Developmental Controversies
Controversies

Nature vs. Nurture (Maturation vs.
Experience)- Genes or life experience?

Nature/ (inherent) Biology/pre-determined
maturation- Historically this was thought of
as the most important (Darwin’s
evolutionary theory)
–
Development is determined by…. Inheritance,
(inherent) Biology, Genes

Genes Body type- Strength, weight, muscle to
weight ratios; Cognitive abilities
–
Temperament/personality
Nature vs. Nurture
– Nurture/Environment- 1930’s-70’s;
thought of as the most important (think
“Watson or Skinner” and “behaviorism”)

Environment- Has many meanings:
parents, school, peers, SES
– Enrichment- Mediates limiting biological
factors A good environment can overcome poor
biological starting points (or vice versa).
 Examples?
 Head Start programs
Nature vs. Nurture

What do we know now?
– Infants have some abilities at birth
– Experience does matter

there is often an interaction between nature and
nurture (i.e., IQ, temperament)
– Children have a “reaction range”


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Born with a genetic potential
But the environment one grows up in can enhance it or
make it worse
Stress-Vulnerability Model
of Disorders
Controversies

Continuity vs. Discontinuity-
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–

Development is Continuous- e.g.
Language
–
–
–

smooth and constant?
step-like; each step being independent of the
other?
Gradual- Additive
Smooth Curve
Skills develop and build upon each other
Development is Discontinuous- Cog dev.
–
–
Occurs in stages
Later skills are not connected to early ones
Controversies

Active vs. Passive
– Active participants in development?- Do
children seek out events and activities
that foster their development?

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Does their behavior solicit responses?
Do they influence their caregivers’ behavior?
– Passive role in their development?


Does development happen to them, with no
influence on their part?
Examples?
Controversies

Critical vs. Sensitive Periods (not
so much a controversy as a
distinction)
– Critical Period- Specific time during
development when an individual is most
susceptible to lasting environmental
influences.

Usually a disruption in a biological process
– Example: Alcohol exposure to a fetus

Cannot be altered by positive influences
afterwards
Critical vs Sensitive

Sensitive Period- Period of time during which
exposure to a specific environmental condition (or
lack of exposure) has the potential for the greatest
influence.
– Often talking about an environmental effect
– Example: Divorce and Dating parents

Best way to distinguish the two is by the “specific
time period” and the finality of the consequence.

Optimal Period- When is the best time to experience
a particular environmental event
– Example: Bilingualism- Best if exposure before the age of 5.
Student Examples
Nature/Nurture
 Continuous/Discontinuous
 Active vs. Passive
 Critical vs. Sensitive
 Stability vs. Change

Additional Issues when
Studying Children
Developmental
Methods and Designs
of
Research
 Please refer to your text (p. 41-64) and let CJ

know if you have questions
Themes/Terms to know:
– Naturalistic Observation vs Structured Observation
– Why correlation does not equal causation

2 primary reasons in your text
– Third variable problem
– Directionality
– Difference between correlational designs,
experimental designs, cross-sectional designs,
longitudinal designs, and microgenetic designs.
Difficulties in Studying
Infants and Young Children
Ethics and Informed Consent

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–
–
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Issues?
Who is giving the consent?
How do you debrief a 3 year old?
Will your research paradigm permanently
affect the child?
Difficulties in Studying
Infants and Young Children
What are we measuring?

–
–
Can we be sure?
Infants can’t talk, can’t tell us what they are
thinking. Must INFER results.

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LOOKING RESPONSE- novelty/ preference/video
Young children don’t have words to express
abstract thoughts- Can you really ask “Why”?
Difficulties in Studying
Infants and Young Children
Individual differences

–
Developmental range of ability
acquisition is huge (relatively)

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–
Language, crawling
As children age, this range grows smaller
How do we know child’s “different” time
in acquiring skill isn’t within normal
limits?
Difficulties in Studying
Infants and Young Children

Changes over time
– Can we measure the same thing
exactly at 6 months old and at 36
months?

Example: Assessing Preference of
Stimuli
– Looking (or sucking) response vs.
– Verbal or gestural choice
Difficulties in Studying
Infants and Young Children
Other Issues
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–
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Experimenter influence on the childExperimenter is NOT the mom
Experiences outside the laboratorycreates diff behavior, heart rate, etc
Longitudinal research and cross sectional
research
How do we assess (aka what
research techniques) infants
and young children?
Cognitive Ability: Imitation

–
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Meltzoff and 17 minutes
Sucking response to measure several things
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non-nutritive sucking
Increased response with novelty (indicates ability to
differentiate)
Increased response with mom’s smell, voice (indicates
recognition)
Response to novelty to measure several things


Many ways to measure (above)
Rovee-Collier leg movement- Mobile switch- VIDEO
How do we assess (aka what
research techniques) infants
and young children?
Visual Orientation

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Distinction between novel/familiar

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Preference for novelty
Fagan Test of Infant Intelligence
Abstract faces preferred to scenic pics

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DRAWN FACE
Autism
Faces preferred to abstract pics

Infant monkeys
–
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Monkey faces to human faces
Black & White to color
How do we assess (aka what
research techniques) infants
and young children?
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Physiological Response
Respiration, heart rate, saliva (cortisol), pet
scans, MRI, FMRI
Developmental Assessments
Standardized tests- Examples

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Infants- APGAR –Immediately after birth. Bayley
Scales of Infant Development
Young Children- Motor Development Scales, IQ,
Adaptive Behavior Scales, Language
Middle School- Academic performance, Achievement,
Skills assessments
How do we assess (aka what
research techniques) infants
and young children?
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–
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Parent/teacher Reports- often in conjunction with
another technique
Surprisingly Candid
Problems?
Observation
Lab environment, structured and well controlled
Home observation, naturalistic
See the same things in the lab/home?
Parent-child relationship
Attachment, interactions research
Video record- wealth of data- 1st year Birthday Videos
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Controversies and Issues - University of Puget Sound