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Any discussion on how we care for infants and toddlers must begin with the interests and needs of the children themselves. Therefore, this issue opens with an overview of the dramatic development that takes place during the first three years of life, which turns the dependent human newborn into a sophisticated three-year-old who walks, talks, solves problems, and manages relationships with adults and other children. This article explains the new understanding of brain development that has captured public attention in recent years, and links it to developments in infant behavior that are equally impressive and influential: the growth of the body (size and coordination), the growth of the mind (language and problem-solving abilities), and the growth of the person (emotional and social mastery). It emphasizes how much early experiences and relationships matter. The article highlights themes that resonate across these aspects of development: A drive to development is inborn, propelling the human infant toward learning and mastery. The opportunities for growth that enrich the early years also bring with them vulnerability to harm. The experiences that greet children in their human and physical surroundings can either enhance or inhibit the unfolding of their inborn potential. People (especially parents and other caregivers) are the essence of the infant's environment, and their protection, nurturing, and stimulation shape early development. The author envisions a society that stands beside the families and caregivers who nurture young children, equipping them with knowledge and resources, and surrounding them with supportive workplaces, welfare policies, and child care systems.
Caring for Infants and Toddlers
21
www.futureofchildren.org
Ross A. T h o m p s o n
Development in the
First Years of Life
S U M M A RY
Any discussion on how we care for infants
and toddlers must begin with the interests
and needs of the children themselves. There-
fore, this issue opens with an overview of the
dramatic development that takes place during
the first three years of life, which turns the
dependent human newborn into a sophisti-
cated three-year-old who walks, talks, solves
problems, and manages relationships with
adults and other children.
This article explains the new understanding
of brain development that has captured pub-
lic attention in recent years, and links it to
developments in infant behavior that are
equally impressive and influential: the growth
of the body (size and coordination), the
growth of the mind (language and problem-
solving abilities), and the growth of the per-
son (emotional and social mastery). It
emphasizes how much early experiences and
relationships matter.
The article highlights themes that resonate
across these aspects of development:
A drive to development is inborn, pro-
pelling the human infant toward learning
and mastery.
The opportunities for growth that enrich
the early years also bring with them vulner-
ability to harm.
The experiences that greet children in their
human and physical surroundings can
either enhance or inhibit the unfolding of
their inborn potential.
People (especially parents and other care-
givers) are the essence of the infant’s envi-
ronment, and their protection, nurturing,
and stimulation shape early development.
The author envisions a society that stands
beside the families and caregivers who nur-
ture young children, equipping them with
knowledge and resources, and surrounding
them with supportive workplaces, welfare
policies, and child care systems.
Ross A. Thompson, Ph.D., is Carl A. Happold Distin-
guished Professor of Psychology at the University of
Nebraska.
Volume 11, Number 1
T
he mind and heart of the young child have cap-
tivated adults for centuries. Young childre n
have been re p r esented as many things: pure
innocents, balls of clay, self-centered egoists,
confused dependents, a cauldron of impulses and, more
re c e n t l y, inform a t i o n - p rocessing machines and beloved
suitors for affection. In their eff o rts to understand early
development, scientists and parents alike have asked: Do
early experiences leave an enduring impression on young
minds and personalities? Do the first re l a t i o n s h i p s — w i t h
p a r ents and other caregiversshape lifelong self-under-
standing and social relationships? Is the infant’s world a
“blooming, buzzing confusion for which adults must
p r ovide clarity and organization? Are there truly windows
of opportunity in the early years when critical enviro n-
mental catalysts are re q u i r ed for healthy development?
These questions endure because the behavior of young
c h i l d r en is hard to interpret. What do the apparently aim-
less gazing of a newborn, the squeals of a baby’s delight or
d i s t ress, or the casual play of a toddler reveal about the
workings of the mind?
The answers to these questions are important because they
define the nature of early development and the re s p o n s i -
bilities of adults. After all, the obligations of caregivers are
established by the needs of young children. Thus, it is
i m p o rtant to know if early relationships are formative or
peripheral because the answer has implications for how
much society values those who care for young children. It
makes a diff e r ence if young minds are malleable and how
they are shaped, because therein lies the importance to
c h i l d r en of what happens at home and in child care .
F o rt u n a t e l y, developmental psychologists have devoted
c o n c e rted re s e a r ch eff o rts to answering these questions
about development in the first years of life. Recently, their
e ff o rts have been aided by developmental neuro s c i e n t i s t s
whose initial conclusions about brain growth complement
the findings of behavioral scientists. Here is what they have
l e a rn e d .
1
The early years are important. Early re l a t i o n s h i p s
m a t t e r. Even in infancy, children are active participants in
their own development, together with the adults who care
for them. Experience can elucidate, or diminish, inborn
potential. The early years are a period of considerable
o p p o rtunity for growth, and vulnerability to harm .
This article explores these questions and answers by con-
sidering growth in the early years in four domains:
( 1 ) The growth of the b o d y (physical size, motor coord i -
nation, health);
( 2 ) The growth of the m i n d (thinking, language, con-
cepts, problem solving);
( 3 ) The growth of the p e r s o n ( r elationships, social under-
standing, emotions); and
( 4 ) The growth of the b r a i n (development of neuro n s ,
synapses, and the influence of experience on brain
g ro w t h ) .
These four interrelated domains of early development
highlight the central accomplishments of early childhood
and underscore the obligations of caregivers to pro v i d e
relationships that are warm and nurturant, experiences
that provoke the mind and brain, and protection fro m
physical danger and biological hazards. In the final section,
the accomplishments of infancy are re c o n s i d e red in light of
the importance of the environment to early development,
and the opportunities and vulnerabilities of the early years.
22
T h o m p s o n
Development in the First Years of Life
The Growth of the Body
Some of the most impressive developmental accom-
plishments of the early years are the most visible. The
young child grows faster during the first three years than
he or she ever will again.
2
Not only does the child gro w
physically larger but body pro p o rtions also change. The
top-heavy newborn evolves into a five-year-old with a
body more closely resembling that of an adult. These
changes in body pro p o rtions (together with the re m a r k-
able advances in brain development that integrate neu-
ral pathways governing behavior) help to account for
the striking changes in motor coordination, balance,
and dexterity that also characterize the early years. The
physically uncoordinated newborn learns to sit up by six
months of age, stand and walk shortly after the first
b i rt h d a y, and (impatiently, exuberantly, or anxiously)
jump in place by the second birt h d a y. The ru d i m e n t a ry
grasping reflex of infants evolves into more sophisticat-
ed, deliberate eye-hand coordination that enables them
to pick up small objects (such as a pea on a dinner plate)
by the end of the first year. By age two, toddlers are
using their hands to build towers, and by age three, to
draw circles on paper.
These physical advances are also fostered by growth in
s e n s o ry acuity. Because of changes in the eye, ear, and
other sensory organs, and developments in brain org a n-
ization, infants quickly learn to scan the visual field and
to discriminate sounds in much more sophisticated
ways. And there are other changes in the young child
that derive from the growth of the body. Parents wel-
come the greater regularity of sleep-wake cycles, the
diminishing of crying and unexplained fussiness, and the
enhanced predictability in mood that derive from rapid
g rowth in neurobehavioral org a n i z a t i o n .
