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Top Eight Child Development Topics in 2009. Ann Epstein, Ph.D. 8 Important Topics in 2009. Brain Research: infants, 2 nd language, enhancers Gender: classroom biases TV Viewing and Video Game Playing: detrimental & positive effects Temperament: inborn, goodness of fit.

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8 important topics in 2009
8 Important Topics in 2009

  • Brain Research: infants, 2nd language, enhancers

  • Gender: classroom biases

  • TV Viewing and Video Game Playing: detrimental & positive effects

  • Temperament: inborn, goodness of fit

8 important topics in 2009 cont
8Important Topics in 2009 (cont)

5. Achievement and Culture: expectations

6. Bullying: victim, aggressor, by-stander, cyber bullies

7. Families: parenting styles, super-Dads

8. Socio-Economic Status: Effects of Poverty & Affluence


Primary References

  • Frieberg, K. (2010) Annual Editions: Human Development 09/10, 38th Edition. Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.

  • Junn, E. N. & Boyatzid, C. J. (2009). Annual Editions: Child Growth and Development 09/10, 16th Edition. New York: McGraw Hill.

  • Klass, P. & Costello, E. (2003). Quirky Kids. New York: Ballantine Books.

  • Santrock, J.W. (2007; 2009).Children. 9th , 10th Editions. New York: McGraw Hill.

    (Specific citations available upon request.)

Brain research and young children
Brain Research and Young Children

“Blooming and Pruning” of Synaptic Connections

  • Nearly twice as many synaptic connections are produced during first year as will ever be used

  • Synaptic density peaks in visual cortex (vision) at approximately 8 months

  • ….. in auditory cortex (hearing) and prefrontal cortex (reasoning and self regulation) between 3 and 6 years

  • Blooming and pruning continues throughout life


Nerve cells transmit information from one part of the body to another. Each nerve cell has branching dendrites to connect to other dendrites, and a long axon to transmit or collect impulses.

Brain research and young children1
Brain Research and Young Children

Implications for “blooming and pruning”

Brain is ready to learn!

  • Provide rich sensory experiences

  • Provide appropriate conceptual learning experiences: inquiry based learning

  • Recognize plasticity (changing nature) of young child’s brain

Brain research and young children2
Brain Research and Young Children

Implications of Plasticity

  • Repeated experiences “wire” the brain; appropriate learning activities actually build strong brains

  • Resiliency (recovery from early traumatic events) has biological foundation

Practices that support neural development
Practices That Support Neural Development

  • Use fixed equipment (e.g. high chairs, approved walkers and jumpers) sparingly: little opportunity for varied experiences

  • Provide variety of auditory, tactile and visual experiences

  • Sensitive teacher/parent/care-giver responses facilitate brain growth

Stress hormones and developmentally appropriate practice
Stress Hormones and Developmentally Appropriate Practice

Too much cortisol (released during stress) over extended periods can lead to memory and self-regulation problems.

  • Ease transitions, particularly separation

  • Support family changes (sibling birth, moves)

  • Maintain calm environment

  • Nurture friendships

Right brain growth spurt
Right Brain Growth Spurt

  • Right side of cerebral cortex: processes negative emotions, intense emotions, creativity

  • Left side: processes positive emotions, language development, interest in new objects & experiences

  • Right side: greater growth during first 18 months, dominates functioning for first three years.

Learning to regulate emotions
Learning to Regulate Emotions

  • Adults: minimize stress, provide comfort

  • Toddlers: assess fearful situations, use expressive language to make needs known, apply strategies to manage stress

  • Respond quickly, appropriately to child’s stress with soft voice, reassuring expression.

