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Ch 5. Physical Development in Infancy and Toddlerhood.pdf

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York University
PSYC 2110
Vinod Goel

5 Physical Development in Infancy and ToddlerhoodFriday June 21 20131231 AMOverviewPhysical DevelopmentAn enormous amount of physical development takes place during infancy and toddlerhood An infants height increases dramatically over the first year and the proportion of body fat starts to decrease after nine months as muscle mass starts to increase Other body proportions also change dramatically The two trends that describe this development are the cephalocaudal trend describes growth from head to tail and the proximodistal trend from the center of the body to the extremities In the head soft spots fontanels which allow the bones of the skull to overlap during childbirth also become filledin as an infant agesBrain GrowthGrowth within the brain is also dramatic Neuron growth neuron activity and cortical development can be assessed through a variety of methods eg electroencephalogram EEG eventrelated potentials ERPs functional magnetic resonance imaging fMRI positron emission tomography PET and nearinfrared spectroscopy NIRSBrain Plasticity and SpecializationEarly in development the infant brain is quite plastic meaning that particular areas of the brain have not yet become highly specialized So if there is damage to an area of the brain another part of the brain may adapt to perform another function Although brain plasticity continues with age the degree of plasticity decreases One type of specialization that occurs in the brain islateralization in which the two halves of the brain hemispheres begin to perform specific functions For example the left hemisphere typically performs analytical or languagerelated functions while the right hemisphere typically performs spatial or holistic functions In addition to plasticity the brains development is sensitive to the environment at specific developmental pointssensitive periods For example early visual experience is necessary for proper development of the visual cortexLearning CapacitiesNewborn infants enter the world with amazing learning capacities They learn powerfully through imitation at an early age but are also able to learn through classical conditioning and operant conditioning To assist in learning the human brain is attracted to novelty at birth which ensures that infants will be interested in things that are new for them which helps them to increase their knowledge base These learning capacities can be demonstrated throughhabituation or the decrease in the strength of a response as a stimulus is repeatedMotor DevelopmentInfants and toddlers also make great advances in both grossmotor development large muscle movements and finemotor development small musclemovements Motor development involves many successive approximations and practice Dynamic systems theory views the development of motor capacities as occurring through systems in which motor skills work togetherLanguage DevelopmentLanguage development begins even before an infant is born with the ability to hear Language is arguably the most important use of the sense of hearing for a human infant Newborns prefer listening to speech sounds over nonspeech sounds and are able to distinguish the sounds of all human languages The ability to distinguish sounds becomes more specific to the language that the infant is learning Infants also possess amazing abilities to extract information from a speech stream Forexample they can learn word boundaries based solely on statistical informationVisionVisual perception changes significantly during the first year of life At birth infants have poor visual acuitytheir vision is quite blurry This improves substantially in the first six months of life While visual acuity is limited at birth infants are quite sensitive to contrast patterns and faces and they are able to gain significant knowledge about objects Depth perception is a visual skill that becomes quite important once an infant starts moving Although infants may be able to perceive depth through various cues they may not respond accurately to depth in the environment eg a cliff until they have some experience with crawlingIntermodal PerceptionMany researchers believe that it is important to investigate how the senses work together intermodal perception since the senses are rarely used in isolation For example when you hear someone talk you also see their mouth moving or as you feel your arm reach for an object you also see it move This array of information in the environment can be overwhelming to an infant Differentiation theory addresses this issue by suggesting that infants look for invariant features characteristics that stay the same in an environmentBody GrowthChanges in Body Size and MuscleFat MakeupThe human body changes more during the first 2 years of life than during any other time thereafterRather than making steady gains infants and toddlers grow in little spurtsAn early rise in baby fat peaks around 9 months to help the infant maintain a constant body temperature then declines thereafterMuscle tissue increases slowly and does not peak until adolescenceIn infancy girls are slightly shorter and lighter than boysEthnic differences in body size are apparent as well Asian children tend to be smaller AfricanAmerican children tend to be largerChanges in Body ProportionsAs the childs overall size increases parts of the body grow at different ratesTwo growth patterns describe these changesCephalocaudal trendduring the prenatal period the head develops more rapidly than the lower part of the body1Proximodistal trendgrowth proceeds literally from near to farfrom the center of the body outward2Skeletal GrowthChildren of the same age differ in rate of physical growthGeneral Skeletal GrowthThe best estimate of a childs physical maturity is skeletal age a measure of development of the bones of the bodyThe embryonic skeleton is form of cartilagebut begins to harden into bone a process which continues throughout childhood and adolescenceJust before birth special growth centers called epiphyses appear at the two extreme ends of each of the long bones of the body Textbook Notes Page 1
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