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Theories of Infant Development

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1 Theories of Infant Development
Fogel Chapter 2 Created by Ilse DeKoeyer-Laros

2 Experiential Exercises
Overview Chapter 2 Biological Approaches Learning Theories Cognitive Theories Systems Theories Clinical Theories Experiential Exercises

3 What is a Scientific Theory?
“a set of concepts that explains the observable world with structures, processes, or mechanisms that are presumed to exist but that cannot be observed directly” (p. 44) Helps to organize systematic observations, using accepted methods of observation and assessment Phrased in terms of general principles that can be applied to specific research findings and applications. Should accurately predict future observations in a majority of cases.

4 Theories of Human Development
Focus on describing and predicting the ways in which children change over time & the origin of individual differences

5 Biological Approaches
Charles Darwin: natural selection: those who can successfully adapt to the environment will live long enough to reproduce & pass down their characteristics to the next generation the environment influences which types of characteristics will survive and continue to evolve

6 Biological Approaches
Genotype: raw genetic code, made up of DNA molecules the actions of the genotype are affected by the environment surrounding the genes this happens via the epigenome – biochemical markers that turn on or off the actions of particular genes within each cell Phenotypes: the products of the genotype-environment interactions include tissues but also behaviors, intelligence, temperament

7 Biological Approaches
the genotype determines the opportunities by which the environment may have an influence on the phenotype

8 Biological Approaches Behavior Ecology Theory
The study of behavior from an evolutionary perspective: all animals have species-specific behaviors that evolved through the process of natural selection

9 Biological Approaches Behavior Ecology Theory
Critical period: limited period of time during which learning can occur that has a permanent and irreversible effect the first 6 prenatal months (brain & body) the early years (attachment, language)

10 Biological Approaches Behavior Genetic Theory
the study of possible environmental and genetic explanations for individual differences in behavior and personality characteristics Research compares individuals that vary in their genetics and environments Genetics: twins (identical vs. fraternal), regular siblings, adopted siblings Environment: shared or nonshared

11 Biological Approaches Behavior Genetic Theory
Heritability – the extent to which individual differences are due to genetic factors the percentage of variability between individuals explained by genetic variability appr. 30% of the differences between people can be explained by genetic variability A certain set of genes increases the probability of developing a particular characteristic – but doesn’t determine it

12 Biological Approaches Behavior Genetic Theory
Often, environmental variability has a larger probability of predicting individual phenotypes than does genetic variability many genes, each with a small influence Sometimes, genetic variability between individuals has a larger probability of predicting phenotypes than does environmental variability e.g., inheriting or not inheriting color blindness genes

13 Problems with Biological Approaches
Harder to apply to phenomena that did not occur in the original “species-typical” environment Difficult to sort out the relative effects of genetic and environmental variability Behavior genetics does not tell us anything: about the probability that a particular individual will inherit a genetic potential or show a characteristic about the ways in which genes and environment act to produce a phenotype – no guidelines for intervention or for enhancing development

14 Learning Theories Major contributions: Major types:
discovered simple yet powerful ways to enhance learning have shown that any species can be trained to achieve more than expected by evolutionary models of species-typical behavior Major types: Classical conditioning Operant conditioning Social Learning Theory

15 Learning Theories Classical Conditioning
An unconditioned response will occur at a new, conditioned stimulus after repeated exposure to pairing of conditioned & unconditioned stimuli

16 Learning Theories Operant Conditioning
B.F. Skinner ( ) Picture: Operant conditioning: the process by which the frequency of an operant (spontaneous behavior) is controlled by its consequences

17 Learning Theories Operant Conditioning
Reinforcers – consequences that increase the frequency of the preceding behavior Positive reinforcer: an action or reward that follows the operant and increases its frequency Negative reinforcer: the removal of an aversive stimulus increases the frequency of an operant Punishment – unrewarding consequence that decreases the frequency of an operant Extinction – the frequency of an operant decreases when a reinforcing consequence is removed

