Human Growth and Development
1) How does the human body and nervous systems develop? What developmental milestones must infants accomplish? What sensory capabilities do infants possess?
The physical development of infants starts from the head and then goes to the rest of the body. For instance, they begin sitting and walking after sucking. Physical growth relates to an increase in the body size (height, weight and the size of organs). Specialists have determined developmental milestones, which babies must reach. At birth, they cannot control their body movements because most of them are reflexes. The nervous system of infants is not completely developed too. However, most of infants gain some control of the nervous system and movements by four months. Thus, they can sit with the help of adults, hold their head (but not for a long time), and turn their position to lie on the stomach. By five months, infants can turn around. By six-twelve months, babies still need a rest in the morning and in the afternoon but they begin to sleep and eat at certain times. Infants have three meals daily and drink from bottles or cups. They can sit without support and crawl using their hands and knees. By eight months, they take, hold and throw things. Infants begin to stand and walk with support of adults.
Infants possess few sensory capabilities. First, they can hear. This capability appears prior to the birth and achieves the mature stage only when infants are born. Babies respond better to the human voice. Second, they can touch, taste and smell from the birth. Their favorite taste is sweet. Third, they possess vision. However, newborn infants can see only within eight-twelve inches. They start to distinguish colors between four-six months. When infants are two-month old, they develop the capability to follow moving articles up to 180 degrees. Newborns like looking at faces. Finally, they have inner ear (vestibular) senses. Babies react to wavering and modifying of position.
2) What are the fundamental features of Piaget's theories of cognitive development? How do infants process information? How is infant intelligence measured? By what processes do children learn to use language?
Piaget’s theory of cognitive development explains the nature and development of human intelligence. The researcher stressed that the first years of human life have a significant impact on further development. Piaget believed that cognitive development was a result of mental processes, which occurred due to biological development and experiencing the environment. Language is developed because of capabilities gained during cognitive development. Therefore, parents are advised to give their infants a varied supportive environment for their proper development.
Infants process information using two ways, such as memory and imitation. Older infants possess more capabilities of encoding and retrieving data. Newborns reflexively repeat some movements (sticking out of the tongue). Over some time, infants begin to demonstrate deferred imitation, which means that their actions involve not only reflexes, but also some mental processes.
Infants’ intelligence is measured through various tests that demonstrate whether babies have developed capabilities required for their age. For example, specialists apply the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, which contains such assignments as smiling, turning around and imitating some sounds.
Learning theorists believe that children learn to use language through imitation and reinforcement. However, they can imitate sentences because they do not know grammar. Nativist theorists state that language development includes the cooperation of experience and prewiring. The first words are usually pronounced between eleven and thirteen months. Before that, children express themselves through prelinguistic vocalization (crying, babbling), which is essential for further language development.
3) What sort of mental life do infants have? What is attachment in infancy and how does it affect a person's future social competence? What individual differences distinguish one infant from another?
One of the first capabilities that the brain develops is managing emotions. Starting from two months, babies begin to demonstrate pleasure or unhappiness as a reply to received care. Then these first emotions develop into surprise, gladness, rage, or grief. The infant learns whom he or she can trust. Attachment is shaped to parents. If the latter provide constant care with love, children receive positive experiences about the world. In the future, this allows them to trust other people and create proper relations with them. Besides, such humans have more power to deal with stressing situations.
Infants have differences in socioemotional development. For example, babies possess various attachment styles and temperaments. Some experts believe that the attachment style depends on the culture where the child is raised. Four attachment styles can be distinguished. First, there are “securely attached” babies. They search for comfort from the parent during reunification and when they receive it, they start playing with toys. Second, there is a group of “insecurely attached-avoidant” children. These infants ignore their caregivers during reunification and concentrate on their toys. Third, researchers distinguish “insecurely attached-resistant” children, who demonstrate mixed reactions during reunions with the mother. In the beginning, infants go to the caregiver but then run away. Finally, some of them show a “disorganized” attachment style. They go to the caregiver but then suddenly fall on the floor and begin swinging. However, all these attachment styles depend on the mother’s behavior. For example, caregivers of “securely attached” babies are sensitive and answer to all emotions of their children. Mothers of “insecure” infants normally neglect needs of their infants.
Infants’ temperament results from constitutional aspects. The main elements of temperament are activity level, negative emotionality, soothability, fearfulness and sociability. Infants have different levels of all these components, and this distinguishes them from each other greatly.
4) What do you think are parents’ most salient concerns during the physical, intellectual and emotional development during infancy and what can they do to stimulate these areas. Just give three examples for each - the physical, intellectual and emotional developmental aspects.
The most salient concern during the physical development of children is whether the child grows in accordance with the set norms. To grow, infants need proper nutrition and loving constant care of the mother. Therefore, the latter should be very sensitive to all emotional signals of her child. In such way, the newborn demonstrates his/her needs of food or comfort. Besides, it is important to visit doctors regularly because they can measure whether the infant grows according to the norms existing for his or her age. Children also need support and encouragement in developing their capability to control their movements.
Besides, parents worry about the intellectual development of their children. Thus, they want infants to start speaking earlier. The task of parents is to provide children with more opportunities for imitation and reinforcement. For example, the mother can speak to a child, sing songs, read and respond to his/her trying to say something. Even if the baby does not understand the parent’s words, he/she develops the basis for future language development. Besides, some researchers connect language development with the development of motor skills. For example, before starting babbling, infants develop such motor skills as waving and shaking. Therefore, parents can apply some joyful games for the stimulation of this area.
As for emotional development, parents worry that their children are too shy or too aggressive. In other words, they cannot express their emotions properly. To avoid this, caregivers should start paying attention to the emotional development of their child from the birth. The most important thing is develop the trust of children to the world. The child should receive food every time when he/she is hungry. When the infant cries, the mother needs to calm him/her down nicely. Parents should be as much sensitive as it is possible. It also relates to relations in the family because the child feels emotions well.