T h e re is a tendency in this culture to attribute these
remarkable physical achievements to an inborn matura-
tional timetable. Often overlooked is the extent to
which these accomplishments rely on crucial catalysts
f rom experience and the environment. But it is a tru i s m
of development that the periods of most rapid advance
a re often periods of greater vulnerability because of the
many changes that occur in a short span of time. The
rapid growth of the body is metabolically demanding,
for example, which means that a nutritionally adequate
diet is one of the most crucial re q u i rements for healthy
early physical growth. Deficiencies in iron and vitamins
owing to chronic undernutrition in the early years can
result in cognitive delays, listlessness, and diminished
resistance to disease.
3
Young children are also vulnerable
to exposure to infectious diseases, drugs and other con-
t rolled substances, and environmental toxins (like lead-
based paint). In children whose developing physical
systems are still maturing, such exposure can result in
m o re profound harm than if it occurs at a later age.
M o re o v e r, accidents are a leading cause of injury and
death for the very young, owing to childre n ’s character-
istically poor judgment about potentially dangerous cir-
c u m s t a n c e s .
C o n s e q u e n t l y, healthy physical development in the early
years hinges critically on caregivers’ determination to
p rotect young children from the harms that might
o c c u r. This includes eff o rts to ensure a healthy, ade-
quate diet; timely immunizations; early vision and hear-
ing screening to detect and correct sensory deficits
b e f o re they endure; regular health care; and eff o rts to
monitor childre n ’s safety in a physical environment that
is friendly to the needs and interests of young childre n .
The Growth of the Mind
How does the mind grow? Does it depend on cru c i a l
inputs from the environment? Or is it driven by its own
innate inform a t i o n - p rocessing abilities? What parent has
not gazed at the casual play of a toddler and wondere d
if she or he is doing enough to stimulate intellectual
g rowth? Developmental scientists respond to this par-
e n t ’ s question in this way: the young mind is astonish-
ingly active and self-organizing, creating new
knowledge from everyday experiences. Sensitive pare n t-
ing—not educational toys or Mozart CDs—pro v i d e s
the essential catalysts for early intellectual gro w t h .
4
Thinking and Learning
F rom birth, a newborn ’s mind is active even though
behavior is disorganized. Consider all of the intellectual
equipment that enables newborns to begin engaging
the world with their minds.
5
F rom birth, newborn s
23
The Future of Children
Sensitive parenting—not educational toys or Mozart CDs—
p r ovides the essential catalysts for early intellectual gro w t h .
Volume 11, Number 1
crave novelty and become bored with familiarity. Their
eyes, ears, and other sensory organs are attuned to
events that are new and from which they can learn .
Their eyes are drawn to sharp contrasts and movement
that help them discern the boundaries between objects
and derive sophisticated inferences about object shape,
size, rigidity, and wholeness. Newborns are capable of
integrating knowledge gained from their diff e rent sens-
es. They look toward the source of an interesting sound,
or gaze at an object that matches the texture of the paci-
fier in their mouths.
These early capabilities provide the foundation for
astonishing growth in concepts, causation, memory, and
even problem solving in the early years. Consider con-
cept development. The mind of an infant naturally clus-
ters objects together that are similar in shape, texture ,
d e n s i t y, and other pro p e rties; and a toddler’s mind cat-
egorizes faces, animals, and birds according to their
p ro p e rties (like nose size or leg length). On this basis,
t h r ee- and four- y e a r-olds make remarkably logical infer-
ences about new members of a category — a p p re c i a t i n g
that a dolphin breathes like the mammal it is rather than
the fish it re s e m b l e s
6
—and enjoy displaying their new
knowledge, as any parent of a dinosaur-loving pre-
schooler knows. Consider, also, causation and pro b l e m
solving. Infants are fascinated with “making things hap-
penthrough their actions. For example, they rapidly
l e a r n how to pull on a tablecloth to reach the milk. By
p reschool, young children become adept at manipulat-
ing physical objects and people to obtain their goals.
M e m o ry development also proceeds at a rapid pace. A
b a b y ’s fragile memory for the past develops into a
young child’s flexible memory for routine events. And
with an adult’s help, preschoolers can remember unique
and personally meaningful experiences, such as a trip to
D i s n e y w o r l d
7
, long afterw a rd. Even numerical re a s o n -
ing begins to emerge as an early awareness of the diff e r-
ence between small quantities grows into a young
c h i l d ’ s dawning ability to use number concepts (such as
one-to-one correspondence) even before learning to
count. Each of these accomplishments reveal an active
mind that promotes its own growth by continuously
revising its understanding based on how the world
responds to its initiatives and observ a t i o n s .
Language
A young infant’s innate readiness to learn from experi-
ence is apparent in other ways as well. Newborns have a
natural capacity for discriminating speech sounds that
a r e used in all the world’s languages, even those they
have never heard and which their parents cannot dis-
criminate. Newborns are, in a sense, “citizens of the
world, innately pre p a red to learn any language. It is
only later in the first year that their speech perc e p t i o n
becomes specific to the sounds of the language they
o v e rhear at home. Newborns also prefer the appearance
of human faces to other sights, and the sound of human
voices to other sounds. Indeed, one experimental study
8
showed that newborns pre f e r, above all, the sound of
their mother’s voice reading a story that she had re p e a t-
edly recited late in her pre g n a n c y.
In early childhood, even more significant advances
occur in language development. A thre e - y e a r-old is
a l r eady putting words together into simple sentences,
mastering grammatical rules, and experiencing a
“ v o c a b u l a ry explosion” that will result, by age six, in a
lexicon of more than 10,000 words. New words are
a c q u i r ed at an amazing rate (five to six new words daily)
as children employ intuitive rules for understanding the
meanings of words on their first exposure to them.
9
Young children thus quickly grasp the meanings of the
w o r ds they overhear (even words they are not intended
to hear). Language enables children to put their devel-
oping ideas and concepts into words they can share with
others, and language revolutionizes thought by giving
c h i l d ren access to the concepts, ideas, and values of
other people. Although many important achievements
in language development remain for the years that fol-
l o w, early childhood establishes the basis for complex
human reasoning and communication.
24
T h o m p s o n
Language enables children to put their developing ideas and
concepts into words they can share with others, and language
revolutionizes thought by giving children access to the concepts, ideas,
and values of other people.
Development in the First Years of Life
Learning and Relationships
All of this learning occurs in a social context, of course.
Even newborns respond in special ways to social stimuli,
orienting to the people who provide their care and who
o ffer the most interesting and stimulating experiences
f rom which they can learn. Babies’ interest in social
sights, sounds, and speech focuses their active minds on
i n t e r p r eting and understanding human words, facial
e x p ressions, vocal intonations, and social behavior dur-
ing even the most casually playful encounters.