18 Learning Theories Social Learning Theory
Social Learning Theory proposes that: infants come to control not only their behavior but also the behavior of other people around them entirely new behaviors could be acquired almost immediately through observational learning the self (including cognitions and motivations) is an intelligent actor and organizer of information Picture from webs Albert Bandura ( )

19 Problems with Learning Theory
Real life is more complex than laboratory! Many other processes (e.g., genetics) may influence the way behavior is acquired Cannot explain the sequence and timing of developmental stages Cannot explain the spontaneous emergence of new behaviors E.g., stranger anxiety even when children have no experience with strangers, or smiling in blind infants

20 Cognitive Theories Focus on the mental experience of the person and aim to understand intelligence – how people of different ages know about, perceive, plan, and remember their experiences Behavior is considered a form of intelligence: most of what people do is goal directed and depends on knowing what to do in certain circumstances Types Constructivist Theory Information Processing Theories

21 Cognitive Theories Constructivist Theory
Intelligence is a form of adaptation to the environment Knowledge is an active process of co-construction between the knower and what is to be known Jean Piaget (1896–1980)

22 Cognitive Theories Constructivist Theory
Two principles of biological adaptation: Assimilation: individuals use their existing abilities in response to challenges from the environment – the application of what one already knows or does to the current situation Accommodation: the alteration of existing abilities to better fit the requirements of the task or situation Most actions involve both assimilation and accommodation

23 Cognitive Theories Constructivist Theory
Piaget’s main goal was to apply his theory to the development of human intelligence – he looked for the origins of intelligence in infancy First two years of life: sensorimotor substage explore & learn through movements and senses main feature: the growth of infants’ understanding of their bodies and how these relate to other things six substages (see Chapters 5–10)

24 Cognitive Theories Constructivist Theory
Appr. age (in months) Piaget’s Substage 1 0 – 2 Reflex schemes 2 2 – 4 Primary circular reactions 3 4 – 8 Secondary circular reactions 4 8 -12 Coordination of secondary circular reactions 5 12 – 18 Tertiary circular reactions 6 Invention of new means through mental combinations

25 Cognitive Theories Constructivist Theory
Individuals play an active role in their own development – motivation for developmental change comes from the experience of disequilibrium Infants develop knowledge by means of their own actions on the environment – it is constructed Infants will learn better from experiences that can be assimilated to their current level schemes: available set of skills and knowledge – sensorimotor or conceptual

26 Problems with Constructivist Theory
Development does not always occur in the stages defined by Piaget research has shown that certain behaviors may appear earlier than Piaget’s stages suggest that they should (e.g., imitation in newborns) Piaget did not take into account the effects of adults on infants

27 Cognitive Theories Information-Processing Theories
Goal: to specify the way in which the mind handles the information presented by the environment Research usually with sophisticated technology e.g., to measure such things as visual fixation time, eye movement patterns, auditory sensitivities

28 Problems with Information-Processing Theory
Few clues about how each component develops – more a theory of how infants act and think than a theory of how action and thought develop Many different approaches and thousands of research studies – difficult to interpret, especially since there is no broad theoretical framework

29 Systems Theories Goal: to understand developmental change in the whole child in the whole environment System: a set of interdependent components, each of which affects the others in reciprocal fashion Theories include: Ecological Systems Theory Interactive Systems Theory Dynamic Systems Theory

30 Systems Theories Transaction: the process by which systems components affect each other in a bidirectional and reciprocal way Example: Infant: smiles Parent: relaxed, attentive, & smiles

31 Systems Theories Systems have the property of self-organization: organized patterns emerge out of the mutual influences of each component of the system on the others

32 Systems Theories Feedback: components of a system have an effect on their own behavior during their transactions with other components deviation-correcting feedback (or negative feedback) deviation-amplifying feedback (or positive feedback)

33 Systems Theories deviation-correcting feedback maintains a system’s characteristics over time in spite of small deviations Parent: stressed Infant: smiles Parent: relaxed deviation-amplifying feedback changes a system as a result of a small deviation Parent: stressed Infant: fussy Parent: more stressed Infant: cries more

34 Systems Theories Ecological Systems Theory
The ecology of human development “the study of the progressive, mutual accommodation, throughout the life span, between a growing human organism and the changing immediate environments in which it lives, as the process is affected by relations obtaining within and between those immediate settings, as well as the larger social contexts … in which the settings are embedded” (Bronfenbrenner, 1979).

