Week 1: Chapter 1:An Introduction to Child Development
Why Study Child Development?
• Understanding how children develop can help parents raise their children more effectively,
lead society as a whole to adopt wiser policies regarding children’s welfare, and answer
intriguing questions about human nature
• Child development research can help answer challenging and endless questions of parents
o For example, one problem that confronts almost all parents is how to promote their
children’s management of anger and other negative emotions.
o Research indicates several effective approaches
One is expressing sympathy: when parents respond to their children’s distress
with sympathy, the children are better able to cope with the situation causing
Another effective approach is helping angry children find positive alternatives
to expressing anger.
• For example, distracting them from the source of their anger and
encouraging them to do something they enjoy helps them cope with
the hostile feelings
o These strategies are also effective when used by other people who contribute to
raising children, such as daycare and teachers
o One approach that children were taught by preschool teachers for coping with anger
was the “turtle technique.”
When children felt themselves becoming angry, they were to move away from
other children and retreat into their “turtle shell,” where they could think
through the situation until they were ready to emerge from the shell.
Posters were placed around the classroom to remind children of what to do
when they became angry.
• Knowledge of child development research can help teachers as well as parents
Choosing Social Policies
• Another reason to learn about child development is to be able to make informed decisions not
just about one’s own children, but also about a wide variety of social policy questions that
affect children in general
o For example: “are public resources better spent trying to detect and prevent potential
developmental problems in young children who seem at risk for them, or is it more
cost-effective to reserve the resources for treating children who have actually
developed problems? How much trust should judges and juries place in preschoolers’
testimony in child-abuse cases? Should preschool programs that teach academic and
social skills be made available to all children from low-income families, and should
such programs be followed up beyond the preschool period? How effective are
health-education courses aimed at reducing teenage smoking, drinking, and
pregnancy, and how can such courses be improved?”
o Child-development research can inform discussion of all of these policy decisions and
many others. Week 1: Chapter 1:An Introduction to Child Development
• In one experiment, researchers designed a test to see whether biased questioning affects the
accuracy of young children’s memory for events involving touching one’s own and other
o The researchers began by having 3- to 6-year-olds play a game, similar to “Simon
Says,” in which the children were told to touch various parts of their body and those
of other children.
o Amonth later, the researchers had a social worker interview the children about their
experiences during the game
o Before the social worker conducted the interviews, she was given a description of
each child’s experiences.
o Unknown to her, the description included inaccurate as well as accurate information.
For example, she might have been told that a particular child had touched her own
stomach and another child’s nose, when in fact the child had touched her own
stomach and the other child’s foot.
o After receiving the description, the social worker was given instructions much like
those in a court case: “Find out what the child remembers.”
o As it turned out, the version of events that the social worker had heard often
influenced her questions.
If, for example, a child’s account of an event was contrary to what the social
worker believed to be the case, she tended to question the child repeatedly
about the event (“Are you sure you touched his foot? Is it possible you
touched some other part of his body?”).
o Faced with such repeated questioning, children fairly often changed their responses,
with 34% of 3- and 4-year-olds, and 18% of 5- and 6-year-olds, eventually
corroborating at least one of the social worker’s incorrect beliefs.
o Especially alarming, the children became increasingly confident about their
inaccurate memories with repeated questioning.
o Children were led to “remember” not only plausible events that never happened but
also unlikely ones that the social worker had been told about.
For example, some children “recalled” their knee being licked and a marble
being inserted in their ear.
• Clearly, an interrogator’s beliefs about what happened in a given event can influence how
young children answer the interrogator’s questions about the event.
• Children’s testimony:
o When shielded from leading questions, 3-5 yr olds can give accurate info, even if they
often forget details of events
o Young children highly susceptible of leading qs
o The younger the children, the more susceptible they are and the more their recall
reflects the biases of the interviewer’s questions
• The conclusion of the research is that to obtain accurate testimony from young children,
questions should be stated in a neutral fashion that does not presuppose the answer, questions
the child has already answered should not be repeated, and props associated with fantasy play
should not be used
Understanding Human Nature Week 1: Chapter 1:An Introduction to Child Development
• Study child dev’t to better understand human nature
• Studies of how children’s ability to overcome the effects of early maltreatment occurs and
• See p. 6-7 for Romania study
• The study shows that the timing of experiences influences their effects
o Today, children were sufficiently flexible to overcome the effects of living in the
loveless, unstimulating institutions if the deprivation lasted no longer than the first 6
months of their lives, but living in the institutions beyond that time had effects that
were rarely overcome, even when children spent subsequent years in loving and
o The adoptive families clearly made a huge positive difference in their children’s lives,
but for most children adopted after age 6 months, effects of their early deprivation
remained years later
Historical Foundations of the Study of Child Development
• Goals of thinkers from ancient Greece to early 20 century
o Help ppl become better parents
o To improve children’s well-being
o To understand human nature
• Unlike contemporary researchers, they usually based their conclusions on unsystematic
observations of small numbers of children whom they happened to encounter
Early Philosophers’Views of Children’s Development
• Plato and Aristotle
o Interested in how children’s development is influenced by their nature and by the
nurture they receive
o Both believed that long-term welfare of society depended on proper raising of
o Careful upbringing was essential because children’s basic nature would otherwise
lead to their becoming rebellious and unruly
o Plato viewed the rearing of boys as a particularly demanding challenge for parents
“Now of all wild things, a boy is the most difficult to handle. Just because he
more than any other has a fount of intelligence in him which has not yet “run
clear,” he is the craftiest, most mischievous, and unruliest of brutes.”