The achievements of the mind draw upon, and con-
tribute to, a young child’s emotional and social develop-
ment. A baby’s delighted laughter, while kicking her legs
to make the crib mobile shake, reveals the powerful emo-
tional incentives that drive her to understand experience
and master the world. Early word learning is built upon
a toddlers interest in the intentions of an adult speaker.
As young children begin to understand the hidden pro p-
e rties of animate and inanimate objects, they also discov-
er the hidden psychological dimensions of other people,
and begin to explore how beliefs, desires, and emotions
influence the human actions they observe. This is why
p romoting school readiness is not simply a matter of
encouraging literacy and number skills. It must also
incorporate concern for enhancing the social and emo-
tional qualities that underlie curiosity, self-confidence,
e a g e rness to learn, cooperation, and self-contro l .
Young children thus do not learn about the world by
themselves. A young minds innate capabilities and its
incessant activity each provide powerful avenues for
understanding when aided by everyday experience and
the behavior of other people. Safe, secure enviro n m e n t s
and playthings within easy reach permit a young child to
e x p l o re things that can be examined, combined, and
taken apart. Additional catalysts for intellectual gro w t h
arise from the natural, spontaneous behavior of sensitive
adults. Caregivers do many things to stimulate mental
g r owth. They create daily routines that enable young
c h i l d r en to anticipate, re p resent, and remember ro u t i n e
daily events, such as preparing breakfast together, going
to day care, or taking a bath before bed. Care g i v e r s
s t ru c t u re shared activities that are manageable for the
c h i l d ren and that promote new skills and pride in
achievement, such as working on a jigsaw puzzle or
sharing a story.
1 0
C a regivers promote language gro w t h ,
f r om their sing-song “parentese” (which is optimally
suited to enable babies to learn the sounds of the native
language) to the continuing verbal patter they share
with barely conversational young children (which
enables children to begin to understand the significance
of their everyday experiences). Parents and other care-
givers do many things intentionally to promote learn i n g
and cognitive growth, but the most important intellec-
tual catalysts they provide are uncoached and arise nat-
urally from their unhurried, untroubled, sensitive
encounters with the children they love.
25
The Future of Children
Volume 11, Number 1
The Growth of the Pe r s o n
Individuality flourishes during the early years. This is
because the temperamental qualities that make each
n e w b o rn unique become elaborated in the development
of close attachments, the unfolding of emotional life,
and the growth of self-regulation, self-awareness, and
social understanding. Studies of early personality devel-
opment show that the relationships a young child share s
with caregivers are crucial to these accomplishments.
For this reason, this is a period of great opportunity or
vulnerability for psychosocial health, depending on the
quality and stability of these re l a t i o n s h i p s .
1 1
Attachments: Secure and Insecure
The first attachments of a baby to its caregivers are as
biologically basic as learning to crawl and walk.
1 2
T h roughout human evolution, close attachments have
e n s u red species survival by keeping infants pro t e c t e d
and nurt u red. The development of emotional attach-
ments by age one is preceded by months of animated
social interaction during which infants and their care-
givers exchange playful smiles, gazes, touch, and laugh-
ter together. In the life of an infant, secure attachments
p rovide a sense of security that enables confident explo-
ration and offers reassurance in the face of stre s s .
A secure attachment reflects the warmth and trust of
early care g i v e r-child relationships. It provides a founda-
tion for positive relationships with peers and teachers,
healthy self-concept, and emotional and moral under-
standing. However, although virtually all infants
become attached to their caregivers—including fathers,
regular child care providers, close relatives, and others,
as well as mothersnot all infants develop the secure
attachments that arise from sensitive, responsive care .
The effects of insecure attachments can be observed in
the distrust or uncertainty that young children feel with
their caregivers, as well as negative self-image and diff i-
culties in coping adaptively with stre s s .
A secure attachment early in life does not guarantee
healthy psychosocial outcomes, however, any more than
an insecure early attachment ensures later diff i c u l t y.
Attachment security and its outcomes can change in
childhood in response to changes affecting family inter-
action, such as marital stress, parental job change, or a
s i b l i n g ’s birth. Sensitive, responsive care thus remains a
continuing need of young children throughout the early
years at home and in child care .
1 3
Self-Regulation and Social Understanding
The early years provide lessons in relationships, includ-
ing lessons in conflict management and cooperation. As
they mature, toddlers become increasingly active,
a s s e rtive, and goal-oriented, and their caregivers incre a s-
ingly set limits and expect compliance. Thro u g h o u t
early childhood, adults “up the antein their expecta-
tions for the childs cooperation and consideration for
others. Adults increasingly guide a young child’s behav-
ior by using indirect strategies like explanation and bar-
gaining that rely on the child’s developing capacities for
s e l f - c o n t rol. At the same time, young children become
much more competent at exercising self-re g u l a t i o n ,
especially when this skill is enlisted for achieving per-
sonally meaningful goals (like getting dessert ) .
1 4
Although young children do, in fact, become incre a s-
ingly compliant with adult expectations as they mature ,
they also show a growing tendency to refuse before they
c o m p l y, and to negotiate, compromise, and assert their
own pre f e rences in other ways. At the same time that
attachment security is taking shape, there f o re, care g i v e r-
child relationships are also influenced by the behavioral
expectations of adults and the willingness of young chil-
d ren to comply. This means that conflict—as well as
w a r mth and security—becomes part of the pare n t - c h i l d
re l a t i o n s h i p .
Beneath the surface of these difficulties of the “Te rr i b l e
Twos,” however, milestones in social understanding are
e m e r ging. Nothing focuses a young child’s attention on
what other people are thinking or feeling more than the
realization that a conflict must be resolved. And because
toddlers are acquiring a more sophisticated aware n e s s
that othersfeelings and desires can be diff e rent fro m
their own, the care g i v e r -child interaction becomes a lab-
o r a t o ry for exploring these diff e rences and their conse-
q u e n c e s .
1 5
For instance, a two-year-old whose hand
inches closer to the forbidden VCR while care f u l l y
26
T h o m p s o n
Nothing focuses a young child’s attention on what other people
a r e thinking or feeling more than the realization that a conflict
must be re s o l v e d .
Development in the First Years of Life
watching her pare n t ’s face is testing her best guess about
the adult’s expected re a c t i o n .
Other features of psychological understanding also curb
the young child’s misbehavior, including a gro w i n g
capacity for empathy with another’s feelings and a devel-
oping understanding of how adult expectations for
behavior apply to specific situations. Caregivers con-
tribute to this understanding when they firm l y, but
w a rm l y, focus a toddler’s attention on the consequences
of misbehavior or the child’s responsibility for causing
h a r m to another.
1 6
A thre e - y e a r-old, whose indoor
roughhousing has resulted in a crying younger sibling,
can learn from an adult about the connections between
exuberant running and inadvertent collisions with a
smaller person. Equally important, these encounters
between a young child and an adult strengthen the
c h i l d ’s understanding and concern for others’ feelings
and needs, which is one of the most important develop-
ing curbs on impulsivity and violence.
