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Flashcards in biological foundations and infancy Deck (37):

Genes and the environment

Nature-nurture debate – is development explained by
our genes or on environmental influences
Behaviour genetics is the study of how our
genotype* interacts with our environment to
influence our phenotype**
*unique genetic inheritance
**person’s actual characteristics


The roles of ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’

Important role of twin and adoption studies in
assessing the role of nature and nurture
Adoption studies: family members share the same
environment but not the same genetics, or share
genetics but not the same environment
Twin studies: monozygotic and dizygotic
Twin adoption studies
Children of Twins design (CoT design)


Evaluation of twin/adoption studies

Tend to select adopting families based on similar SES etc as biological
parents – potentially confusing interpretations of environmental
DeFries et al (1994) adopted children often ‘wanted children’
Knowledge of the individual child as to their adoption status may
influence results
MZ twins look more similar – impact of this in terms of how they are
treated by others?
Nature and nurture therefore have complicated relationship – one of
interaction where it is difficult to assess individual contributions, but
both contributing to an outcome.


The nature-nurture paradox

No simple solution to the nature-nurture debate
Cole (2006) culture and neurobiology intimately intertwined
throughout the lifespan. The brain enables children to
develop through social and cultural nurturance
Heredity a developmental process
Need to remain mindful that particularly adults are active
shapers of their own development, e.g. Interests, lifestyles
May actively seek to challenge the traits instilled in them as
children through the forces of nature and nurture



Experiences of infertility
Causes of infertility:
◦ Too few sperm
◦ Poor quality sperm
◦ Low in motility
◦ Ovulation


Infertility treatments

Artificial insemination
Fertility drugs
In vitro fertilisation
Herbal remedies
Supernatural remedies


Birth and the Family

•For most families, a new arrival requires a re-jiggling of resources and
•Generally good preparation and training for birth and strong emotional
and social support following birth helps
•If this is a second or subsequent child, older children may worry about
their new role within the family
•Important to involve the child in new routines and try to maintain
significant old routines
•The role that siblings may play for individuals is one that we will return to
later in the course, and one that focuses on (for me) a fascinating


Postpartum Depression

Sigelman and Rider (2012) as many as 60% of all new mothers report
feeling tearful, irritable, moody, anxious and depressed within the first
few days after birth
• Also known as ‘the baby blues’ and generally passes
Postpartum depression is an episode of clinical depression that lasts
for months rather than days, and affects approx 1 in 10 new mothers
Significant implications for the parent-infant relationship
Murray et al (1999) children of depressed mothers less securely
attached during infancy, and less responsive to their mothers at 5
Some reports of behavioural issues with older children
Therefore important to acknowledge this as a potential issue


And what of the fathers...?

Cassidy (2006) when birthing moved to hospitals, men prohibited from
participating in births
Today many men attend prenatal classes and are present at the birth
of their child
Birth of a child also a significant life event for fathers. Mixture of
emotions, frequent reports of stress (Chapman 2000)
Requires a reframing of relationships – new relationship with child as
well as with partner
Doss et al (2009) many couples will experience postpartum declines in
their relationship – may last for 4 years
Keeton et al (2008) both parents experience less depression and
anxiety during parenthood transition if they have a greater sense of
control over events in their lives


Sleep patterns of new babies

Immediately after birth, infants typically sleep for 16 hours a day
• But variations in this – individual differences
By 6 months, average of 13 or 14 hours
By 2 years, average of 11 or 12 hours
Much more than typical adult of 6 to 8 hours per day
The type of sleep is also different
• Newborns divide their time between quiet sleep and ‘REM’ (active) sleep
• Some researchers believe REM sleep a way of stimulating the brain
which is vital for the growth of the CNS


Parental responses to sleep

Coren (1996) parents of infants and toddlers among the most sleep
deprived people in society
May be some influence on the family organisation
• Are there other adults living in the household who could share the load
of night-time waking?
Parents can help encourage regular sleeping patterns by developing
routines for sleep, feeding and wakefulness
• Harkness and Keefer (1995) comparison of Dutch and North American
• Found stronger culture of routine among Dutch families and therefore
fewer sleeping problems


The influence of culture on sleep

Around 4 to 5 months start to see cultural influences as parents
start being able to encourage their infants to sleep in longer
stretches (Goodnow 2001)
Morelli, Rogoff, Oppenheim and Goldsmith (1992) comparison of
Western and Mayan mothers in rural Guatemala
• Large differences in terms of expectations of infants sleeping alone
Super and Harkness (1997) differences in effort devoted to
changing babies sleeping patterns



An unlearned and involuntary response to a stimulus,
such as when an eye automatically blinks in response to
a puff of air (Sigelman and Rider, 2012)
Survival reflexes: have clear adaptive value
• Breathing, sucking, swallowing, eye blink, pulpillary
Primitive reflexes: not so clearly useful
• Babinski, grasping, Moro, swimming, stepping


Cultural and sex differences in
motor skills

Hamilton (1981) Aboriginal children in traditional communities
achieving some motor milestones earlier than their Anglo Australian
counterparts e.g. Sitting unaided
Kearins (1986) differences in carrying techniques and use of head
and neck support
WHO (1997, 2003) study of 8,500 infants, no sex differences but
some differences in culture-specific behaviours
Some differences in what children choose to do with their time
• Gender expectations and stereotypes?