35 Systems Theories Ecological Systems Theory

36 Systems Theories Ecological Systems Theory
4 levels of system functioning Microsystem: all direct relationships between child & environment Examples: the family, play groups, church groups Mesosystem: relationships between the microsystems Example: interaction between family & day care center Exosystem: social systems that affect (but don’t include) the child Examples: parents’ work, media, school board Macrosystem: written & unwritten principles (e.g., beliefs, values, rules) that regulate everyone’s behavior

37 Problems with Ecological Systems Theory
Does not specify how these systems affect the child No guidance concerning which of the ecological factors are most likely to affect a family & under what circumstances Is not developmental – does not explain how how infants develop from one age to the next

38 Systems Theories Interactive Systems Theory
Louis Sander: recognized that parent and infant develop together as a system in relationship to each other over time Picture:

39 Systems Theories Interactive Systems Theory
Vygotsky: all individuals are defined by the social group and that knowledge is an active social construction adults do not directly socialize the child but follow the child’s own motivations to learn mutual, cooperative transaction is at the heart of Vygotsky’s theory, which is why it is sometimes called sociocultural theory Lev Vygotsky ( )

40 Systems Theories Interactive Systems Theory
Zone of proximal development: the time during which the next achievement in skill is about to occur but has not occurred yet

41 Systems Theories Interactive Systems Theory
The concept of the zone of proximal development suggests that children will acquire culturally acceptable practices only if parents can adjust the timing and level of their actions to the ongoing motivational state of the children

42 Systems Theories Interactive Systems Theory
Guided participation: the active role that children play while observing and participating in the organized activities of the family/society in the company of adults Cultural differences In one study, Mayan mothers maintained adult status level, while U.S. mothers acted more like peers Pictures: Pictures:

43 Problems with Interactive Systems Theory
Focuses on short-term developmental changes and does not provide a framework for understanding developmental change Focuses on parent-infant relationships, or small groups of co-participants, and not on broader issues (e.g., family systems) research inspired by Vygotsky’s work, however, explicitly focuses on cultural factors and differences

44 Dynamic Systems Theory
How does novelty emerge? Dynamic systems theory gives conceptual & methodological tools to understand this Ilya Prigogine: interested in phenomena that make their own energy & become increasingly complex by generating novel forms Self-organization: the ability of systems to maintain themselves and to develop new forms Picture from the web (wikipedia) Ilya Prigogine ( ) Picture from

45 Dynamic Systems Theory
Many dynamic systems display two properties They form predictable and stable patterns in their macroscopic behavior They are relatively unpredictable in their microscopic behavior Examples Seasons are generally expected to occur around the same time each year, but day-to-day weather patterns are hard to predict precisely Infant development can be described in general stages, an individual infant’s behavior on a given day and pattern of development cannot be predicted

46 Dynamic Systems Theory
Chaos: microscopic unpredictability in the context of macroscopic stability Figure 2.7 – trajectory of a mathematical equation that traces a path in 3-dimensional space that is similar on each cycle but never exactly the same

47 Dynamic Systems Theory
Dynamic systems theory is unique in that it allows for the possibility of indeterminism Determinism: all events have a cause, which can be found with enough scientific work we are unable to predict events in a person’s life because we simply do not have sufficient data Indeterminism: even if we could measure all the relevant variables, we still could not completely predict future behavior & development Butterfly effect – a very small perturbation creates unpredictable novelty in a system, which results in macroscopic developmental change in the system