Self-Awareness
One of the most charming features of personality
g rowth is how young children learn to answer the ques-
tion, “Who am I?,” in ever more insightful ways. Devel-
oping psychological understanding provides avenues
t o w a rd greater self-awareness. Infants gradually learn
that there is a diff e rence between “self” and “other. ”
During the second year, children develop visual self-
recognition (in a mirror) and verbal self-re f e re n c e
(“Andy big!”). This is followed by the period when an
a s s e rtive thre e - y e a r-old refuses assistance and insists on
doing it myselfto assert competence and autonomy.
During the preschool years, the child’s self-correction in
drawing, tying shoelaces, and perf o rming other every-
day activities reflects developing capacities for self-mon-
itoring and the motivation to succeed.
1 7
Beginning at
age three, more o v e r, preschoolers begin to re m e m b e r
events with re f e rence to their personal significance, con-
s t ructing an autobiographical memory that helps to
establish a continuous identity throughout life’s
e v e n t s .
1 8
S e l f - a w a reness and self-understanding are
highly dependent on the evaluations of others, of
course, especially those to whom the child is emotional-
ly attached. Consequently, the two- to thre e - y e a r- o l d ’s
emotional re p e rt o i re broadens beyond the basic emo-
tions of infancy to include emotions like pride, shame,
guilt, and embarrassment that are elicited in social situ-
ations in response to the evaluations of others.
1 9
A
young childs relationships with others thus establish the
c o rnerstone of self-concept through the image re f l e c t e d
in the eyes of another.
Temperament and Emotional Growth
Young children vary, of course, in their temperamental
qualities. Inborn characteristics like mood, soothability,
and adaptability affect young childre n ’ s behavioral ten-
dencies (for example, to approach or withdraw from unfa-
miliar peers), their emotional qualities, and their capacities
to tolerate stress. As infants mature into young childre n ,
they begin to learn strategies for managing their emotions
because doing so contributes to social competence, self-
confidence, and feelings of well-being.
2 0
Their strategies
may be simplesuch as looking away from a scary TV
s h o w, or saying, “Mommy will come soon, during a
lonely first day at preschool; or re t reating to an adult
when threatened by a peerbut they begin the lifelong
p r ocess of learning to regulate emotions consistently with
o n e ’ s temperamental qualities.
U n f o rt u n a t e l y, the close relationships with care g i v e r s
that ordinarily support and constructively guide emo-
tional growth in the early years can also put young chil-
d ren at risk when these relationships are disturbed or
dysfunctional. Sadly, some children are so buffeted by
conflicted family environments, chaotic child care set-
tings, or unpredictable challenges in daily experience
that their capacities for managing their emotions quick-
ly become taxed, and healthy personality development is
imperiled. Emerging re s e a rch in the field of develop-
mental psychopathology reveals the surprisingly early
27
The Future of Children
Volume 11, Number 1
origins of emotion-related disorders like depre s s i o n ,
conduct problems, anxiety disorders, and social with-
drawal. These studies also show how relationships with
c a regivers who are emotionally neglectful, physically
abusive, or psychologically inconsistent can (especially
when combined with risk factors like temperamental
vulnerability) predispose certain young children to the
e m e rgence of psychopathology.
2 1
Thus, the conclusion
that relationships are central to healthy psychosocial
g rowth in the early years is a double-edged sword. It
highlights how sensitive caregiving provides many
o p p o rtunities for enlivening early social and emotional
capacities, but also how markedly inadequate care re n-
ders young children vulnerable to psychosocial harm .
The Growth of the Brain
In view of recent public excitement over early brain
g rowth, it might have been appropriate to begin this
s u m m a ry of the early years with a discussion of brain
development. Instead, this summary began with the
g rowth of the mind and the person because develop-
mental scientists know considerably more about cogni-
tive, socioemotional, and personality growth than they
know about brain development. Indeed, developmental
n e u roscience is a recent addition to the study of the
child. Furt h e rm o re, processes of brain development are
best understood when considered in relation to the pace
and timing of concurrent mental, emotional, and social
advances of early childhood, because these behavioral
achievements provide clues about what is likely to be
happening within the brain.
U n f o rt u n a t e l y, considerable misunderstanding of early
brain development occurs when neurons and synapses
a re considered independently of the development of
thinking, feeling, and relating to others.
2 2
Ti m e - l i m i t e d
windows of opportunity—during which critical stimuli
f rom the environment are necessary for healthy brain
d e v e l o p m e n t — a re exceptional rather than typical, con-
sistent with the gradual course of most features of early
development. Brain development is lifelong, not limited
to the early years, consistent with the enduring capacities
for growth in thinking, feeling, and adapting thro u g h o u t
life. And although the talking, singing, and playing of
c a regivers are valuable stimulants of early brain develop-
ment, so also are the care g i v e r ’ s eff o rts to provide ade-
quate nutrition; to protect young children from the
h a z a r ds of drugs, environmental toxins (like lead), and
u n c o n t r ollable stress; and to obtain early vision and hear-
ing screening. Each of these elements is an import a n t
re q u i r ement of healthy brain gro w t h .
Blooming and Pruning
of Brain Connections
Developmental scientists’ observations of early develop-
ment provide other important clues for what to expect
in the developing brain.
2 3
For example, the powerf u l
innate capabilities that underlie the newborn ’s re a d i n e s s
to learn suggest that brain growth begins early and
advances quickly during the prenatal months. And
indeed it does. Brain development begins within the
first month after conception, when the brain and spinal
c o r d begin to take shape within the embryo. By the
sixth prenatal month, nearly all of the billions of neu-
rons (nerve cells) that populate the mature brain have
been created, with new neurons generated at an average
rate of more than 250,000 per minute. Once neuro n s
a re formed, they quickly migrate to the brain re g i o n
w h e re they will function. Neurons become diff e re n t i a t-
ed to assume specialized roles, and they form connec-
tions (synapses) with other neurons that enable them to
communicate and store information. Neurons continue
to form synapses with other neurons throughout child-
hood. By the moment of birth, the large majority of
n e u rons are appropriately located within an immature
brain that has begun to appear and function like its
m a t u re counterpart .
F u rt h e rm o re, given the newborn ’s hunger for novelty,
attention to sensory experience, and pre f e rence for
social stimulation, significant changes in the brain’s neu-
ronal arc h i t e c t u re would be expected after birth. This is
p r ecisely what occurs, although the manner in which the
28
T h o m p s o n
By the sixth prenatal month, nearly all of the billions of neuro n s
( n e rve cells) that populate the mature brain have been cre a t e d ,
with new neurons generated at an average rate of more than 250,000
per minute.
Development in the First Years of Life
brain becomes organized (or wired) in the early years is
intriguing. Both before and after birth, an initial
“blooming” of brain connections occurs: Neurons cre-
ate far more synapses with other neurons than will ever
be retained in the mature brain. This proliferation of
synapses creates great potential for the developing brain,
but it also makes the young brain inefficient and noisy
with redundant and unnecessary neural connections.
C o n s e q u e n t l y, this proliferation is soon followed by a
stage of “pruning when little-used synapses are gradu-
ally eliminated to reach the number re q u i r ed for the
brain to operate eff i c i e n t l y.
How are synapses selected for retention or elimination?