Cognitive Development

How can we study infants ability to remember things if
they can’t tell us?
• Changes in heart rates
• Process of habituation
Lots of example in the text concerning using these
techniques to measure cognition and perception e.g.
• Depth perception: the visual cliff
• Visual cliff
But question concerning do children learn in a continuous
manner or do they learn differently at different stages of


Piaget: Sensorimotor stage

: early reflexes Birth – 1
Reflex reactions
2: primary circular reactions 1 – 4 months Adapt reflexes to new situations. Intentionally
look and listen to sights and sounds and
coordinate senses (e.g. Sucking, grasping)
3: secondary circular reactions 4 – 8 months repeat actions and use as a means to an end
(e.g. Shaking a rattle)
4: coordination of secondary
8 – 12 months Deliberate combinations of previously acquired
actions, imitate behaviours. Object permanence
5: tertiary circular reactions 12 – 18 months Systematic application of actions, well
organised, intentional investigations. Early
insight into cause and effect
6: symbolic thought 18 – 24 months Actions can represent other things, engage in
symbolic play


The concept of object permanence

Acquired in stage 4: coordination of secondary schemes
Belief that an object exists separately from their own actions and continues
to exist when they cannot see it
But even when they understand that objects can exists when they can’t see
them there is still the issue of the A not B error
Search for objects where they were found in the past rather than at the point
at which they ‘vanished’
• E.g. Look for a ball under the original sofa that is was under rather than the
armchair that it disappeared near
Skill with mental representations makes true object permanence possible


Assessment of sensorimotor stage

Suggestions that children may be able to complete this task earlier
than Piaget proposed
Lack of ability may be a reflection of motor skills
• Meltzoff, Koul and Moore (1991) this stage confuses a child’s motor ability
with cognitive or thinking abilities
This has been tested through the use of habituation experiments –
require only a visual search rather than motor coordination
Also suggestions that lack of object permanence a result of memory
But this d


Language acquisition

Language develops very rapidly and children need to
learn about the sound of language (phonology). The
actual words (lexicon), the meanings (semantics), and
the way these are used (semantics)
Language acquisition therefore requires two processes:
• Mastery of language structures – sounds,
• Learning how language is used – purpose,


The first sounds - babbling

Some evidence of the influence of nature and nurture
Between 4-8 months start to babble – repeat consonant and vowel
combinations e.g. Bababababa, in increasingly complex ways
All typically developing children babble around the same age,
regardless of culture or language they are exposed to
Deaf children also babble, but do so in different ways, and evidence
of ‘hand babbling’
Typically continues for 4-5 months after they begin to say their first


The first words

Two different styles of language learning
Referential style: this accounts for most children. First refer to objects
and object events
Expressive style: use words to express feelings and relationships e.g.
Hello, stop it!
Wider implications of language acquisition
• Meins (1997) proposed that infants who develop secure attachments tend
to acquire a more referential style of language
Need to consider the influence of parents and caregivers


Infant-directed speech

A style of language used when talking with young children
Used to be called ‘motherese’
Characterised by shorter sentences, simpler vocabulary, higher pitch
and slower pace.
Tends to include repetition
Generally felt to encourage early linguistic competence e.g.
• White (1993) Harvard preschool project. Found that the most intellectually
competent infants were talked to a lot by their parents and caregivers


Cross-cultural research on IDS

In Australasia generally regarded as a positive experience, and
research tends to back this up
However, some contradictions in cross-cultural work:
• Ho (1994) Chinese mothers talk to their children less frequently but
cuddle and hold them often. Chinese culture values educational success
and typically perform well in school
• Ochs (1998) Kaluli of Papua New Guinea and Parents in Western Samoa
rarely communicate with young children. But both acquire language within
expected time frames


The role of temperament

Temperament refers to an individual’s consistent pattern
or style of reacting to a broad range of environmental
events and situations as well as their pattern of arousal
and emotionality (Hoffnung et al 2010)
Debate concerning how much differences in temperament
are due to nature and how much to nurture
Parents certainly focus on temperament and may compare
the first child as ‘difficult and fussy’, while in comparison
the second was ‘easier and placid’


Thomas & Chess (1977, 1981)

Three patterns of temperament:
• Easy babies 40%: mostly positive moods, good at adapting to new situations
• Difficult babies 10%: negative moods, new situations stressful
• Slow to warm up babies 15%: like difficult but less extreme
•Mixed pattern babies 35% a blended unique pattern of other 3 types
•Classification useful in predicting problems for children who are difficult
or slow to warm up, but maybe less useful for the majority of easy babies
•Some evidence that temperament characteristics remain stable in adult
life e.g. Lewis (1993)


