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Bruce D. Perry Social & Emotional Development in Early Childhood

Maggie Tao
PPS 6009
Bruce D. Perry: Social & Emotional Development in Early Childhood
How do we make the world better for our children and grandchildren?
● Transgenerational change is possible in our human species because our brain stores
information at a speed that allows us to effectively absorb information
● More specifically, the part of our brain that allows us to use information from
experiences is the neocortex
○ Morals, values, beliefs are formed in the neocortex
Sociocultural Evolution
● “The rate of change in the last several generations has been faster than our rate of
problem solving to deal with that level of change” - Bruce D. Perry
○ One generation did not have cars on the road, while one generation had cars but
didn’t have TV screens
● Inventions between generations can be good or bad
○ Inventions are a set of guidelines that help us understand what to teach our
children in order to pass on traits that we desire future generations to have
○ Reading - 10,000 years ago no single human read, but presently, reading is a
fundamental aspect of life
○ Values play a huge role in intentional teachings
■ If family values sports, they will provide time and resources for sports,
which in turn allows the individual to really develop a strong skill set of
motor skills to adapt to specific activities within that value
○ “Inertial” or unintentional inventions are things that are passed down without the
active purpose of advancing it to the next generation
■ Example: spanking a child when they hit other peers to teach them not to
Sociocultural Devolution
● Traits that are not directly passed onto the next generation goes away
○ Example: Grandma makes cookies, other people in the family try to replicate it
but fail, since Grandma did not explicitly state exact ingredients to her cookie
recipe, the phenomenal cookies are gone forever
Neglecting Biological Gifts
● Power of relationships
○ Small, multi-family groups are diminished in the modern world through the
concept of private space and decreased average household sizes
○ In hunter-gatherer societies, a 6 year old child’s ratio of scaffolding through
learning from more mature, developed individuals to child is 4:1
○ In today’s society, it is acceptable to have a 1:8 teacher and student ratio
○ We lack human interaction because we spend a majority of time behind a screen
■ Lack of relational interactions create a huge impact on the way our body
and neural connectivities react to things such as empathy, stress responses
■ Senses such as touch and hearing connect us to each other that influence
how we develop
● Brain malleability in early childhood
○ Use-dependent development - brain development is created through use by which
when a system in the brain is activated, it is changed to create patterns of memory
and learning
○ Highly verbal environment = higher vocabulary by 2 years old
○ Positive relational interactions with peers, strangers, family create repetition for
feelings of reward and regulation where stress responses are lower (smiles from
○ Poverty of reward in lack of relational interactions creates harmful problem
solving tendencies: drinking alcohol, drugs, unhealthy diet
■ Essential to understanding public health issues such as obesity, substance
abuse and how some are more susceptible to health issues than others
○ Increased screen time causes imbalance between age and socioemotional skills
■ i.e. an 18 year old now has the cognitive skills of an 18 year old, but the
socioemotional skills of a 6 year old and show more self-centered traits
such as taking selfies and tweeting about what they had for lunch
■ Although screen time is not all bad, it has been a problem that we are
unable to master through regulation of it
It is equally or more important to develop curriculum around social and emotional development
than STEM
● Disengaged youth that are able to represent our democracy (18-29 year olds) during
elections is a representation of lack of social and emotional skills
● Deficits of new college graduates looking to join the workforce include interpersonal
Becoming Humane
● Humans become humane not because they are innately human, but because they develop
the ability to care, share, listen, value, empathize, be compassionate from the same
capacities of being cared for and nurtured
● Lack of these capacities cause inhumane humans through the diminished lack of human
Early Childhood and Developmental Histories on Health
● Fundamental growth of our brain slows down at age 4-5
● Higher adversity during childhood = at risk for expressing issues in physical and mental
health and social issues
○ Dropping out of school, cardiovascular disease
○ Risk for heart attack is greater for individuals who have 3 or more childhood
adverse experiences than an individual who smokes 2 packs of cigarettes in a day
○ Relational health is a protective factor to adversity
■ Adversity causes vulnerability, but positive relationships protect us
○ Ways of increasing relational health to buffer inevitable adversity effects
■ Having siblings share a room even though parents have the means to
afford a home with separate rooms for each child
■ No TVs in children’s bedrooms and if TV time is regulated, watch TV
together in the same space
■ Causes and develops better capability of creating, sharing, learning
Capitalizing Biological Gifts
● Early childhood investments is imbalanced through the spending of money for high
quality childcare and resources and the potential for opportunity
○ i.e. the brain’s capacity for change is optimal, but the resources given and the
funding provided for programs to help with utilizing the malleability of the brain
does not make sense
● Since our world is growing more diverse, we are doomed if we don’t value
socioemotional skills because these are fundamental capacities of being able to share and
learn from one another
Maggie Tao
PPS 6009
I found Bruce D. Perry’s lecture on social and emotional development in early childhood
both intriguing and provoking in understanding the ways early human interactions parallel
characteristics in adulthood and quality of life. Our human brain is unique in the sense that we
are able to store and retrieve information in order to create aspects such as values and morals in
our neocortex (Perry, 2014). Several key differences in the ways that children are raised in their
homes and communities make way for the significance of being able to adapt and understand
children as a whole, rather than the way they process information in the academic setting. I feel
that this understanding is pivotal in my career as a school psychologist because much of how we
deal with resilience through adversity depends on our ability to utilize our social and emotional
Dr. Perry brings light to several issues throughout his lecture. Among that is the rate in
which our human race is inventing and the lack of intention of solving issues within these
inventions. For instance, modern society places great value in privacy and having our own
individual space which leads to decreased average household sizes and less human interaction as
compared to hunter gatherer societies where both extended and immediate families are under the
same roof. With that said, one can imagine the amount of stimulation and absorption of
information a child can receive from multiple adults in a large multi-family household in contrast
to a household that consists of only the child and his or her parents. Vygotsky’s social learning
theory on child development and the ways children make meaning through social interactions is
a great way to understand the effects of child to more experienced adult ratios. In hunter-gatherer
societies, the average ratio of child to a more mature individual is 4:1. By contrast, today’s
society accepts the average teacher to student ratio of 1:8. How are we able to scaffold learning if
we are unable to attend and divide our attention between 8 individuals who have their own ways
of learning and absorbing information?
Furthermore, the development of curriculum has been centered towards STEM (science,
technology, engineering, and math) for generations. It is equally as important to teach
socioemotional skills because we are finding that the youth is extremely disengaged in situations
such as representing our democracy through voting during elections and the difficulty of finding
jobs as a college graduate due to a lack of interpersonal skills (Perry, 2014). I feel that the lack of
interpersonal skills is created through the significance that our education system places on
aspects such as receiving good test scores rather than teaching values of empathy so to speak. As
school psychologists, it’s important to assess children, but it is equally as important to
understand and emphasize social interactions among peers and how to adequately solve problems
at an early age. Our world is increasingly becoming more diverse and our profession gives us
great capacity of hope in increasing socioemotional skills and positive relational interactions
among one another as most of our lives are spent in the school environment - why not utilize
these hours and minutes to place emphasis on values that make us human?
Festival, C. H. (2014, December 11). Bruce D. Perry: Social & Emotional Development in Early
Childhood. Retrieved from