Early experience plays an important role. Stimulating
experiences activate certain neural synapses, and this
triggers growth processes that consolidate those con-
nections. Synapses that are not activated pro g re s s i v e l y
wither over time. Through this use it or lose itprin-
ciple, there f o re, the arc h i t e c t u re of the developing brain
becomes adapted to the needs of everyday stimulation
and experience. The effects of this principle can be
o b s e rved behaviorally in the early years. Vision, for
instance, is an example of this principle. During the early
months of life, visual acuity increases because the neural
pathways connecting eye to brain become consolidated
while infants gaze at the world around them. But if
infants experience prolonged visual deprivation (which
can result, for example, from congenital cataracts), those
pathways will remain unorganized. If the cataracts are
removed in childhood, there may still be irre v e r s i b l e
deficits in vision because the neural connections were
never consolidated. In this respect, there f o re, early
vision develops according to a sensitive period that
begins abruptly (at birth) but very gradually tapers off .
Other features of early behavioral development may also
reflect the brain’s early blooming and pruning of con-
nections. Consider language learning. Newborns can
discriminate universal speech sounds, but over time
their speech perception becomes limited to the sounds
of their native language. This change in perception may
reflect the initial proliferation of connections in brain
regions governing language and their later re f i n e m e n t .
2 4
N e u roscientists offer similar accounts to explain the
early development of memory ability,
2 5
the growth of
early categorization and thinking skills,
2 6
and early emo-
tional development and emotion management.
2 7
H o w-
e v e r, the blooming and pruning of brain connections for
these capacities takes place on an extended timetable
c o m p a r ed to the narrower window of opportunity that
exists for vision.
The timetable for brain development thus varies by
region, and it continues throughout life. Sensory
regions, which govern sight, touch, hearing, and other
sensations, undergo their most rapid growth early in life,
while the brain areas guiding higher forms of thinking
and reasoning experience blooming and pruning of
brain connections into early adolescence. Indeed, the
recent discovery that the mature adult brain generates
new neuro n s
2 8
raises the possibility that brain develop-
ment continues into maturity in yet unknown ways.
Brain Growth and Experience
At least two forms of brain development occur thro u g h-
out life.
2 9
The first, called experience-expectant,”
describes how common early experiences provide essen-
tial catalysts for normal brain development. Wi t h o u t
these essential experiences, brain growth goes awry. The
dependence of vision on early visual stimulation is one
example. Scientists believe that typical experiences of
hearing, exposure to language, coordinating vision and
movement, and other common early experiences like-
wise contribute to the young brain’s developing org a n-
ization. The developing brain “expects and re q u i re s
these typical human experiences, and relies on them as a
component of its gro w t h .
The second form of brain development occurs thro u g h-
out life. It is called experience-dependent” and
describes how individual experience fosters new brain
g r owth and refines existing brain stru c t u res. These
experiences can be unique to an individual. For instance,
the brain of a musician who plays a stringed instru m e n t
d i ffers from the brain of a poet who works with word s
and abstract ideas because they have exercised diff e re n t
brain regions throughout life.
3 0
In this respect, the
29
The Future of Children
Considerable misunderstanding of early brain development
occurs when neurons and synapses are considered independently
of the development of thinking, feeling, and relating to others.
Volume 11, Number 1
experiences that refine brain functioning throughout life
a re individualized rather than typical. These experiences
influence neural connections uniquely in diff e rent indi-
viduals, as they account for new learning and skills.
Vulnerability of the Developing Brain
The foundation for these achievements is established in
the early years, however, and the rapid pace and bro a d
scope of early brain growth means that the immature
brain is a vulnerable organ. Beginning at conception and
continuing after birth, healthy brain development is
imperiled by exposure to hazardous drugs, such as alco-
hol, cocaine, and heroin; viruses, like HIV and ru b e l l a ;
and environmental toxins, like lead and merc u ry. The
brain is also vulnerable prenatally and postnatally to
poor diets that lack essential nutrients, such as iron and
folic acid. Chronic maternal stress during pregnancy and
after birth can also threaten healthy brain development
because of stress hormones that have a toxic effect on
developing brain stru c t u re s .
3 1
S t ressful experiences of
c h r onic abuse or neglect, as well as head injuries re s u l t-
ing from accidents, also pose significant risks. The gre a t-
est dangers to the developing brain arise, of course,
f rom the combined and cumulative effects of these haz-
a r ds, such as when children in poverty are malnour-
ished, exposed to hazardous drugs or enviro n m e n t a l
toxins, or experience head injuries. Enduring harm also
arises when early problems are undetected and are
allowed to endure uncorre c t e d .
P a rents and other caregivers contribute to healthy brain
development by talking, singing, playing, and reading to
a child. These activities are valuable, especially if they are
developmentally appropriate and are attuned to a young
c h i l d ’ s interests. But more significant contributions
occur when parents obtain prenatal and postnatal health
c a re; protect children from environmental hazards, dan-
g e rous drugs, and viruses; secure appropriate immu-
nizations, and early vision and auditory screenings; and
p revent accidents. The continuing eff o rts of parents to
keep stresses manageable and environments safe for
s e c u r e exploration offer significant protections to the
development of healthy brains and minds.
The Importance of the Environment
When scientists seriously consider the re m a r k a b l e
achievements of the first years of life, it is unmistakable
that early experiences matter. The early childhood years
a re crucial to the quality of the life course. But pare n t s
a r e concerned about their young children not just as an
investment in the future, but also because children are
themselves valuable. Parents seek to create every oppor-
tunity for healthy, optimal growth because of the
excitement of contributing to enhancing the unique
qualities that each child possesses. Likewise, practition-
ers and policymakers should also strive to strengthen the
o p p o rtunities, and reduce the vulnerabilities, of early
development because children merit society’s commit-
ment to them.
This is why the environment of a child matters. Because
early experiences can enhance or diminish inborn poten-
tial, the environment of early experience shapes the
o p p o rtunities and risks that young children encounter.
The environment that influences early growth is multi-
faceted. The physical environment, for example, pro-
vides opportunities for toddlers to safely explore and
l e a rn, poses hazards for accidental injury, and enlivens
young childre n ’s emotions by the barriers it sets to
achieving goals. The biological environment (which
begins to influence development prenatally) affects the
developing brain and body through the quality of early
nutrition, health care, immunizations, sensory scre e n-
ing, and protection from dangerous drugs, viruses, and
e n v i ronmental toxins.
The irreducible core of the environment during early
development is people. Relationships matter. They pro-
vide the nurturance that strengthens childre n ’s security
and well-being, offer the cognitive challenges to exerc i s e
young minds, impart many essential catalysts to healthy
brain growth, and help young children discover who
they are and what they can do. Remarkably, most of the
significant ways that caregivers promote healthy devel-
opment occur quite naturally during the course of sen-
sitive adult-child interaction. For instance, the
“ p a rentesethat facilitates early language, the care g i v -
ing routines that promote predictability and memory
skills, the patient structuring of an activity to make it
manageable for a child, and the protective nurt u r a n c e
that manages a baby’s emotions show that when sensi-
tive adults do what comes naturally, their behavior is
30
T h o m p s o n
The irreducible core of the environment during early
development is people.
