1. Why Study Child Development?
A. Raising Children
• Knowledge of child development can help parents meet the challenges of
• Back to sleep campaign
• Dramatic decrease SIDS deaths
• AmAssociation of Pediatrics recommends
o Sleeping on back
o Firm Surface
o No pillows, bedclothes, etc. that baby could get tangled in
B. Choosing Social Policies
• Knowledge of child development permits informed decisions about social-
policy questions that affect children.
• Period of Purple Crying
C. Understanding Human Nature
• Child-development research provides important insights into some of the most
intriguing questions regarding human nature.
• Recent investigations of development among children adopted from
inadequate orphanages in Romania supports the principle that the timing of
experiences often influence
2. Historical Foundations of the Study of Child Development
A. Early Philosophers’Views of Children’s Development
• Provided enduring insights about critical issues in childrearing, even though
their methods were unscientific
• Both Plato andAristotle believed that the long-term welfare of society
depended on children being raised properly, but they differed in their
• Emphasized self-control and discipline
• Believed that children are born with innate knowledge
• Was concerned with fitting child rearing to the needs of the individual child
• Believed that knowledge comes from experience
• John Locke, likeAristotle, saw the child as a tabula rasa
• Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued that parents and society should give the child
maximum freedom from the beginning.
B. Social Reform Movements • In the nineteenth century, research was conducted for the benefit of children
and provided some oft the earliest descriptions of the adverse effects that harsh
environments can have on child development
C. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution
• Later in the nineteenth century, Charles Darwin’s work on evolution inspired
research in child development in order to gain insights into the nature of the
D. The Emergence of Child Development as a Discipline
• Child development emerged as a formal field of inquiry in the late nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries.
• Sigmund Freud and John Watson formulated influential theories of
development during this period.
Freud and Watson
• Freud concluded that biological drives exerted a crucial influence on
• Watson argued that children’s behavior arises largely from the rewards and
punishments that follow particular behaviors.
• Although the research methods on which these theories were based were
limited, the theories were better grounded in research and inspired more
sophisticated thinking than their predecessors
1. Can tell apart vowel sounds (prenatally)
2. Stepping Reflex (Birth)
3. Rolls over (3-4m)
4. Sits upright on their own (6m)
5. Walk (12m)
6. Says two word utterance (18m)
3. Enduring Themes in Child Development
Nature and Nurture
• The single most basic question about child development is how nature and
nurture interact to shape the developmental process.
• Nature refers to our biological endowment, especially the genes we receive
from our parents
• Nurture refers to the wide range of environments both physical and social that
influence our development
• Developmentalists now recognize that every characteristic we possess is
created through the joint workings of nature and nurture.
• They ask how nature and nurture work together to shape development.
• Children contribute to their own development form early in life and their
contributions increase as they grow older
• Children make important contributions during their first years of life • Three of the most important contributions during children’s first years are their
o Attentional patterns
o Use of language
• Continuous development:
• Discontinuous development:Age related changes include occasional large
shifts so that children of different ages seem qualitatively different
• Stage theories propose that development occurs in a progression of age
related, qualitative shifts
• Examining a boy’s height at yearly intervals from birth to 18 years makes the
growth look gradual and continuous
• Examining changes in the same boy’s height form one year to the next makes
growth seems discontinuous
• Depending on how it is viewed, changes in height can be viewed as either
continuous or discontinuous.
Mechanisms of Developmental Change
• In general, the interaction of genes and environment determines both what
changes occur and when those changes occur.
• For example, one mechanism involves the role of brain activity, genes and
learning experiences in the development of effortful attention
• What role do genes and learning experiences play in influencing this
mechanism of effortful attention?
o Genes influence the production of neurotransmitters and variations in
these genes are associated with performance on tasks of effortful
o Children’s experiences also can change the wiring of the brain system
that produces effortful attention
The Sociocultural Context
• Refers to the physical, social, cultural, economic, and historical circumstances
that make up any child’s environment
• Contexts of development differ within and between cultures
• In many countries mothers and children sleep together for the first several
years of the child’s life, but in the U.S. infants usually sleep separately from
their parents soon after birth
• The US culture values independence and self reliance whereas the Mayan
culture values interdependence
• Development is affected by ethnicity, race and socioeconomic status
• The socioeconomic context exerts a particularly large influence on children’s
• Individual differences among children arise very quickly in development. • Children’s genes, their treatment by other people, their subjective reactions to
other people’s treatment of them, and their choice of environments all
contribute to differences among children, even those within the same family.
Research and Children’s Welfare
• Child-development research yields practical benefits in diagnosing children’s
problems and in helping children to overcome them.
• Aresearch method known as preferential looking has enabled the diagnosis of
the effects of cataracts in infants as young as 2 months of age
Theories of Cognitive Development
Why not just one theory?
• Because child development is a complex and varied process, no single theory
accounts for all of it.
• Theories of cognitive and social development for example, focus on different
• Does it have an internally consistent set of assumptions?
• Is it specified enough to be falsifiable?
• Does it adequately describe the behaviors that are observed?
• Does it provide