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Stages of Early Development

Prenatal Period
Infancy - Birth to 15 months
Toddler Period - 15 months to 2 ½ years
Preschool Period - 2 ½ to 6 years
The Middle Years - 6 to 12 years


Prenatal Period

The Germinal Period - First 2 weeks
Period of the Embryo - 3 to 7 weeks
Period of the Fetus - 8 weeks to birth


- One-celled zygote divides into
- 2 separate cells >> 4 >> 8 >> 16 >> multicelled organism
- Most rapid growth of the entire life span
- Implantation one week after conception

The Germinal Period (First 2 weeks)


- Growth is rapid and orderly
- 2 directions of growth
1. Cephalo-caudal : from the head downward
2. Proximo-distal : from the center (spine) toward the extremities

Period of the Embryo (3 to 7 weeks)


Developmental Damage

- Damage at the fetal stage usually has a more global impact than damage after birth
*Rapidly growing organs are the most vulnerable
- Boys are more vulnerable



- Fetal movements detected by 16 – 20 weeks
- Bright light flashed on the abdominal wall at 20 weeks causes changes in fetal heart rate and position


Behavior: Reflexes

Reflexes are present:
Grasp reflex appears at 17 weeks
Moro (startle) reflex at 25 weeks
Sucking reflex at 28 weeks


Maternal Stress

- High levels of stress hormones in the fetal bloodstream (Epinephrine, norepinephrine, and adrenocorticotropic hormone)
*Act directly on the fetal neuronal network to increase BP, HR and activity level


Mothers with high levels of __ are more likely to have babies who are hyperactive, irritable, of low birth weight and who have problems feeding and sleeping



Maternal depression

- risk factor for the socioeconomic and cognitive development of children
- Women of childbearing age are prone to depression
*Premature birth
*Low birth weight
*Developmental problems - Less active, more agitated


INFANCY: Birth to 15 months

Developmental Landmarks
1. Physical Development
2. Language and Cognitive Development
3. Emotional and Social Development
- Temperamental Differences
- Attachment
- Infant Care


Reflexes at Birth: 3 sets of reflexes critical for survival 1

1. Helps the newborn maintain constant body temperature
*When infants are cold, they cry, shiver and tuck their legs close to their bodies


Reflexes at Birth: 3 sets of reflexes critical for survival 2

2. Ensures adequate nourishment
- Sucking reflex
- Rooting reflex
- Swallowing
- Crying


Reflexes at Birth: 3 sets of reflexes critical for survival 3

3. Maintains an adequate supply of oxygen
- Breathing reflex
- Hiccups, sneezes, spit-ups


Infancy: Size and Shape

- Size, shape and skills change daily
- Growth follows the same orderly sequence as prenatal growth:
*from the head downward and from the center outward
- Affected by the interaction of genes, diet, experience and the quality of care


Infancy: Vision

Near vision:
- In the first weeks of life, babies seem to focus reasonably well on objects between 7 to 10 inches away

Distance vision:
Newborn: 20/600
4 months: 20/150


Infancy: Development of Motor Abilities

- Follow the cephalo-caudal and proximo-distal sequences
*The upper part of the body is controlled before the lower part is
*The arms are controlled before the hands and fingers are
- By the end of infancy, infants have transformed reflexes into voluntary actions


Infancy: Language and Cognitive Development

- Birth – noises
- 8 weeks – babbling
- Jean Piaget’s stages of cognitive development: Sensorimotor
- Critical achievements:
Object permanence


Infancy: Dreams

- Reality and fantasy are not yet fully differentiated
- Dreams may be experienced as if they were, or could be, true


Infancy: Emotional and Social Development

Imitative behaviors by the age of 3 weeks


Infancy: Smiling response occurs in 2 phases

1. Endogenous smiling
- Occurs spontaneously within the first 2 months
- Unrelated to external stimulation

2. Exogenous smiling
- Stimulated from the outside
- Occurs by the 16th week



Birth: Pleasure, surprise, disgust, distress
1 ½ - 2 mos: Joy
3 – 4 mos: Anger
8 – 9 mos: Sadness, fear
1 – 1 ½ yrs: Tender affection


Infancy: Developmental Task

Learning basic trust in himself and in his world or a basic distrust / mistrust


Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas

Temperamental Differences
- Inborn differences among infants
- 9 behavioral dimensions


9 Behavioral Dimensions (1-5)

1. Activity level
2. Rhythmicity
3. Approach or withdrawal
4. Adaptability
5. Intensity of reaction


9 Behavioral Dimensions (6-9)

6. Threshold of responsiveness
7. Quality of mood
8. Distractibility
9. Attention span and persistence


(Behavioral Dimensions)
- The motor component present in a given child’s functioning

- Some babies kick a lot in the uterus before they are born, they move around in their cribs, and as soon as they are old enough, they always climb or run.
- Other babies are much less active.

Activity Level


(Behavioral Dimensions)
- The predictability of such functions as hunger, feeding pattern, elimination, and the sleep-wake cycle

*Some babies have regular cycles of activity. They eat, sleep and defecate on schedule almost from birth.
*Other babies are much less predictable.



(Behavioral Dimensions)
- The response to a new stimulus, such as a food, toy or person

*Some babies delight in everything new; others withdraw from every new situation.
*The first bath makes some babies laugh and others cry; the first spoonful of cereal is gobbled up by one baby and spit out by the next.

Approach or Withdrawal


(Behavioral Dimensions)
- The speed and ease with which a current behavior can be modified in response to altered environmental structuring

*Some babies quickly adjust to change; others are unhappy at every disruption.