Development in the First Years of Life
optimally suited to promoting early cognitive, socio-
emotional, and neurobiological growth. In a sense, just
as childre n ’s developing brains intrinsically expect that
eyes will see light and ears will hear sound because of
their developmental self-organization, so also do chil-
d re n ’s developing minds and hearts expect that adults
will talk in special ways to them and that caregivers will
n u rt u re them as they mature. Normal human develop-
ment draws upon these natural and unrehearsed feature s
of everyday early experience far more than it re q u i re s
special educational toys, Mozart CDs, or flashcard s .
U n f o rt u n a t e l y, doing what comes naturally does not
always support healthy early development when care-
givers are depressed, stressed, absent, or otherwise have
neither time nor energy to devote to caring for young
c h i l d ren. In these circumstances, attachment re l a t i o n-
ships become insecure, conflict negotiation results in
c o e rcion, self-concept is shaped by denigrating evalua-
tions of the child, and young children do not develop
the sense of secure self-confidence that is their
b i rthright. Society’s commitment to ensuring the
healthy development of every child re q u i res far more ,
t h e re f o re, than standing on the sidelines and wishing
p a r ents the best in their eff o rts to benefit their off s p r i n g .
It re q u i res enabling parents to integrate work and child
responsibilities constructively through family-friendly
job conditions, welfare re f o rm that does not endanger
stable parent-child relationships, aff o r dable and desir-
able child care arrangements, and wage policies that
e n s u re adequate family incomes. It re q u i res helping par-
ents to obtain the prenatal and postnatal health care that
31
The Future of Children
Volume 11, Number 1
s c reens children for developmental difficulties before
they become severe, guarantees adequate nutrition, and
can protect young children from debilitating diseases
and hazardous exposures. Societys commitment to
ensuring the healthy development of every child begins
with the parent-child relationship, and re q u i res that the
b roader institutions affecting the family stand alongside
p a rents in their eff o rts to ensure the well-being of
young childre n .
The relationships that matter do not end with the
immediate family. They also include the re l a t i o n s h i p s
that young children develop and depend upon in child
c a re. Society’s commitment to ensuring the healthy
development of every child re q u i res far more, there f o re ,
than hoping that market forces make available high-
q u a l i t y, aff o rdable care for young children. It re q u i re s
equipping care providers with the knowledge and
re s o u rces re q u i red to provide young children the kind
of focused, sensitive care that offers essential catalysts to
healthy psychological growth. It re q u i res esteeming the
relationships between children and caregivers suff i c i e n t-
ly that there are incentives (in wages and benefits, the
s t ru c t u re of child care work, and public support) for
these relationships to provide stable, reliable support for
young children. Society’s commitment to ensuring the
healthy development of each child re q u i res that all the
relationships that young children rely upon are valued
and support e d .
Recognizing that the early years are a period of unique
o p p o rtunity and vulnerability means that the enviro n-
ments of early childhood should be designed so they
facilitate, rather than blunt, the remarkable intrinsic
push toward growth that is characteristic of every child.
Doing so not only enhances the well-being of young
c h i l d ren, but makes a long-term investment in the well-
being of all individuals. A society that is concerned with
p roblems of violence and self-control, school re a d i n e s s ,
and social civility wisely takes note of the fact that the
origins of these social, emotional, and intellectual qual-
ities take shape early in the life course. In committing
itself to the well-being of the youngest citizens, society
can promote the well-being of all.
C o n cl u s i o n
Although the processes of early development re m a i n
something of a mystery, enough is known to enable
t w e n t y - f i r s t - c e n t u ry parents, practitioners, and policy-
makers to foster the healthy growth of the body, mind,
person, and brain. Because the early years are import a n t ,
young children merit a high priority, even though they
cannot speak for themselves. Because early re l a t i o n s h i p s
m a t t e r, society is wise to value those who relate to
young children daily. Because children are active part i c-
ipants in their own development, the most sensitive care
is that which is aligned with the child’s interests, needs,
and goals. Because experience can elucidate, or dimin-
ish, inborn potential, early environments must be
designed to ensure young childre n ’s health, safety, and
well-being. And because the early years are a period of
considerable opportunity for growth and vulnerability
to harm, society wisely does not take for granted the
well-being of young children. Instead, we share re s p o n-
sibility as adults to guarantee for each child the oppor-
tunity to thrive in the early years of life.
32
T h o m p s o n
Development in the First Years of Life
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33
The Future of Children
E N D N OT E S
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The number of immigrant families in Canada and other Western countries has increased in the last several decades. Immigrant families face challenges in bringing up their children in a new country, such as different expectations from two different cultures, being away from their family and immediate support network, financial problems, and language limitations. One of the main concerns of most immigrant parents is their child's language acquisition. Language development is the most significant predictor of children's success in school and later life. Regarding the vital role of language development in each aspect of life, it is essential to explore this growing population's experiences and challenges related to their children's language acquisition. This qualitative study benefited from a narrative inquiry for representing and interpreting an immigrant mother's experiences and challenges in bringing up a bilingual child in Canada. This paper addresses the multiple conflicts affecting immigrant parents' decision to bring up a bilingual or monolingual child. Some of immigrant parents' main concerns, including passing on their accents, code-switching, language delays, limited social interactions and using screen time for teaching language are discussed in this paper.
... Providing a good musical environment for a young child has little to do with buying the right CD's or DVD's or watching television programs with music (deVries, 2007;Lury, 2002), nor are "educational" or elaborate toys necessary to speed development (Gopnik, Meltzoff, & Kuhl, 1999;Zambo, 2008). Rather, active experiences in natural settings guided by loving caregivers will go much farther toward achieving this goal (Thompson, 2004), since the young brain responds more readily to authentic interactions with sensory input (Healey, 2004). The earlier and more frequently parents take advantage of musical opportunities, the better the musical development of the child (Gruhn, 2002). ...
Research
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The purpose of this mixed-methods experimental study is twofold. First, the researcher examined the relationship between parents’ musical self-concept and intentional music-making with their young children (four years of age and under.) An intentional music-making episode (IMME) is defined as a consciously parent-initiated activity or extension of an activity, either spontaneous or planned beforehand, in which both parent and child are musically engaged. Second, the research considers the impact of active and passive parent education methods on frequency of IMME. In order to assess musical self-concept, a modified version of Asmus’ Motivation for Music test was administered to subjects before treatment. Subjects were randomly distributed into one of two groups. The Active Group comprised those receiving weekly electronic newsletters about music-making with young children and who were also enrolled in a 10-week parent/child music class. The Passive Group only received the weekly e-newsletters about music-making with young children. All subjects took a researcher-constructed survey pre- and post-treatment to assess for any change in IMME. Analysis indicated that variability in IMME attributable to MSC was low (R² =.0030), and that there was no significant difference in IMME of subjects who completed Active and Passive treatments. That is, no connection was identified linking subjects’ MSC and the amount of musical engagement with their children, lending evidence to the idea that music is a fundamental human drive and intrinsic to the parent/child relationship. A Repeated Measures ANCOVA revealed a positive relationship between both Active and Passive treatment conditions and IMME, as the entire sample demonstrated statistically significant improvement from pre- to posttest IMME scores (p < .001). Limited qualitative data revealed that Active Group parents finished the treatment with more confidence in their own ability to be musical with their child, as well as a strong commitment to continued intentional music-making with their children in the future. Taken together, these findings support the idea that music specialists can play a valuable role in educating parents about music-making with their young children, thereby strengthening the crucial early musical development of future students.
