[Home]   PSY 101    [Psychology
                Images] Development I: Prenatal & Childhood Development

Consider these two children
Johnny W.
(Kristof, 2014, Feb. 22 & 2014, Mar. 02, NY Times)
Alex R.
Johnny W with motherJohnny is a 3 year old,  happy and friendly kid born to a single White mother. He lives in Point Pleasant, WV in a trailer with his mom who doesn't have enough money to fix her broken car.
  • However, as an infant, Johnny was deaf but it was not noticed until he was 18 months old. While medical treatment allowed him to hear, he is still having difficulty speaking. Johnny does attend preschool.
  • In his community, 20% of children are actually born with alcohol or drugs in their systems.
  • Other difficulties faced by children similar to Johnny W. are
    • ingesting lead from peeling paint as a toddler. (66.7% of homes in Mason Co., WV built before 1980)
    • living in homes with no books
    • attending weak schools (71.7% graduation rate & 63.5% college attendance rate from Johnny's local high school in 2010-11).
    • living in neighborhoods with a high level of gang violence
  • Alex is a 3 year old, happy, and friendly kid born to married White parents. He lives in Manlius, NY. His father is an engineer and his mother teaches school in the Fayettevile-Manlius (F-M) school system.
  • As a newborn infant, he developed a bilateral ear infection and became significantly deaf because of fluid build-up. The problem remained even after a course of antibiotics. His parents first noticed at the age of 4 months that he didn't seem either to startle at loud sounds or to respond to his mother's voice. He was examined by his pediatrician and referred to a specialist around 5 months of age. He was fitted with ear tubes and his hearing was restored. His speech is normal for a child of his age.
  • Alex R. is enrolled in a preschool program (one of the 106 programs available in the Syracuse area).
  • 6.4% of the families in his community live below the poverty level (2013 data; 3.5% of the children in Manlius live in poverty).
  • The F-M school district that Alex will attend eventually is one of the best in NY State. It usually graduates 100% of its students (who, in 2010 had an average SAT score of 1718 vs. 1508 for the US) and 98% go on to college. His home is about 15 years old and contains no lead-based paint.  

How do you think each of these children will develop over the next twenty years?

What are the most important factors affecting how these children will develop?

Development is the sequence of age-related changes that occur as a person progresses from conception to death.

 Prenatal Development


Prenatal Development
Guidelines of Care for Children with Special Health Care Needs:
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effects
Minnesota Department of Health 1999

Prenatal Development

1. Germinal: Conception to 2 weeks

2. Embryonic State: 2 to 8 weeks

3. Fetal State: 8 weeks to 38 weeks

  Environmental Risk Factors to Fetal Development

1. Maternal Malnutrition, esp. if mother has severe lack of nutrition

2. Stress & Emotion. High levels of stress on the mother may affect hormonal balance during gestation. Anxiety & depression in mother are associated with behavioral difficulties in their children

3. Maternal Drug Usage: Tobacco, cocaine, prescription drugs, etc.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome4. Maternal Alcohol Consumption

5. Maternal Illness (Infections)

6. Environmental Toxins, e.g., air pollution (affects cognitive development at age 5); flame-retardant materials -> slower mental & physical growth

7. Fetal Origins of Adult Diseases. Links to adult-onset diseases are increasingly found when researchers look back at the prenatal experience of people. Conditions such as depression, mood disorders, obesity, diabetes, etc. have been found to be related.

 Early Childhood

Physical & Motor Development [Child/Adult Growth]
[Growth Chart]

Pattern = (1) cephalocaudal (head-to-foot) & (2) proximodistal (center-outwards)

Maturation = development which comes from the unfolding of genetic blueprint

Developmental Norms 

Cultural Variations

   Temperament: Easy vs. Difficult Babies [Not in text, but important]

Temperament = characteristic mood, activity level, & emotional reactivity

Thomas & Chess: Longitudinal Study

1956: 141 middle class children
1961: added 95 children from working-class background
Followed these children into adolescence & adulthood
Temperament well established by 2-3 months
Three styles
Remainder (35%) are mixtures of the other styles

   Early Emotional Development: Attachment

Attachment = close, emotional bond of affection between child & caregivers

Separation Anxiety = emotional distress shown by infant when separated from those whom they are attached to

Patterns: Research by Harry Harlow, Mary Ainsworth (1913-1999, see photo) and others

Harlow    Ainsworth  

Form of child's attachment arises out of complex interplay between infant & mother. Both child & mother are active contributors to this process.

