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Human Development. Biological Beginnings. The Evolutionary Perspective. Charles Darwin: The Origin of Species Natural selection : genes which have survival value will be more abundant in the next generation Survival of the fittest ; individuals who survive are better adapted

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Human development

Human Development

Biological Beginnings

The evolutionary perspective
The Evolutionary Perspective

  • Charles Darwin: The Origin of Species

  • Natural selection: genes which have survival value will be more abundant in the next generation

  • Survival of the fittest; individuals who survive are better adapted

    • Those who survive reproduce and pass on their characteristics to the next generation

The evolutionary perspective1
The Evolutionary Perspective

  • Evolutionary psychology: emphasizes adaptation, reproduction, and survival of the fittest in shaping behavior

    • Using evolutionary principles to explain human behavior

Evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary Psychology

  • Argument: evolution shapes decision making, aggression, fears, mating/sexual behavior

    • “gene centered” perspective

    • “epigentic” perspective

  • Critique: deterministic; downplays the role of culture and the environment


  • We start as a single cell, consisting of our entire genetic code

  • Chromosomes: located in the nucleus; threadlike structures that carry our genes

    • We have 46 chromosomes or 23 pairs

    • 23 from mother, 23 from father

      • The 23rd pair determines our sex

Genes and dna
Genes and DNA

  • Genes: unit of hereditary information, composed of DNA; each gene has its own function and location

  • DNA: contains genetic information and instructions

Human development

Cells, Chromosomes, Genes, and DNA

Nucleus (center of cell) contains chromosomes and genes

Chromosomes are threadlike structures composed of DNA molecules

Gene: a segment of DNA (spiraled double chain) containing the hereditary code

Fig. 2.3

Polygenetic inheritance
Polygenetic Inheritance

  • Polygenetic Inheritance: when many genes interact to influence a characteristic

    • Few behavioral traits are due to just one gene


  • Human Genome Project:

    • Humans have 20,000-25,000 genes

    • All humans: genes are 99% the same

    • Humans and apes share 96-98% of their genes

Nature vs nurture
Nature vs. Nurture

  • Nature: the role of genes

  • Nurture: the role of the environment and external conditions

    **Interactionist Perspective/Epigenetic View: Both nature and nurture are important to development

Human development

Childhood Aggression:The Role of Nurture(Garbarino, 2005)



  • Poverty

  • Abuse

  • Parental abandonment

  • Large family size

  • Parental addiction

  • Experiencing racism

  • Low educational attainment

  • Spiritual emptiness

  • Positive adult role models

  • Intellectual achievement

  • Reading for pleasure

  • Playing an instrument

  • Positive communication with parents

  • Spirituality

  • Believing we control our fate

Childhood aggression the role of nature
Childhood Aggression: The Role of Nature

  • Nature:

    • Genetic Predisposition:

      • Abnormal MAOA gene

How nature and nurture work together
How Nature and Nurture Work Together

  • Will a genetic predisposition for a certain behavioral trait lead to the expression of that trait?

    • Answer: it depends.

How nature and nurture work together1
How Nature and Nurture Work Together

  • Environmental influences (nurture) determine whether or not the gene is turned “on”

  • ***Genes are NOT destiny

Epigenetic interactionist perspective
Epigenetic/Interactionist Perspective

  • Development is the result of an ongoing, bidirectional interchange between heredity and environment

Behavioral genetics
Behavioral Genetics

  • A field that looks at the influence of heredity and environment

    • Twin studies: comparing identical and fraternal twins

    • Adoption studies: are children more similar to the biological or adoptive parent?

Behavioral genetics limitations of twin studies
Behavioral Genetics:Limitations of Twin Studies

  • Shared: the environments siblings have in common (i.e. the household)

  • Non-Shared: influences outside the house; peer groups, differential parental treatment, events experienced at school, etc.

    • The role of environments

Behavioral genetics limitations of adoption studies
Behavioral Genetics:Limitations of Adoption Studies

  • Similarities between adoptive and biological parents

    • Children may be placed in similar families

Niche picking

  • Niche-picking: when children seeks out the environments they find appealing; driven by their genes

    • Example: a child may inherit a trait like extraversion; he/she will seek out highly social environments.

Genetic disorders
Genetic Disorders

  • Down syndrome:

    • Extra copy of chromosome 21

    • Very young mother or mothers over age 38 at greater risk

Human development


Males have an extra X chromosome

Fragile X syndrome

Abnormality in the X chromosome

Turner syndrome

Females missing an X chromosome

XYY syndrome

Males have an extra Y chromosome

Sex-Linked Chromosome Abnormalities

The course of prenatal development
The Course of Prenatal Development

  • Germinal period: 2 weeks after conception; zygote is created, attaches to the uterine wall

  • Embryonic period: 2 to 8 weeks after conception

    • Cell layers start to form organs

    • Umbilical cord connects to placenta

  • Fetal period

    • From 2 months after conception to birth

    • Trimesters of pregnancy

Prenatal diagnostic testing
Prenatal Diagnostic Testing

  • Amniocentesis: samples amniotic fluid; to check for chromosomal or metabolic disorders

  • Genetic Counseling: to understand a child’s risk for inheriting a genetic disorders


  • Teratogen: agents that cause birth defects

  • Severity of damage affected by:

    • Dose

    • Genetic susceptibility

    • Time of exposure


  • Heavy drinking: fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) Facial deformities, low birth weight, respiratory problems

  • Nicotine: preterm births, low birth weight, respiratory problems, increased risk of SIDS

  • Cocaine: reduced birth weight, length, and head circumference

  • Heroin: behavioral problems, tremors, disturbed sleep, excessive crying, irritability

  • Methamphetamine: low birth weight, developmental and behavior problems


Environmental hazards:




Carbon minoxide



Infectious diseases




Other parental factors
Other Parental Factors

  • Nutrition

    • Children born to malnourished mothers are more likely to be malnourished/low birth weight

  • Maternal Age

    • Children born to adolescent mothers: often premature, mortality rate is twice that of mothers in their twenties

    • Mothers over 35: higher risk of infants with low birth weight or Down Syndrome

Other parental factors1
Other Parental Factors

  • Emotional States/Stress: Physiological changes affecting a mother during times of stress are transmitted to the fetus

    • Mothers under stress are 4x’s more likely to deliver early

    • Stress puts mothers at risk for unhealthy behaviors

    • Irregular contractions/difficult labor

Low birth weight
Low birth weight

Low brain weight and risk of brain injury

Lung and liver disease

ADHD and learning problems/disabilities

Breathing problems and asthma

Lower achievement levels

Some effects can be reversed

Apgar scale
Apgar Scale

  • A scale used to assess the health of a newborn 1-5 minutes after birth

    • Measures heart rate, respiratory effort, muscle tone, body color, reflexes (2pts per category)

    • Total score: 7-10 indicates good condition; 5 indicates possible developmental difficulties; 3 or below signals an emergency

Human development

The Apgar Scale

Fig. 2.14


  • Needs to occur shortly after birth

  • Early emotional attachments may create healthy interactions after leaving hospital

  • Massages and tactile stimulation for premature infants affect development

    • Research indicates that massage is particularly helpful for low birth weight infants