... According to the 2016 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), over 30% of children living within the plantation sector suffered from stunting while close to 30% were also underweight, prevalence far higher than the national averages of 17 and 20% respectively [2]. Children below the age of 5 years are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition given that the most crucial growth in humans occur within this period [13]. Malnourished children can grow up to be less productive adults, contributing to a continuing cycle of chronic poverty. ...
Article
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Background High rates of child malnutrition are a major public health concern in developing countries, particularly among vulnerable communities. Midday meals programs can be effective for combatting childhood malnutrition among older children. However, their use in early childhood is not well documented, particularly within South Asia. Anthropometric measures and other socioeconomic data were collected for children below the age of 5 years living in selected Sri Lankan tea plantations, to assess the effectiveness of midday meals as a nutrition intervention for improving growth among young children. Methods The study exploits a natural experiment whereby the provision of the midday meals program is exogenously determined at the plantation level, resulting in comparable treatment and control groups. Longitudinal data was collected on heights and weights of children, between 2013 and 2015. Standardized weight-for-age, height-for-age and weight-for-height, and binary variables for stunting, wasting and underweight are constructed, following WHO guidelines. All modelling uses STATA SE 15. Random-effects regression with instrumental variables is used for modelling standardized growth while random-effects logistic regression is used for the binary outcomes. Robustness analysis involves different estimation methods and subsamples. Results The dataset comprises of longitudinal data from a total of 1279 children across three tea plantations in Sri Lanka, with 799 children in the treatment group and 480 in the control group. Results show significant positive effects of access to the midday meals program, on the growth of children. A child with access to the midday meals intervention reports an average standardized weight-for-age 0.03 (±0.01) and height-for-age 0.05 (±0.01) units higher than a similar child without access to the intervention. Importantly, access to the intervention reduces the likelihood of being underweight by 0.45 and the likelihood of wasting by 0.47. The results are robust to different model specifications and across different subsamples by gender, birthweight and birth-year cohort. Conclusions Midday meals programs targeting early childhood can be an effective intervention to address high rates of child malnutrition, particularly among vulnerable communities in developing countries like Sri Lanka.
... The first 5 years of life, also known as early childhood, is a period where healthy development in physical, cognitive, and social-emotional domains is paramount for future health (Thompson, 2001). The importance of providing guidance and support for a nutritious diet, regular physical activity (including active outdoor play), minimal sedentary behaviour (in particular screen time), and adequate sleep during early childhood has been recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (World Health Organization, 2016). ...
Article
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The objective was to conduct an environmental scan of existing Canadian childcare resources targeting nutrition, physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and/or sleep. A comprehensive search plan was conducted that involved four search strategies: (1) grey literature databases, (2) customized Google search engines, (3) targeted websites, and (4) consultation with content experts. A resource (i.e., information, materials) must have been created by government or an organization/agency within Canada, available in English, intended for childcare educators or directors working with children ≤ 5 years of age, and focused on targeting improvements in nutrition, physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and/or sleep. The quality of each included resource was assessed using a modified version of the Authority, Accuracy, Coverage, Objectivity, Date, Significance checklist. A total of 192 eligible resources were included. Most resources targeted only nutrition (n = 101) or physical activity (n = 60), and few resources targeted only sedentary behaviour (n = 2) or sleep (n = 1). The remaining 28 resources targeted more than one health behaviour. The 4 most common topics of resources were menu/meal planning (n = 55), healthy nutrition practices/environment (n = 37), physical activities/games (n = 33), and nutrition/food literacy (n = 20). Only 52 included resources cited evidence. One-third of the included resources (n = 64) were rated as high quality, including 55 that received a point for the significance criterion. Therefore, numerous high quality Canadian childcare resources exist for nutrition and physical activity. Future resource development is needed for sedentary behaviour and sleep. Findings can assist future intervention work and the database of resources can be utilized by relevant stakeholders to support other childcare initiatives.
... The negative associations among economic strain, parenting self-efficacy, and parenting satisfaction have been well documented (Hurwich-Reiss & Watamura, 2019;Jackson & Scheines, 2005;Scaramella et al., 2008). However, these relationships have yet to be replicated among parents of newborns from low-income households, parents who must come to terms with new financial responsibilities while meeting the sensitive needs of a newborn (Bartek, 2016;Thompson, 2001). Parents of newborns are immediately thrust into their caregiving roles during one of the most developmentally critical periods of a child's life. ...
Article
Objective The goal of this study was to examine associations among economic strain, parenting self-efficacy, parenting satisfaction, and parent primary language in a universally low-income sample of parents with newborns. Background Previous research links increased economic strain to lower levels of parenting self-efficacy and parenting satisfaction among socioeconomically diverse parents with older children. Little research has examined whether primary language shapes the associations among economic strain, parenting self-efficacy, and parenting satisfaction. Method Parents (n = 194, Mage = 30.91) completed self-report surveys measuring economic strain, parenting self-efficacy, and parenting satisfaction. Parents' ethnic self-identification and primary language were used to stratify parents into three groups: Latinx Spanish speakers, Latinx English speakers, and non-Latinx English speakers. Results Regression analyses revealed that economic strain was negatively associated with both parenting self-efficacy and parenting satisfaction. Further, the negative association between economic strain and parenting self-efficacy was stronger for Latinx Spanish speakers. Conclusion Economic strain may negatively influence parenting self-efficacy and parenting satisfaction during the newborn period. Parents whose primary language is Spanish may be disproportionately affected by economic strain. Implications Parents of newborns may benefit from increased economic supports in linguistically responsive pediatric care and social service settings.
... According to the 2016 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), over 30% of children living within the plantation sector suffered from stunting whilst close to 30% were also underweight, prevalence far higher than the national averages of 17% and 20% respectively [2]. Children below the age of five years are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition given that the most crucial growth in humans occur within this period [13]. ...
