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Infant Capacities and the Process of Change. Chapter 4 The Development of Children (5 th ed.) Cole, Cole & Lightfoot. What does this mean?.

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infant capacities and the process of change

Infant Capacities and the Process of Change

Chapter 4

The Development of Children (5th ed.)

Cole, Cole & Lightfoot

what does this mean
What does this mean?

“Babies control and bring up their families as much as they are controlled by them; in fact, we may say that the family brings up a baby by being brought up by him.”

Erik Erikson in Childhood and Society

why is this the case
Why is this the case?

Compared with many animals that are able to negotiate their environments at birth almost as well as their parents, human beings are born in a state of marked immaturity…. For many years, human offspring must depend on their parents and other adults for their survival.”

Cole, Cole & Lightfoot, p. 114

overview of the journey
Overview of the Journey
  • Tuesday:
    • Brain development
    • Earliest capacities
    • Coordination with the social world
  • Thursday:
    • Mechanisms of development
    • First postnatal BSB shift

Infant Brain Development

At birth, the brain has all the cells it will have, yet it is ¼ the size of an adult brain. Why?

Because Experience Matters!

rats raised in enriched environments have
Rats Raised in Enriched Environments have…
  • Increased rates of learning in standard laboratory tasks, such as learning a maze
  • Increased overall weight of the cerebral cortex(the part of the brain that integrates sensory information)
  • Increased amounts of acetylcholinesterase, a brain enzyme that enhances learning
  • Larger neuronal cell bodies and glial cells (which provide insulation, support and nutrients to neuronal cells)
  • More synaptic connections

Rosenzweig, 1984

active interaction with the environment
Active Interaction with the Environment
  • Rats were raised in an enriched environment but were housed alone in small cages so they could only observe what was going on around them
    • The learning capacity of these rats differed in no way from that of the animals that were housed in individual cages away from the enriched environment
    • What might this imply for child-rearing? For teaching?
six mammalian species
Six Mammalian Species

Why the difference?

earliest infant capacities

Earliest Infant Capacities

Sensory Processes

Response Processes

sensory processes
Sensory Processes
  • Normal full-term newborns enter the world with all sensory systems functioning, but not all of these systems have fully developed
  • Indications of sensation
    • Turning the head, changes in brain waves, changes in rate of sucking on a nipple
    • Habituation: Baby becomes bored so s/he stops attending
    • Dishabituation: Interest is renewed after the infant perceives a change in the stimulus
  • Infants only minutes old will startle or cry when they hear a loud noise
  • Infants will turn their heads toward the source of a sound
  • Baby Scotty at 5 minutes old
  • Infants can distinguish the sound of the human voice from other kinds of sounds, and seem to prefer it
    • Babies are very interested in high pitch speech with slower, exaggerated pronunciation (i.e., “baby talk”)
    • Evidence that by 2 days old, some babies would rather hear the language that has been spoken around them than a foreign language
infants visual capacity
Infants’ Visual Capacity

Based on studies of infant eye movement when a striped visual field passes in front of the eyes, it is evident that visual capacity increases dramatically over the first few months of life.

fantz looking chamber 1960s
Fantz Looking Chamber (1960s)
  • Demonstrated that babies less than 2 days old can distinguish among visual forms
  • They tend, however, to focus on areas of high contrast, such as lines and angles
development of visual scanning
Development of Visual Scanning

Due to brainmaturation

perception of faces
Perception of Faces
  • Infants show a preference for patterned stimuli over plain stimuli
  • Babies as young as 9 minutes old will look longer at a schematic moving face than a scrambled one
expressions of various tastes
Expressions of Various Tastes

Neutral stimulus (water)