Historical and cultural influences

Kyrios et al (1989) compared temperaments of AngloAustralian
and Greek-Australian in Melbourne. Found
cultural background may have a significant effect on
infant temperament
Smart and Sanson (2005) compared two cohorts of
Melbourne babies born 20 years apart. Compared on:
approach-sociability; cooperation-adaptability; irritabilitysoothability
• Found 1983 cohort higher on irritability than 2004
• But also other changes in things such as access to services and
economic resources which may also have an effect


Case study: Australian
Temperament Project

Commenced in 1983
ATP is an ongoing longitudinal study following the
development of Victorian children and is now following
their children.
One of only a few in the world with information on three
generations of family members (i.e., the young person, their
parents, young person’s children)


The goodness of fit hypothesis

Thomas and Chess (1977) the chances of a highly active disposition
continuing into childhood will largely depend on the parents
tolerance for active boisterous offspring
‘goodness of fit’ describes the degree of overlap between a
particular style of temperament and the parents’ image of the ideal
Individuals also shapers of their own environment
Persistence into childhood and adolescence depends therefore on
the fit to parents’ values and larger cultural ideals



Attachment refers to the strong and enduring emotional bond that
develops between an infant and a caregiver during the infants first
year of life. This relationships is characterised by reciprocal affection
and a shared desire to maintain physical and emotional closeness
(Ainsworth and Bowlby 1991; Main 1995 in Hoffnung et al 2010)
Harlow and Zimmerman (1959) rhesus monkeys clung to cloth
surrogate mother rather than wire one that provided food.
Demonstrated that food alone not sufficient for attachment. Same
argument applied to infants


Phases of attachment (Bowlby 1969)

Phase 1: Indiscriminate sociability (birth – 2 months)
• Actively promote contact
• Limited attachment and less selective
Phase 2: Attachments in the making (2 – 7 months)
• Increasing preference for familiar individuals
• Tolerance of temporary separations from parents
Phase 3: Specific, clear cut attachments (7 – 24 months)
• Separation anxiety
• Stranger anxiety
Phase 4: Goal oriented partnership (24 months +)
• Secure attachments grounded in a sense of basic trust


What about separation

Generally appears between 9-12 months
Clinging, tearful, crying and distressed
Normal behaviour


Patterns of Attachment

Secure attachment pattern
• 65-70%
• Wary of stranger, happy when reunified with mother
•Anxious-resistant (aka ambivalent)
• 10%
• Very upset by separation, sought closeness on reunification, but also pushed away
• 20%
• Little involvement with mothers
• Added later
• Greatest degree of insecurity


Cross-cultural understandings

Patterns of attachment vary around the world
60-65% tend to be securely attached but wide variations in other patterns
• Grossman et al (1985) Northern Germany anxious-avoidant twice as common
• Takahasi (1990) Japan anxious-resistant three times as common
Partly reflect differences in cultural values and the child rearing practices
that these values foster
However most are securely attached so likely to be a combination of
several factors: cultural values, inborn temperament, parenting styles
Variations also in developmental meaning of attachment patterns


Consequences of attachment

Securely attached tend to be better at cooperating with parents and
accepting help when needed
Less securely attached may not learn as well from parents
The effects of having a secure or insecure attachment as an infant may
persist late in life
• Can be seen in childhood and also in adolescence and adulthood
The Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) has been used to evaluate the
childhood attachment relationships that adults had with their own
caregivers. 4 patterns:
• Autonomous (secure); dismissing (insecure); preoccupied (insecure);


Influences on attachment

The role of the mother
• Quality of infant-mother relationship during first year of life a
major determinant of individual differences in attachment
• Based on mothers own ‘working models’ – if they are securely
attached more likely to have securely attached infants
The role of the father
• Similar range of attachment patterns as mothers
• Likely to have more physical interactions with children
• Parental conflict can impact on attachment


Working parents

Baxter et al (2007) longitudinal study of Australian children
• 38.1% of mothers of infants employed
• 60% of mothers of 4-5 years employed
• 92% of fathers
• Higher employment rates for women with higher levels of education
Most infants with FT and PT working mothers securely attached
but FT more likely to be less securely attached
BUT effects rarely direct. Need to consider SES, cultural
differences, mothers morale, fathers attitudes, the type of work
and work demands, quality of daycare etc etc


NICHD (1997)

Aim: to test Bowlby’s hypothesis that infants who attended child care
outside their homes on a regular basis have a higher risk of
developing insecure attachments
1153 infants and mothers, range of demographic diversity
• 53% in full-time child care
• 23% in part time child care
• 24% exclusively home-reared
Assessed attachment patterns through strange situation and child
care observations
Found: child care neither a risk or benefit to infant-mother attachment
Seems that quality over quantity may be the key factor