowledgeable member of the
Young children have the capacity for learning culturally specific skills
Two factors make cultural learning in developed countries different from
cultural learning in traditional cultures:
o Children in developed countries are often apart from their families for
a substantial part of the day o The activities of adults in a complex economy are less accessible to
children’s learning than the activities that children learn through
guided participation in traditional cultures
Early Childhood Education
The Importance of Preschool Quality
Attending preschool is beneficial for young children
Cognitive benefits include higher verbal skills and stronger performance on
measures of memory and listening comprehension
Children who attend preschool are generally more independent and socially
Children attending preschool have been observed to be less compliant, less
respectful towards adults, and more aggressive
Learning should involve exploring and discovering through relatively
unstructured, hands-on experiences
Preschool as a Cognitive Intervention
One type of preschool experience that focuses intensively on cognitive
development is the early intervention program-programs directed at young
children who are at risk for later school problems because they are from low
The goal is to give the children extra cognitive stimulation in early childhood
so that they will have a better opportunity to succeed once they enter school
Advances in Vocabulary and Grammar
Average 3 year old has a vocabulary of about 1,000 words by age