Autonomic nervous system
Autonomic Nervous System

  • Watch for stress cues: fluctuations in skin color, breathing patterns, sweating, hiccupping, yawning, need for the bathroom

    “Observation of neurobehavioral functioning can alert caregivers (teachers) to signs of disorganization before the child experiences failure.” (p. 183)

Brain research and mylenation
Brain Research and Mylenation

  • Mylenation: fatty covering of neurons that increases speed of information traveling through nervous system

  • Finding: children who watch excessive amounts of TV have less mylenation, thus not able to process information as quickly as children who have sensory-rich experiences

Brain development and 2 nd language learning
Brain Development and 2nd Language Learning

Bilingual children perform better than monolingual children on cognitive tasks including

  • selective attention

  • concept formation

  • analytic reasoning

    Current statistics: 6% of US children study a second language in grades 1 – 6 (no figures for preK/K)

Brain research and adolescence
Brain Research and Adolescence

  • Adolescent brains have more activity in amygdale

  • This is primary area for processing emotions

  • Implication: academic learning occurs in on-going context of emotional processing

Adolescent brains
Adolescent Brains

  • Changing until at least age 25

  • Second major pruning occurs around age 11 (girls), 12 (boys)

  • Last area to develop is prefrontal cortex: planning, setting priorities, organizing thoughts, suppressing impulses, weighing consequences of actions

  • Hormones affect mood and excitability

Brain based gender differences
Brain Based Gender Differences

  • Portions of the corpus callosum (band of tissue through which the brain’s two hemispheres communicate) larger in females

  • One part of hypothalamus responsible for sexual behavior larger in males

  • Area of parietal lobe involved in spatial tasks larger in males

  • Areas involved in emotional expression show more metabolic activity in females


Current Classroom Biases Against Boys

  • Compliance, following rules, being neat and orderly are valued (boys “wired” differently)

    2. Most teachers are female (lack of role models)

    3. Boys more likely to be identified with learning disabilities (don’t fit today’s educational process)

Gender current classroom biases against boys continued
Gender: Current Classroom Biases Against Boys (continued)

  • Boys more likely to be criticized

  • Boys’ academic struggles (especially in literacy) more likely to be overlooked

  • School personnel stereotype boys’ rough and tumble behavior as problematic

    • Competitive

    • Risk taking

    • Pursuing danger


Current Classroom Biases Against Girls

  • Tendency toward compliance, diminished assertiveness

    • Seek harmony, avoid discord

    • Strive to maintain order, safety

  • Teachers give more attention to boys

  • By middle school, girls have lower self-esteem

  • Girls see fewer career options

Same sex classrooms
Same Sex Classrooms

Preliminary research (Australia) and anecdotal findings (South Carolina) show:

  • Girls develop more confidence

  • Boys are able to resolve conflicts faster

  • Teachers report more enjoyment

  • No change in academic gains

Tv taking our kids down the tube
TV: “Taking our Kids Down the Tube”

  • Average young child watches 4 hours/day

  • Thousands of commercials for high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt foods

  • Violence, alcohol use, inappropriate sexual activity

  • 60% of children 8 to 16 have TVs in bedrooms

Effects of excessive tv viewing
Effects of Excessive TV Viewing

  • 15 % of US children are seriously overweight (5% in 1964)

  • Children who watch 10 or more hours per week have lower reading scores

  • The more TV between ages 1 and 3, greater the risk for attention problems at age 7

  • Exposure to TV violence definitely linked to aggressive behavior

  • Advertising affects children’s goals, aspirations

    • Corporate sponsorship of very young athletes

The internet it s fun but does it make you smarter
The Internet: It’s Fun, but Does It Make You Smarter?

  • Home internet use improves standardized reading scores (MSU study)

    • 140 13 year-olds, mostly African American, 75% living in single family homes with average income of $15,000 or less

    • Digital divide issue

  • Encourages self-directed learning

  • Compared to other nations, US educators do not focus on using Internet for educational purposes

Role models and the media
Role Models and the Media

  • In TV and film, male figures appear more frequently

  • Male characters continue stereo-typed roles: more leaders, bossier, more intelligent than females

  • Role models

    • Parents (34%)

    • Entertainers (20%)

    • Friends (14%)

    • Athletes (11%)

    • Acquaintances (8%)