In the 1950s, Harry Harlow found that, among baby monkeys removed from contact with their mothers, there was a distinct preference to hold on to "substitute mothers" who were covered in terry cloth rather than to hold onto wire mothers which fed them. When these monkeys were frightened, they sought contact (comfort) with the cloth-covered mothers. This challenged the operant behavioral prediction that they would prefer the figure which had rewarded them with food.

Based on work by the British psychologist John Bowlby after World War II in the UK, an evolutionary theory of infant behavior developed to argue that infants are biologically programmed to emit positive responses to their caregivers, especially their mothers, by smiling, cooing, etc. These responses by babies, in turn, elicited from their caregivers a greater willingness to care for them. A powerful bond (attachment) arises between baby and caregiver.

Mary Ainsworth, a psychologist at SUNY Stony Brook, researched the qualities of the attachments of these children. She originally argued there were three different types and, later on, a fourth type was identified. In each of these forms of attachment, young children develop "an internal working model of the dynamics of close relationships" (p. 330 in Weiten, 2013) which will effect the ways they interact with others as they grow up.

The Strange Situation
YouTube: 3'14"

Ainsworth devised an experimental situation in which children between the ages of 14 and 24 months of age could be observed and evaluated on the type of attachment with their parent. Here is the description for that experiment called the "Strange Situation" from Wikipedia.

In this procedure of the strange situation the child is observed playing for 20 minutes while caregivers and strangers enter and leave the room, recreating the flow of the familiar and unfamiliar presence in most children's lives. The situation varies in stressfulness and the child's responses are observed. The child experiences the following situations:

    Four aspects of the child's behavior are observed:

Types of Attachment

  1. Secure Attachment: playful, exploring, sociable (67% in US White middle-class)

  2. Anxious-Ambivalent: visual checking, clinging, moving toward contact (21%)

  3. Avoidant: maintains proximity but avoids close contact (12%)

  4. Disorganized: lack of any coherent or organized response by child [not in book]

Cultural Differences in Attachment

Communicating: Language Development

Toward Words
Using Words

Parent-Infant Speech & Language Learning (not in book; from Weisleder & Fernald, 2013))

 Personality Development: Erikson's Theory

Stage = developmental period in which characteristic patterns of behavior are exhibited and certain capacities become established

Stage theories in developmental psychology hold that

1. Individuals pass through stages in a certain (invariant) order

2. Stages are age-related

3. Each stage represents a qualitative change or transition (discontinuous from past stages)

Three important stage theories in development are

[Joan & Erik
          Erikson]   Erik Erikson (1902-1994)

Developmental Stage
(Approx. Age)

Freudian Stage
Erikson's Stage

Infant (0-1 yo)
Oral Basic Trust vs. Mistrust
Toddler (2-3)
Autonomy vs. Self-Doubt
Early Childhood (4-6)
Phallic Initiative vs. Guilt
Late Childhood (7-12) Latency Industry vs. Inferiority
Adolescence (13-18) Genital
Ego Identity vs. Role Confusion
Adult Transition (19-26)
(Not examined
by Freud)
Intimacy vs. Isolation
Early/Middle Adulthood (26-55)
Generativity vs. Self-Absorption
Later Adulthood/Old Age (55+)
Integrity vs. Despair

     Here is a diagram of the most important stage theories in current psychology (will open in new window) or in pdf format
Evaluation of Erikson's Theory
  • His theory has been very productive in getting researchers to investigate development broadly.
  • Understands the importance of the social context in which development takes place.
  • Accounts for both continuity and transitions in development.
  • Inadequate to describe individual differences in personality
  • Culturally-grounded: American, and particularly, male development may be over-emphasized

Originally posted 10/6/03. Last changed on Oct 7, 2016