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
Research on managing anger
1. Expressing sympathy
2. Helping angry children find positive alternatives to expressing anger
Choosing Social Policies
Example: believing young children’s testimony
Understanding Human Nature
Historical Foundations of the Study of Child Development
- People wrote about children from ancient Greece to the early years of the 20 century.
Early Philosophers’ Views on Child Development
*** how children’s development is influenced by their nature and by the nurture they receive
Plato: taking care of boys were a challenge, he emphasized self-control and discipline as the most
important goals of education
Aristotle: agreed with Plato but was more concerned with fitting child-rearing to the needs of the
1. Plato believed children are born with innate knowledge and born with the concept of
2. Aristotle believed all knowledge comes from experience, the mind of an infant is like a
3. Locke believed discipline before freedom
4. Rousseau believed parents and society should give children maximum freedom from the
beginning, children learn from interactions with other people.
Social Reform Movements
- Improving children’s lives by changing the conditions in which they lived Example: children working harsh conditions during the Industrial Revolution
The Earl of Staftesbury’s: a law forbidding employment of girls and boys under the age of 10.
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution
- Published “a biological sketch of an infant”, a day-to-day development
- Darwin’s evolutionary theory also continues to influence the thinking of modern developments
1. Infant’s attachments to their mothers
2. Innate fear of natural dangers such as spiders or snakes
3. Sex differences
4. Aggression and altruism
5. Mechanisms underlying learning
The Emergence of Child Development as a Discipline
1. Alfred Binet: tested children’s intelligence
2. G. Stanley Hall and Arnold Gesell: questionnaires to people in order to detail numerous aspects
3. Sigmund Freud: analysis on dreams and childhood memories and psychoanalytic theory
(biological drives, especially sexual ones are a crucial influence on development)
4. Watson: behaviorist theory- children’s development is determined by environmental factors and
Enduring Themes in Child Development
1. Nature and Nurture: How Do Nature and Nurture Together Shaper Development?
- Nature: our biological endowment; the genes we receive from our parents
- Nurture: the environments, both physical and social, that influence our development
- Every characteristic that we possess- our intellect, our personality, our physical appearance, our
emotions—is created through the joint workings of nature and nurture (a constant interaction
of our genes and environment)
- Neither nature nor nurture is more important than the other, the two are equally important.
2. The Active Child: How Do Children Shape Their Own Development?
- Children shape their own development through their selection of what to pay attention to.
- Once children begin to speak, usually between 9 and 15 months of age, their contribution to
their own development becomes more evident. For example, toddlers often talk when they are
alone in the room.
- Play and fantasy play contributes to children’s development
- As children get older their contribution to their own development increases (children can make
their own choices) 3. Continuity/Discontinuity: In What Ways is Development Continuous, and in What Ways is it
- Continuous development: the idea that changes with age gradually, in small increments, like
that of a pine tree growing taller and taller.
- Discontinuous development: the idea that changes with age include occasional large shifts, like
the transition from caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly.
What is about 4- and 5-year-olds that leads them to form such improbable beliefs, and what
changes occur that makes such notions laughable to 6- and 7-year-olds?
- Stage theories: approaches that propose that development involves a series of discontinuous,
- Cognitive development: the development of thinking and reasoning.
- Researchers have concluded that, in most aspects of development, changes are gradual rather
than sudden and that development occurs skill by skill, task by task.
- Continuous or Discontinuous? “It depends on how you look at it and how often you look”
4. Mechanisms of Development Change: How Does Change Occur?
- Effortful attention is an aspect of temperament involving voluntary control of one’s emotions
and thoughts. (inhibiting impulses, controlling emotions, and focusing attention)
- Neurotransmitters: chemicals involved in communications among brain cells.
- Mechanisms that produce developmental change require specifying how genes, brain structures
and processes, and experiences interact to generate both general development trends and
differences among children of particular ages.
5. The Sociocultural Context: How Does the Sociocultural Context Influence Development?
- Sociocultural context: the physical, social, cultural, economic, and historical circumstances that
make up any child’s environment.
The important parts of children’s sociocultural contexts are the people they interact with
Parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, day-care workers, teachers, friends, classmates,
And the physical environment in which they live
Home, day-care center, school, neighborhood, etc.
And institutions that influence children’s lives