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Chapter 4

Chapter 4 - Introduction to Developmental Psychology

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Psychology 2410A/B
Sandra Hessels

Infancy Early Learning Motor Skills and Perceptual CapacitiesThe Organized Newbornthe newborn baby is homely looking with a head that appears too large in relation to the potbellied trunk and bowlegged lower body in addition the babys skin is usually wrinkled and parboiled in appearance babies are active from the very startReflexesa reflex is an inborn automatic response to a particular form of stimulation reflexes are the neonates most obvious organized patterns of behaviourAdaptive Value of Reflexesthe rooting reflex helps a breastfed baby find the mothers nipple babies display it only when hungry and touched by another person not when they touch themselves at birth babies adjust their sucking pressure to how easily milk flows from the nipple the swimming reflex helps a baby who is accidentally dropped into water stay afloat increasing the chances of retrieval by the caregiver The Moro or embracing reflex is believed to have helped infants to cling to their mothers when they were carried about all day if the baby happened to lose support the reflex caused the infant to embrace and along with the powerful grasp reflex so strong during the first week that it can support the babys entire weight regain its hold on the mothers bodyA baby who searches for and successfully finds the nipple sucks easily during feedings and grasps when her hand is touched encourages parents to respond lovingly and feel competent as caregivers reflexes can also help parents comfort the baby because they permit infants to control distress and amount of stimulation Reflexes and the Development of Motor Skillsthe tonic neck reflex may prepare the baby for voluntary reaching when babies lie on their backs in this fencing position they naturally gaze at the hand in front of their eyes the reflex may encourage them to combine vision with arm movements and eventually reach for objects The stepping reflex looks like a primitive walking response unlike other reflexes it appears in a wide range of situations one reason that babies frequently engage in the alternating leg movements of stepping is their ease compared with other movement patterns repetitive movement of one leg or of both legs at once requires more effort In infants who gain weight quickly in the weeks after birth the stepping reflex drops out because thigh and calf muscles are not strong enough to lift the babys increasingly chubby legs if the lower part of the infants body is dipped in water the reflex reappears because the buoyancy of the water lightens the load on the babys muscles when stepping is exercised regularly babies display more spontaneous stepping movements and gain muscle strength consequently they tend to walk several weeks earlier than if stepping is not practiced however there is no special need for infants to practice the stepping reflexall normal babies walk in due time In the case of the swimming reflex trying to build on it is risky although young babies placed in a swimming pool will paddle and kick they swallow large amounts of water this lowers the concentration of salt in the babys blood which can cause brain swelling and seizures despite this remarkable reflex swimming lessons are best postponed until at least 3 years of age The Importance of Assessing Reflexesmost newborn reflexes disappear during the first six months researchers believe this is due to a gradual increase in voluntary control over behaviour as the cerebral cortex develops pediatricians test reflexes carefully especially if a newborn has experienced birth trauma because reflexes can reveal the health of the babys nervous system weak or absent reflexes overly rigid or exaggerated reflexes and reflexes that persist beyond the point in development when they should normally disappear can signal damage to the cerebral cortex however individual differences in reflexive responses exist that are not cause for concern an observer must assess newborn reflexes along with other characteristics to distinguish normal from abnormal central nervous system functioningStatesthroughout the day and night newborn infants move in and out of five states of arousal or degrees of sleep and wakefulness during the first month these states alternate frequently newborns spend the greatest amount of time asleepabout 16 to 18 hours a daybetween birth and 2 years the organization of sleep and wakefulness changes substantially total sleep time declines slowlythe average 2yearold still needs 12 to 13 hours per day periods of sleep and wakefulness become fewer but longer and the sleepwake pattern increasingly conforms to a circadian rhythm or 24hour schedule although newborns sleep more at night than during the day their sleepwake cycles are determined mostly by fullnesshunger by 2 to 3 months infants respond more to darknesslight babies of this age who are exposed to more bright sunlight sleep better at night between 6 and 9 months daytime sleep typically declines to two naps by 1years most infants take just one nap between 3 and 5 years napping subsidesthese changing arousal patterns are due to brain development but they are also affected by the social environment in Western nations many parents try to get their babies to sleep through the night around 4 months of age by offering an evening feeding before putting them down in a separate quiet room in this way they push young infants to the limits of their neurological capacities not until the middle of the first year is the secretion of melatonin a hormone within the brain that promotes drowsiness much greater at night than during the day
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