    • Authors (1%),

    • Historical figures (1%)

The demise of creative play
The Demise of Creative Play

  • Increased TV viewing, video playing results in less creative play

  • Children who play imaginatively

    • Have more sophisticated vocabularies

    • Laugh and smile more often

    • Show less aggression

    • Solve problems more easily

Guilt free tv
Guilt Free TV

  • Ages 2 – 5: Dora the Explorer, Clifford the Big Red Dog (slow moving, repetitive)

  • Ages 5 – 8: Sagwa, the Chinese Cat (good vs bad)

  • Ages 9 – 11: Doug, Lizzie McGuire, The Wild Thornberrys(inner lives, complex motives)

  • Young Adolescents and Tweens: Gilmore Girls, Nick News (rationale not provided)

  • weekly “pics”; cartoon ratings


Traits are primarily genetic with some environmental influence

Three Types

  • Easy or Flexible: 40%

  • Slow to warm up or Fearful: 15%

  • Difficult or Feisty: 10%

    35% of children exhibit combination of traits

Temperament traits
Temperament Traits

  • Activity level

  • Regularity

  • Persistence

  • Distractibility

  • Mood

  • Approach/withdrawal

  • Adaptability

  • Intensity

  • Sensitivity

Understanding temperament
Understanding Temperament

  • Respect individual differences

  • Not an excuse for inappropriate behavior

  • Work with child instead of trying to change child

  • Anticipate and understand reactions

Goodness of fit
Goodness of Fit

Match between child’s temperament and environmental demands

  • Difficult children need calm response, redirection, options for high energy

  • Fearful children need gradual introductions to new experiences

Gender culture and temperament
Gender, Culture and Temperament

Cultures value temperament traits differently

Example: Chinese value quiet babies, Canadians value active babies; Canadian mothers of inhibited 2 year-olds were less accepting of their infants’ temperament while Chinese mothers were more accepting

Achievement and culture
Achievement and Culture

American/Japanese Example

  • Hours teaching math

    • Japan: 25% of time in first grade

    • US: 10% of time in first grade

  • Hours in school

    • Japan: 240 days

    • US: 178 days

  • Beliefs

    • US parents: Math achievement is due to ability

    • Japanese parents: Math achievement is due to effort

High income families achievement
High Income Families & Achievement

Comparison of inner city (middle to low income) and suburban (high income) 10th graders

  • More substance abuse, anxiety, depression in high income group

  • Causes: isolation from parents, pressure to achieve


  • Who?: nearly 1 in 3 6th through 10th graders (either victim or perpetrator)

  • Begins in Kindergarten

  • Boys and younger middle school students (both genders) most likely


  • “Tough Boys”: physical – hit, slapped, pushed

  • “Mean Girls”: verbal – rumors, sexual comments, gestures

  • Belittled about speech, looks, race, religion, dress (begins in elementary school), but mostly personality characteristics (also physical strength in boys)


  • Victims: miss school, develop physical problems and/or depression

  • Bystanders: need training, encouragement and reinforcement

  • Perpetrators: poor grades, other behavior problems, smoke, drink alcohol, substance abuse, early sexual activity

  • Parents and teachers hesitate to become involved, children do not report incidences


Possible Solutions

  • Family involvement

  • Train ALL staff (cafeteria, bus, volunteers)

  • School-wide climate of acceptance

  • Consistent responses & consequences

  • Assist children in developing social skills

  • Address as top priority

    • Learning decreases as bullying increases

    • Continuing consequences for victim, aggressor, and bystander

Resolving emotional issues the role of make believe
Resolving Emotional Issues: The Role of Make Believe

  • 65% of children up to age 7 played with at least one imaginary friend at some point