48 Dynamic Systems Theory
Self-organization spontaneously creates novelty

49 Dynamic Systems Theory
Esther Thelen and Alan Fogel applied dynamic systems theory to explain infant development Infant development is not entirely predictable from biological, social, or cognitive factors

50 Dynamic Systems Theory
New abilities emerge through the dynamic indeterminacy of self-organization Thelen: 6-month-olds have all the skills for walking, except for the ability to balance. When this ability develops – by about 10 months – infants walk spontaneously (self-organization) Fogel: many forms of interpersonal communication are transactional (there is feedback between the participants) and this transaction is characterized by continuous mutual adjustment of action and creativity

51 Dynamic Systems Theory
Co-regulation: the continuous mutual adjustment and co-creativity that appears in spontaneous communication synonym for self-organization as applied to interpersonal communication explains both stability and change frames: repeating patterns of co-activity such as greetings, games, conversation topics creativity is inherent in communication and provides the seeds for spontaneous change

52 Problems with Dynamic Systems Theory
Relatively new theory – description of infant development is still rather general and it could take years of research to further develop the theory Due to origins in physics, sometimes uses complicated mathematical models, but human development is not easily reduced to measurable quantities

53 Clinical Theories Observed infant: Clinical infant:
based upon direct observations of infants, constructed from quantitative research methods Clinical infant: constructed from clinical work with older children and adults and based primarily on qualitative research methods and participant observations

54 Clinical Theories Clinical infant:
Participatory memories: nonconceptual composed of emotions, desires, and a sense of familiarity, without any specific time or place, felt as a being with or a reliving of past experiences (e.g., the feeling of what it was like to be cuddled) Conceptual memories: recall about an event communicated in the form of a verbal narrative, composed of specific categories for type of event, time, and place

55 Clinical Theories No matter what research method is used, infants’ psychological experience will always be unobservable by adults

56 Clinical Theories Infantile amnesia: the inability to have conceptual memories of infant experiences Participatory memories likely to be unconscious, because they occurred when we did not have language or because they were traumatic nonverbal and often involve the whole body often transformed over time for example, the memory of being ignored in infancy may be changed into feelings of depression in the adult

57 Clinical Theories Psychotherapeutic Approaches
Freud wanted to explore whether patients with psychosomatic complaints had any memory of a trauma that might have occurred early in life free association: asking clients to lie down and encouraging them to relax and say anything without fear psychoanalysis: the use of free association along with interpretation in psychotherapy Infants are dominated by the id (irrational needs and desires) gradually learn to control their impulses through the ego – the ability to tolerate discomfort & frustration and to moderate the pursuit of pleasure

58 Clinical Theories Psychotherapeutic Approaches
Erik Erikson: viewed each stage of development as a potential crisis of the personality leading to a new sense of individual identity development might progress or get sidetracked More social emphasis – focused on the way in which the infant’s body related to the family and to society

59 Clinical Theories Psychotherapeutic Approaches
Freud Erikson 0 - 1½ Oral: Focus on experiences of the mouth (e.g., sucking, eating, crying, biting) Trust vs. mistrust: Development of expectancy for either gratification or frustration 1½ - 3 Anal: Focus on experience in anal region such as elimination and retention Autonomy vs. shame/doubt: Self-assertiveness and self-control or uncertainty and shame Table 2.5 Psychoanalytic Stages of Development

60 Clinical Theories Psychotherapeutic Approaches
Margaret Mahler (1975): psychoanalyst who believed that many psychopathologies could be prevented by early intervention; worked with infants and young children Infant psychiatry: the application of clinical psychology to work with infants & their families most clinical interventions in infancy focus on the parent-infant relationship and on parent education

61 Clinical Theories Psychotherapeutic Approaches
Daniel Stern (1985) infants have early senses of self that remain with the person throughout life Emergent self (0-2 months): awareness of how the different movements, sensations, and feelings cohere into recognizable states Core self (2-8 months, also called the ecological self ): the experience of being an active agent that does things in the world, has feelings, and has a history of prior experiences Subjective self (8-15 months): infants discover that they have inner experiences that are different from others around them, and they can choose to share feelings and experiences with others Verbal self (after 15 months): use language to talk about inner states and to construct a coherent identity in the company of other people

