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Chapter 1

Chapter 1 - Child Development.docx

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Mark Schmuckler

Child Development Themes Theories and Methodso Child developmentis a subarea of discipline of developmental psychology it seeks to answer complex question in two major ways1 It identifies and describes changes in the childs cognitive emotional motor and social capacities and behaviors from the moment of conception through the period of adolescence2 The field attempts to uncover the processes that underlie these changes to help explain how and why they occuro The origins of behavior takes place in two perspectives biological versus the environmental influences Arnold Gesell psychologist believed that the course of development was largely predetermined by biological factors In his research Gesell concentrated on maturation or the natural unfolding of development over the course of growthJohn B Watson behaviorist placed emphasis strictly on the environment He assumed that biological factors placed no restrictions on the ways that the environment can shape the course of a childs development Today there are no theories that support either of these extreme positions Instead modern developmentalists explore how biological and environmental factors or nature and nurture interact to produce developmental variations in different children The combination of the childs biological characteristics the way he or she expresses these characteristics behaviorally and the abusive environment itself puts a particular child at risk Example children with certain genetic characteristics are more likely to exhibit behavior problems than are children who do not have these characteristics Nature of the human organism supports interaction between biological properties and the environment over the course of developmentSocializing agents such as parents peers or teachers do no simply mold the child child actively influence and modify the actions of their parents and other people whom they interact thus environment and biology work in a dynamic process in which the child also contributes to the processo The pattern of developmental change occurs in two ways either in continuity or discontinuity Some psychologist believed development as a continuous process whereby each new event builds on earlier experiences In this view development is a smooth and gradual accumulation of abilities Developmental changes add to or build on earlier abilities in a cumulative or quantitative way without any abrupt shifts from one change to the next There are no abrupt changes Some psychologists view development as a discontinuous process This view likens development to a series of discrete steps or stages in which behaviors get reorganized into qualitative new set of behaviors Abrupt steplike changes each qualitatively different from one that precedes itMost contemporary child researchers see development as basically continuous or quantitative but sometimes interspersed with periods of change that are discontinuous or more qualitative Robert Sieglers overlapping waves model suggests that children use a variety of strategies in thinking and learning and that cognition involves constant competition among different strategies rather than the use of single strategy at a given age The child uses several strategies of varying levels of sophistication The use of each strategy ebbs and flows with increasing age and expertise and it is only gradually that the most successful strategies predominate o Forces that affect developmental change include individual characteristics and contextual and cultural characteristics Child development occurs in a variety of settings Developmental psychologists differ their emphasis on individual characteristics versus situational or contextual influences Many resolve the controversy by adopting an interactionist viewpoint stressing the dual role of individual and contextual factorso One very important way in which individual characteristics have been studied is by examining how different children respond when they are confronted with situational challenges or risks to healthy development Some risks are biological or psychological and other risks are environmental Individual children respond to such risks in different ways Many seem to suffer permanent developmental disruptions Others show sleeper effects they seem to cope well initially but exhibit problems later indevelopment Still others exhibit resilience and are able to deal with the challenge these children seem better able to adapt to challenges than children who have experienced little to no riskat allo Researchers who emphasize contextual influences on development have studied a range of settings including the home the neighborhood and the school
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