Consistent with this view, Plato emphasized self-control and discipline as the
most important goals of education
o Aristotle agreed with Plato that discipline was necessary but he was more concerned
with fitting child-rearing to needs of the individual child
“It would seem . . . that a study of individual character is the best way of
making education perfect, for then each [child] has a better chance of
receiving the treatment that suits him.”
o Plato and Aristotle differed more profoundly in their views of how children acquire
knowledge Week 1: Chapter 1:An Introduction to Child Development
Plato believed that children are born with innate knowledge
Aristotle believed that all knowledge comes from experience and the mind of
an infant is like a blackboard on which nothing has been written yet
• Locke and Rousseau
o Refocused attention on the question of how parents and society in general can best
promote children’s development
o Locke viewed child as a tabula rasa, or blank slate, whose development largely
reflects nurture provided by child’s parents and broader society
He believed that the most important goal of child-rearing is the growth of
To build children’s character, parents need to set good examples of honesty,
stability, and gentleness.
They also need to avoid indulging the child, especially early in life. However,
once discipline and reason have been instilled,
“authority should be relaxed as fast as their age, discretion, and good behavior
could allow it. . . . The sooner you treat him as a man, the sooner he will begin
to be one.”
o Rousseau believed that parents and society should give children max freedom from
Claimed that children learn primarily from their own spontaneous interactions
with objects and other people, rather than through instruction by parents or
Argued that children should not receive any formal education unil about age
12, when they reach “age of reason” and can judge for themselves the worth
of what they read and are told
Before then, they should be allowed the freedom to explore whatever interests
Social Reform Movements
• Precursor of contemporary field of child psych
• Improve children’s lives by changing the conditions in which they lived
• During the Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a great many
children in Europe and the United States worked as poorly paid laborers with no legal
o Some were as young as 5 and 6 years old; many worked up to 12 hours a day in
factories or mines, often in extremely hazardous circumstances.
o These harsh conditions concerned a number of social reformers, who began to study
how such circumstances might be affecting the children’s development.
• For example, in a speech before the British House of Commons in 1843, the Earl of
Shaftesbury noted that the narrow tunnels where children dug out coal
o The Earl of Shaftesbury’s effort at social reform brought partial success—a law
forbidding employment of girls and of boys under age 10.
o In addition to bringing about the first child labor laws, this and other early social
reform movements established a legacy of research conducted for the benefit of Week 1: Chapter 1:An Introduction to Child Development
children and provided some of the earliest recorded descriptions of the adverse effects
that harsh environments can have on their development.
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution-- *skipped*
The Emergence of Child Development as a Discipline
• At the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, child development
emerged as a formal field of inquiry
• The French researcherAlfred Binet and his colleagues pioneered the systematic testing of
children’s intelligence and were among the first to investigate differences among children of
the same age. TheAmerican researchers G. Stanley Hall and, somewhat later,Arnold Gesell
presented questionnaires to large numbers of parents, teachers, and children in order to detail
numerous aspects of development— from the feeding schedules of infants and the toilet
training of toddlers to the play activities of preschoolers, the social relationships of
elementary school students, and the physical and psychological changes experienced by
• Also emerging during this period were the first theories of child development that
incorporated research findings.
o Sigmund Freud, results from Freud’s explorations of hypnosis with his patients and
from his analysis of their recollections of their dreams and childhood experiences.
According to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, biological drives, especially
sexual ones, are a crucial influence on development.
o John Watson, based primarily on the results of experiments that examined learning
in animals and children.
Watson’s behaviorist theory proposed that children’s development is
determined by environmental factors, especially the rewards and punishments
that follow particular events and behaviors.
Enduring Themes in Child Development
1. Nature and Nurture: How do Nature and Nurture together shape development?
• Most basic q about child dev’t: how do nature and nurture together shape development?
• Nature: biological endowment; the genes we receive from our parents
• Nurture: the environments, both physical and social, that influence our development
o Womb we spend prenatal period, homes we grow up in, schools attended, many
people we interact with
• The question “nature or nurture” is very misleading
• Every characteristic that we possess—our intellect, our personality, our physical appearance,
our emotions—is created through the joint workings of nature and nurture, that is, through
the constant interaction of our genes and our environment.
• Accordingly, rather than asking whether nature or nurture is more important,
developmentalists ask how nature and nurture work together to shape development.
• How nature and nurture interact is a major theme in all areas of child development research.
• All developmental outcomes result from the constant interaction of nature and nurture. Week 1: Chapter 1:An Introduction to Child Development
2. The Active Child: How do Children shape their own development?
• Attentional patterns, language use, and play
• Children first begin to shape their own development through their selection of what to pay
attention to. Even newborns prefer to look toward things that move and make sounds.
o This preference helps them learn about important parts of the world, such as people,
other animals, and inanimate moving objects such as cars and trucks.
o When looking at people, infants’attention is particularly drawn to faces, especially
their mother’s face: given a choice of looking at a stranger’s face or their mother’s,
even 1-month-olds choose to look at Mom’s
o At first, infants’attention to their mother’s face is not accompanied by any visible
emotion, but by the end of the 2nd month, infants smile and coo more when focusing