Sweet stimulus

Sour stimulus

Bitter stimulus

three kinds of response processes
Three Kinds of Response Processes
  • Reflexes
    • Automatic (involuntary) responses to specific types of stimulation…
  • Emotions
    • Two basic emotions, contentment (+) & distress (-), split into primary emotions (e.g., joy, anger, fear) at 3-6 months…
  • Temperament
    • Individual modes of responding to the environment that appear to be consistent across situations and stable over time…
Reflexes: involuntary movements that are present at birth, then some fade into voluntary movements over time
  • Grasping Reflex: When a finger or some other object is pressed against the baby’s palm, the baby’s fingers close around it
  • Stepping Reflex: When the baby is held upright over a flat surface, he makes rhythmic leg movements
  • Moro Reflex: Baby startles when s/he hears a loud sound
  • Babinski reflex: Toes fan outward when foot is stroked from heel to toe
infant expression of emotions
Infant Expression of Emotions









infant expression of emotions1
Infant Expression of Emotions

















    • Easy babies (flexible): Playful, regular, adaptable
    • Difficult babies (feisty): Irritable, irregular, often respond intensely or negatively to new situations
    • Slow-to-warm-up babies (fearful): Low activity level, mild responses, tend to withdraw from new situations, require time to adapt to change
  • Temperament is stable over first 8 years of life, due to both genetic (nature) and environmental (nurture) elements
pattern of sleep wake cycles
Pattern of Sleep/Wake Cycles

Newborns sleep ~16½ hours /day, but the longest period of sleep is only 3-4 hours.

  • When fed “on demand” most newborns preferred a 3-hour schedule
  • Interval gradually increased to 4-hour schedule by 2 ½ months
  • By 7 or 8 months, babies needed to nurse or eat 4 times a day
  • Allison and nursing
  • Increases from birth to about 6 weeks and then starts to decrease
  • At a few months of age, infants begin to cry to communicate as the cerebral cortex becomes developed
  • Crying is helped by nursing, holding baby to shoulder, rocking, patting, cuddling, swaddling
thursday mechanisms theories of developmental change

Thursday:Mechanisms (Theories) of Developmental Change

Biological-Maturation Perspective

Environmental-Learning Perspective

Constructivist Perspective

Cultural-Context Perspective

biological maturation examples
Biological-Maturation Examples
  • Physical Development
    • Roll over, push up on all fours, crawl, walk, run
  • Language Development
    • Single-sounds, single-words, multiple words, sentences
  • Play Development
    • Solo play, parallel play, associative play, cooperative play
  • Emotional Development
    • Trust the parent, interact with others, contribute to the group

Development occurs over time, in a set sequence of events,

and is directly related to brain growth and maturation

environmental learning perspective

Environmental Learning Perspective

BF Skinner, J Watson

Children grow on a schedule, and developmental shifts happen when the child’s brain is ready

environmental learning
Environmental Learning

The child learns as a result of interacting with the environment. Behaviors that are reinforced will increase

and behaviors that are punished will decrease.

Sight of a light (CS) elicits no particular response

Loud sound of gong (UCS) causes baby to blink (UCR)

Sight of light (CS) is paired with sound of gong (UCS), which evokes an eyeblink (UCR)

Sight of light (CD) is sufficient to cause the baby to blink (CR), evidence that learning has occurred

Classical and Operant Conditioning


Research on Head Turning Behavior:

  • After only 25 occasions in which head turning was reinforced with a pacifier, most of the babies had tripled the rate at which they turned their heads.
  • Conversely, those infants who were rewarded with a pacifier for holding their heads still, learned to move their heads less during the course of the experiment.
constructivist perspective

Constructivist Perspective

Jean Piaget

Children grow predictably, and developmental shifts happen when the child is interested and adds new information to what s/he already knows

schemas a mental representation
Schemas: a mental representation

Assimilation(new information

added into anexisting schema)

Accommodation(Modification of aprior schema to include

the new information)


Adding new knowledge and skills leads to development

cultural context perspective

Cultural-Context Perspective


Children’s growth is impacted by their culture and environment, and developmental shifts happen when the child is engaged in social and cultural experiences

reciprocal relationships
Reciprocal Relationships

Presence of milk stimulates infant sucking, which in turn triggers the release of hormones that increase milk production and release

developmental change incorporates cultural variations
Developmental Change Incorporates Cultural Variations
  • Developmental change depends on
    • The Active contributions of other people in the child’s community
    • Cultural messages are accumulated over time in the larger social group and provide messages about behavior

Case in PointBottle-feeding vs. Breast-feeding

first postnatal bio social behavioral shift

First PostnatalBio-Social-Behavioral Shift

Occurs at 2½ MonthsSocial Smiling!