  • Well-behaved OR bossy, mean, always busy

  • Provide opportunity to work out disappointments and upsets

Children with imaginary friends
Children with Imaginary Friends

  • Have better verbal skills

  • Are better at understanding other view points

  • Have above average IQs

  • Are more creative

  • Smile and laugh more on the playground than other children

  • Advice to parents: help child adjust scenario to fit real constraints

Families gay and lesbian
Families: Gay and Lesbian

  • 20% of lesbians, 10% of gays are parents

  • Most have children before acknowledging sexual orientation

  • Children are just as popular with peers

  • No differences in adjustment and mental health of children living in gay or lesbian families

  • Overwhelming majority: heterosexual orientation

Families maternal employment
Families: Maternal Employment

No detrimental effects EXCEPT

  • Infants whose mothers worked during the first year of life experienced negative effects

  • Poorer cognitive abilities at age 3

  • Less negative effects if Mom works < 30 hours/week

  • Proportion of working married mothers with children under age 3 dropped from 61% in 1997 to 58% in 2002

Families stress and the superdad
Families: Stress and the Superdad

  • 2004 poll: 75% of men are concerned with keeping up with job skills

  • 72% would sacrifice work advancement to spend more time at home

  • 60% of men with children work 41 to 59 hrs/wk (49% of men without children)

  • Stress: want to be with children, help at home, but feel pressure to advance at work

Families parenting style
Families: Parenting Style

  • Spanking has negative short and long term effects

    • Decreased internalization of morals

    • Diminished quality of parent-child interactions

    • Poorer child and adult mental health

  • Mild spanking: little research, although often leads to more severe spanking

  • Maltreatment: most common abuser is overwhelmed single mother in poverty

Parenting style
Parenting Style

Most effective guidance occurs through authoritative (democratic) style

  • Provide flexibility within limits

  • Communicate often

  • Give clear, age-appropriate expectations

  • Offer limited choices (e.g. would you like to read 1 or 2 stories after your bath?)

Poverty s effects
Poverty’s Effects

Greatest risk for developmental weaknesses is from growing up in families with persistent socioeconomic disadvantages

  • Cognitive

  • Physical

  • Socio-emotional

Poverty s effects1
Poverty’s Effects

US Statistics

  • 16% of US children live below poverty line (1 of 6)

    • 9% of Canadian children

    • 2% of Swedish children

  • Poor children in America

    • 50% African-American

    • 40% Latino

Poverty s effects2
Poverty’s Effects

Characteristics of poor families

  • Vulnerable: little warning before being laid off, no resources to fall back on

  • Powerless: rules are handed down, rarely make decisions at work

  • Restricted alternatives: not able to make wise decisions due to poor education

Poverty s effects3
Poverty’s Effects

Family characteristics (continued)

  • Feminization of poverty: single parent Moms have low pay, little alimony

  • Distressed parents feel less effective in disciplining, are less affectionate

  • What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? (Langston Hughes, 20th century American Poet and Author)

Each day in america children s defense fund
Each Day in America (Children’s Defense Fund)

4 children are killed by abuse or neglect.5 children or teens commit suicide.181 children are arrested for violent crimes.380 children are arrested for drug abuse.1,154 babies are born to teen mothers.1,701 babies are born without health insurance.1,900 public school students are corporally punished.*2,252 babies are born to mothers who are not high school graduates.2,447 babies are born into poverty.2,482 children are confirmed as abused or neglected.3,879 babies are born to unmarried mothers.4,356 children are arrested.

Children our hope and future
Children: Our Hope and Future

“In every child who is born, under no matter what circumstances, and of no matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born again.”

James Agee, American writer, 20th century

If i had my child to raise over again
If I Had My Child to Raise Over Again

If I had my child to raise all over again, I’d finger paint more, and point the finger less.

I’d do less correcting, and more connecting.

I’d take my eyes off my watch,

and watch with my eyes.

I would care to know less,

and know to care more.

I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.

If i had my child to raise over again continued
(If I Had My Child to Raise Over Again, continued)

I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.

I would run through more fields,

and gaze at more stars.

I’d do more hugging and less tugging.

I would be firm less often, and affirm much more.

I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.

I’d teach less about the love of power,

And more about the power of love.

Diane Loomans