Preprint
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Background: High rates of child malnutrition are a major public health concern in developing countries, particularly among vulnerable communities. Midday meals programs can be effective for combatting childhood malnutrition among older children. However, their use in early childhood is not well documented, particularly within South Asia. Anthropometric measures and other socioeconomic data were collected for children below the age of five years living in selected Sri Lankan tea plantations, to assess the effectiveness of midday meals as a nutrition intervention for improving growth among young children. Methods: The study exploits a natural experiment whereby the provision of the midday meals program is exogenously determined at the plantation level, resulting in comparable treatment and control groups. Longitudinal data is regularly collected on heights and weights of children, between 2013-2015. Standardized weight-for-age, height-for-age, BMI-for-age and weight-for-height are calculated following WHO guidelines, and binary variables for stunting, wasting and underweight are constructed. All modelling uses STATA SE 15. Random-effects regression with instrumental variables is used for modelling standardized growth variables whilst random-effects logistic regression is used for binary outcome variables. Robustness analysis involves different estimation methods and subsamples. Results: The dataset consists of longitudinal data from a total of 1279 children across three tea plantations in Sri Lanka, with 799 children in the treatment group and 480 in the control group. Results show significant positive effects of access to the midday meals program, on the growth of children. A child with access to the midday meals intervention reports an average standardized weight-for-age 0.03 (±0.01) and height-for-age 0.05 (±0.01) units higher than a similar child without access to the intervention. Importantly, access to the intervention reduces the likelihood of being underweight by 0.45 and the likelihood of wasting by 0.47. The results are robust to different model estimations and across different subsamples by gender, birthweight and birth-year cohort. Qualitative data analysis suggests a high viability of implementing similar programs within tea plantations in Sri Lanka. Conclusions: Midday meals programs targeting early childhood can be an effective intervention to address high rates of child malnutrition, particularly among vulnerable communities in developing countries like Sri Lanka.
Chapter
Physical activity, including active play and sports participation, is essential for the health and wellbeing of children and adolescents. To date, an abundance of research, albeit from higher income countries, has studied various aspects of physical activity and sports participation in the growing child. The aims of these studies include refining the measurement of physical, identifying its outcomes (e.g. physical and/or mental health, cognition), and determinants (with a particular focus on those that are modifiable), and the development and testing of interventions and policies to positively promote and sustain levels of activity. While many in field understand that a child is not a miniature adult and there has been ample research documenting age related changes in physical activity and its correlates. Comparatively few studies have, however, examined how the process of growth and biological maturation impact physical activity behaviors. Research considering the impact of growth and maturation on physical activity in youth is largely exclusive to sports, with particular emphasis upon the selection and performance in elite youth sport and the impact that intensive athletic training may have on young female athletes participating in esthetic sports, such as gymnastics and figure skating. This book chapter summarizes these topics of physical activity in young people, including some lines of evidence supporting the bidirectional association between growth, biological maturation and physical activity and key emerging directions in research and practice.
Chapter
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during the latter half of the first year of life, infants show marked changes in their performance on a number of tasks / discuss changes on four of these tasks: the AB̄ [A, not B] object search task, the object retrieval task, the visual categorization task, and the cross-language speech perception task briefly describe each task, outline the developmental changes in performance of each, and describe the intercorrelations between and among changes in performance across tasks / explore the possibility that common underlying abilities may be required in order to succeed on all of these diverse tasks / suggest that maturational changes in prefrontal cortex may be related to changes in performance across these diverse tasks (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Chapter
Shame, guilt, embarrassment, and pride are ‘self-conscious emotions,’ evoked by self-reflection and self-evaluation. A growing empirical literature indicates that shame and guilt are distinct emotions with very different implications for psychological adjustment and interpersonal behavior. In brief, shame involves a negative evaluation of the global self, whereas guilt involves a negative evaluation of a specific behavior. On balance, guilt appears to be the more adaptive emotion, benefiting relationships in a variety of ways. Shame has been associated with a variety of negative outcomes – evasion, denial, anger, and vulnerability to a range of psychological symptoms. Recent research, however, has begun to explore the conditions under which shame may be adaptive – fostering meaningful change. Embarrassment is not simply a mild form of shame, but is marked by more humor, more obvious physiological changes (e.g., blushing), and a greater sense of exposure. The diversity of situations that cause embarrassment makes a comprehensive ‘account’ of embarrassment difficult. There is greater consensus about its adaptive significance. Embarrassment signals appeasement to others, thus diffusing negative social evaluations and the likelihood of retaliation. In recent years, pride has received long overdue attention. Paralleling the self versus behavior distinction central to shame and guilt, there are two types of pride. The propensity to experience pride about behavior (‘authentic’ or ‘behavioral’ pride) appears to be similarly more adaptive than the propensity to experience pride in self (‘hubristic’ pride).
Article
Recent research on young children's memory for personal episodes provides new insights into the phenomenon of infantile amnesia, first identified by Freud. New research indicates that children learn to share memories with others, that they acquire the narrative forms of memory recounting, and that such recounts are effective in reinstating experienced memories only after the children can utilize another person's representation of an experience in language as a reinstatement of their own experience. This competence requires a level of mastery of the representational function of language that appears at the earliest in the mid to late preschool years.
Article
This third edition of "Development in Infancy" reflects the enormous changes still taking place in our understanding of infants and their place in human development. We have revised this book extensively in an effort to update and to expand this coverage. We have reorganized chapters, restructured contents, and essentially revised concepts where necessary to keep abreast of current thinking and research in the field. As a result, this edition of "Development in Infancy" is yet more comprehensive and current than previous ones, paying thorough attention to all major aspects of infant development—contextual, methodological, neurological, physical, perceptual, cognitive, communicative, emotional, and social. . . . This edition is designed for use as a textbook in classes at all levels—undergraduate and graduate—as well as in various disciplinary contexts—psychology, education, child development, nursing, and social work, for example. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
The first section, "Overview of Attachment Theory," provides an updated primer on the theory. The second section of the volume, "Biological Perspectives," stems from J. Bowlby's reliance on ethology and primate research in the creation of attachment theory. The third section of the volume, "Attachment in Infancy and Childhood," contains 3 chapters that provide an overview of empirical research on patterns of attachment in infancy and childhood. The fourth section, "Attachment in Adolescence and Adulthood," contains chapters growing out of Bowlby's early contention that attachment characterizes humans "from the cradle to the grave." The fifth section of the volume, "Clinical Applications of Attachment Theory and Research," contains chapters that reflect the strong roots of attachment theory in clinical psychology and psychiatry, and the contributions that the theory and associated research can now make to clinical work. The final section of the volume,"Emerging Topics and Perspectives," provides a sampling of the wide array of areas into which attachment theory and research are being extended. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Presents the native language magnet (NLM) theory, which describes how innate factors and experience with a specific language interact in the development of speech perception. Data on speech prototypes and NLM show how the model offers an explanation for the reorganization in infant speech perception and for adults' perception of foreign-language contrasts. The NLM model is compared to P. W. Jusczyk's (see record 1993-44875-001) word recognition and phonetic structure acquisition (WRAPSA) model. While the WRAPSA is more concerned with lexical representation and the recognition of words in fluent speech, the NLM model is concerned with the initial emergence of phonetic category organization and language-specific speech production. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Book
This book combines two worlds—children and science—in an entirely unique way that yields exciting discoveries about both. The authors show that by the time children are three, they've solved problems that stumped Socrates with an agility computers still cannot match. This book explains just how, and how much, babies and young children know and learn, and how much parents naturally teach them. The book argues that evolution designed us to both teach and learn. Nurture is our nature, and the drive to learn is our most important instinct. The new science of children also reveals insights about adult capacities. The authors argue that even very young children—as well as adults—use some of the same methods that allow scientists to learn so much about the world. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)