62 Clinical Theories Somatic Awareness Approaches
May use talk, but typically use body movement & touch as a way to access the participatory memories of early childhood since infants experience their world via movement and touch, this seems to be a more direct route to an adult’s infant experience than merely talking

63 Clinical Theories Somatic Awareness Approaches
Watsu: clients are moved freely in the water, stretched gently, and cradled in the practitioner’s arms “By being moved so freely through the water, by being stretched and repeatedly returned to a fetal position, the adult has the opportunity to heal in himself whatever pain or loss he may still carry from that time” (Dull, 1995, p. 65).

64 Clinical Theories Somatic Awareness Approaches
Rosen method: by listening to the client’s body with gentle touch and to the words they use to describe their experience, the practitioner can help the client to relax, relieve pain, and breathe easier the body tells its own story

65 Clinical Theories Somatic Awareness Approaches
Moshe Feldenkrais (1904–1984), originally a physicist and judo instructor, invented The Feldenkrais Method organic learning: very young children use all their senses and every part of their bodies, while adults appear to involve less of themselves Feldenkrais believed that alienation from the body contributes to habitual, usually unconscious, patterns of muscular tension and psychosomatic illnesses

66 Clinical Theories Somatic Awareness Approaches
Two Feldenkrais methods Awareness through Movement students are asked to make small, slow movements )often based on the movements observed in babies), reduce their efforts, and sense how even simple movements are connected with every part of the body Functional Integration students lie on a padded table as a practitioner gently touches and moves them, promoting deep relaxation, kinesthetic awareness, and new ways to move

67 Clinical Theories Somatic Awareness Approaches
Bodymind centering (BMC): adults do exercises based on normal infant sensorimotor development has been used in the treatment of parent-infant relationships at risk & and with infants who experience sensorimotor difficulties Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen dance teacher & physical therapist could help many clients by taking them through the sensorimotor stages of prenatal and infant development, step by step

68 Clinical Theories Somatic Awareness Approaches
Dance Movement Psychotherapy – expressive dance-like movements to foster a more integrated sense of self in relation to others successful for infants and children with autism, communication delays, sensory integration difficulties, hyperactivity, and trauma (Tortora, 2006) kinesthetic empathy: the ability to feel another person’s feelings by moving like that other person Somatic psychotherapy: focuses on felt bodily sensations, breathing, and movement on the pathway to psychological well-being

69 Problems with Clinical Theories
More could be learned by combining systematic qualitative with quantitative methods Hard to prove whether participatory memories of infancy are what that adult actually experienced as a baby memories of early infancy are typically about feelings and body states, not about particular incidents the adult’s parents would find it difficult to remember whether a particular event happened, and even if they did, their experience of it as a parent would not be the same as the infant’s experience Psychoanalytical theories tend to focus reward or blame on the parents, but the child contributes as well No one approach can treat all behavioral and psychological issues of children and adults

70 Experiential Exercises: Exploring the Clinical Infant
The infant’s psychological experience is unobservable – so how can we understand the “clinical infant”? by re-experiencing infant-like movements, sensations, and states of being by interacting with infants as a participant observer by talking to your parents or caregivers about your own infancy

71 Experiential Exercises: Exploring the Clinical Infant
This book includes Experiential Exercises – simple exercises that allow an opportunity to experience the clinical infant for yourself Do these in a quiet room where you can feel what is happening in your body. Many students feel self-conscious when first doing this. It is, after all, unusual for adults to act like babies! Almost all students, however, change their minds after actually doing the exercises for a while.

72 Experiential Exercises: Finger painting
Done individually or in groups Need materials, space and time Just start painting! Notice the concrete feelings in yourself such as emotions or sensations of color, temperature, texture. Notice if any memories come back to you. Are they pleasant or unpleasant? What does this experience tell you about yourself today? About yourself as a child?

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