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Chapter 11

PSYC 1002 Chapter 11: PSYC1002 Chapter 11 Notes

Course Code
PSYC 1002
Chris Motz

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Progress before Birth: Prenatal Development
Zygote: a one-celled organism formed by the union of a sperm and an egg
Prenatal period: extends from conception to birth, usually encompassing nine months of
The Course of Prenatal Development
o Germinal Stage
Germinal stage: the first phase of prenatal development, encompassing the
first two weeks after conception
Begins when a zygote is created through fertilization
Within 36 hours, the zygote multiplies and becomes a mass of cells
On about the 7th day, the cell mass begins to implant itself in the uterine wall
Process takes about a week and is not always successful
During implantation, the placenta begins to form
Placenta: a structure that allows oxygen & nutrients to pass into the
fetus from the mother’s bloodstream + bodily wastes to pass out to the
Exchange takes place across thin membranes that block the passage of
blood cells, keeping the fetal & maternal bloodstreams separate
o Embryonic Stage
Embryonic stage: the second stage of prenatal development, lasting from two
weeks until the end of the second month
Most vital organs & bodily systems begin to form in the developing organism
(now referred to as an embryo)
Structures (i.e. the heart, spine & brain) emerge gradually as cell
division becomes more specialized
Embryo is only about 2.5cm long but its body parts are discernible
A period of great vulnerability bc. all of the basic physiological structures are
being formed
Any interferences with normal development can result in miscarriages
Most major structural birth defects = due to problems that occur during
this stage
o Fetal Stage
Fetal stage: the third stage of prenatal development, lasting from two months
through birth
Rapid body growth as muscles & bones begin to form
The fetus becomes capable of physical movements as skeletal
structures harden
Organs continue to grow & gradually begin to function
Brain cells multiply at a brisk pace during the final 3 months
Layer of fat is deposited under the skin to provide insulation
Respiratory & digestive systems mature
Between 22-26 weeks, the fetus reaches the age of viability
Age of viability: the age at which a baby can survive in the event of a
premature birth
23 weeks: probability of survival is still slim (10-12%)
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26 weeks: survival rate is approx. 75%
Premies born near the threshold of viability go on to experience a wide
range of developmental problems
Environmental Factors and Prenatal Development
o Teratogens: any external agents, such as drugs or viruses, that can harm an embryo
or fetus
o Maternal Drug Use
A major concern about fetal & infant well-being
Includes widely used substances (i.e. tobacco, alcohol + prescription &
recreational drugs)
Drugs consumed by pregnant women can pass through the membranes of the
Its impact varies depending on the drug, the dose & phase of prenatal
Fetal alcohol syndrome: a collection of congenital (inborn) problems
associated with excessive alcohol use during pregnancy
The most common known cause of intellectual disability
Related to increased incidences of problems in school, depression,
drug problems & criminal behaviour in adolescence & adulthood
Tobacco use during pregnancy appears to increase a mother’s risk for
miscarriage, stillbirth & prematurity + newborns’ risk for SIDS
o Maternal Illness and Exposure to Toxins
Fetuses are defenceless against infections bc. their immune systems have not
yet fully matured
Ex. syphilis, cholera, smallpox & severe cases of the flu are harmful
Nature of any damage depends, in part, on when the mother contracts the
HIV virus that causes AIDS can be transmitted by pregnant women to their
Transmission may occur prenatally (during delivery) or through
Improved antiretroviral drugs & cautious obstetrical care have reduced
the transmission rate
Research suggests that babies in the womb are exposed to a variety of
environmental toxins that can impact the fetus
Ex. exposure to air pollution = linked to impairments in cognitive
o Maternal Nutrition and Emotions
Too much or too little weight gain during gestation = associated with birth
Guidelines for maternal weight gain are based on pre-pregnancy BMI
A balanced diet rich in vitamins & minerals is crucial
The developing fetus needs a variety of essential nutrients
Severe malnutrition (most common in underdeveloped countries) increases the
risk of birth complications & neurological defects
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Studies suggest maternal emotions can have an impact on prenatal
Ex. anxiety & depression in pregnant women = associated with an
increased prevalence of various behavioural problems in offspring
Prospective mothers’ emotional reactions to stressful events can
disrupt the delicate hormonal balance that fosters healthy prenatal
o Fetal Origins of Disease
Evidence suggests that events during prenatal development can “program” the
fetal brain in ways that influence one’s vulnerability to various types of illness
decades later
Ex. prenatal malnutrition = linked to vulnerability to schizophrenia
(emerges in late adolescence early adulthood)
Studies have linked aspects of prenatal development to adults’ risk for mood
disorders, obesity, diabetes & some types of cancers
The Wondrous Years of Childhood
Enjoying the World: Motor Development
o Motor development: the progression of muscular coordination required for physical
o Basic motor skills: grasping & reaching for objects, sitting up, crawling, walking
o Basic Principles
Cephalocaudal trend: the head-to-foot direction of motor development
Children gain control over the upper part of their bodies before the
lower part
Proximodistal trend: the centre-outward direction of motor development
Children gain control over their torso before their extremities
Maturation: development that reflects the gradual unfolding of one’s genetic
A product of genetically programmed physical changes that come with
o Understanding Developmental Norms
Developmental norms: indicate the median age at which individuals display
various behaviours & abilities
Useful benchmarks as long as parents don’t expect their children to progress
exactly at the pace specified in the norms (group averages)
o Cultural Variations and Their Significance
Cultural variations in the emergence of basic motor skills demonstrate that
environmental factors can accelerate or slow down early motor development
Early motor development depends to a considerable extent on maturation
Late motor development is another matter
As children in any culture grow older, they acquire more specialized motor
Some of which may be unique to their culture
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