Donette Steele, M.A. / Clinical Psychology

Developmental Psy - Chapter 5


Why Childhood

Special Social Learning Tasks

  We need to learn the rules of our society.

  We need to learn to speak.

  We need to understand the intentions of others.

  We need to absorb societies knowledge base.

Slow Growing Frontal lobes

  Growth of neural connections and pruning of unused neurons occurs in the frontal lobes on a delayed timetable.

  As the frontal lobe matures, we mature from toddler to infant to adolescent.


Physical Development

  Cephalocaudal growth

  Growth occurs from top to bottom

  Larger heads, squat bodies

  Mass to specific growth

  Mass movement precedes precise movement

  Precision can be improved through training

  In younger years - girls out perform boys in precision (fine motor skills) but, boys out perform girls in power (gross motor skills).

  Nutrition plays a major role in this developmental period

Motor Skill Milestones

Growth Threats

Threats to Development and Health


 can lead to reduction in height

 can also bring on puberty faster

  Inadequate protein intake


     less developed muscles, bones, and brain tissue, compromises both gross and fine motor development, produces apathy.


Childhood Obesity

  BMI = ratio of one’s weight to height; obesity is characterized as being at or above the 95th percentile of the norm in the NHANES poll

  15% of children today are obese

  Two times as many obese children in the U.S. since 1970s

  Two times as many obese children in England since 1990

  Four times as many obese children in Egypt since 1988

  Socioeconomic factors:

Developed nations show overweight in low income

Underdeveloped show it in upper incomes

Obesity rates in U.S. seen highest among African American and Hispanic boys and girls


Childhood Obesity


Factors Influencing Obesity

  Sedentary lifestyle

   Air-conditioning - less outside play

  Oversized portions in restaurants


  Parental obsession about food

  Eating fast, rather than slow consumption

Childhood Obesity Experts

Self-esteem vs. Obesity

  Self-esteem is more associated with parental anxiety than actual body mass.


Diseases of Obesity

  Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are on the rise in our young.

Typically a disease of aging, related to being heavy

  High blood pressure

can lead to heart disease



Dealing With Childhood Obesity

Cognitive Development

Piaget’s Preoperational Stage

  Preoperations (pre-ops) are defined by an inability to step back and think – to perceive differently.

Preoperational stage begins at 2 years of age.

They already have object permanence.

They are using language as a means to an end.

They understand intentions of others.

Until about age 8, they can only see what meets the eye.


  Pre-op:  Strange ideas about substances

  Conservation tasks

 A variety of tasks involving changing the shape of a substance to see if children can look beyond the appearance of the substance.

  They are centered – stuck on one aspect

  They do not understand reversibility

  They do not understand class inclusion

  They have trouble with seriation tasks

  Bigger=more; taller=older

Face Value

Pre-op: Peculiar Perceptions about People

  Pre-op children lack identity constancy

  A scary mask turns a person into a monster


  Giving life to inanimate objects


  Giving human characteristics to non-humans


  Humans make everything, including natural phenomenon


  The inability to see anotherfs point of view


Cognitive Development

Piaget’s Concrete Operational Stage

  Concrete operations are defined by the ability to reason and think; more adult like

Concrete stages begins at around age 5

   They can reason conceptually about concrete objects

Major shifts start to occur around age 8

   Cannot think abstractly in a scientific way

Full development may not occur until age 10 or 11


Using Piaget

How can we use Piaget’s ideas?

  It will happen when a child is ready.

Explaining there are no monsters under the bed; instead useanti-monster spray

  Children must have the ability to do a task before you try to use it in teaching.

academic schoolbegins between 6 and 7


Critically Evaluating Piaget

  Since concrete operations appear gradually, is it right to call the two distinct stages?

  Piaget derived his theory from a small biased sample of children (his own).

  Piaget overestimated egocentrism.

  Societal factors and scaffolding can influence the timetable for the emergence of concrete operations.


The Zone of Proximal Development

  The difference between solving a problem by oneself and solving it with the help of another is the Zone of Proximal Development.

  Scaffolding is providing the proper support for learning –tailoring to the child.

  Infant directed speech is a type of scaffolding.


Becoming an effective scaffolder         

  Break complex problems into smaller strategies

  Give non-threatening feedback

  Continue to give assistance as long as it takes

  Set frameworks and motivation for learning

Other societies see scaffolding differently

  Even in our own society. there are different approaches to scaffolding that appear to work equally well.

The Information-Processing Perspective

  Development is continuous rather than distinct

  The scientific method is paramount to research

  They use the computer as a metaphor for the mind


An example of how IPP is used...


  We know there are three areas of memory:

Sensory memory

Working (short term) memory



Working memory holds about 7 items (+-2)

  Tests using phone numbers show that an unknown area code can disrupt retention of a new number.

  How much can we recall?

Toddlers: 2 numbers

Seven-year-olds: 5 numbers


As the frontal lobes activate, we get new abilities:

  Executive functions


  Selective attention

  Inhibiting responses




Executive functions

Ability to inhibit responses

Giving time to reflect, plan and direct behavior

Development of heuristic strategies for problem solving


Repeat information to embed it into memory

Selective attention develops

 Young children tend not to focus

 Older children learn to focus

Inhibiting responses

 Young children and adults with frontal lobe damage have trouble inhibiting

 A good game to test inhibiting capability and train inhibition is Simon Says


How can we use the IP Theory?

  We need to teach rehearsal strategies

  Help to focus young people on topic

  Expect to regularly remind children to do a task

  Use scaffolding to create organization

  In memory recovery situations:

Asking leading questions to children is dangerous and leads to false memories

What about children out of sync with the norm?

  What happens when a child cannot concentrate?


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

  A disorder predominant among boys


 Excessive restlessness

 Easily distracted

 Difficulties focusing

 Difficulties with selective attention

 Usually found in elementary school

 Competing stimuli produces problems

 Multi tasking is nearly impossible


How can we help children with ADHD?

  They need a lot more gentle handed treatment.

  Create a child-centered environment.

  Never expect them to multitask.

  Take away the temptation of competing objects.

  Give specific times for “physical” play.

  Consider the possibility that certain foods are effecting the inhibitory centers of the brain. Be aware of any specific ingestion that causes specific behaviors.


Inner Speech

  According to Vygotsky: learning to regulate behavior and master cognitive challenges; “talking to oneself”

  Vygotsky believed all childhood intellectual skills came from language development

  Founded by scaffolders and repetition

Developing Speech

  Phonemes are the sound meaning of words

C is for Cat

At the age of 3, children have trouble with multi-syllable words

During elementary school, this problem is largely resolved.



Interestingly, hand coordination outpaces vocalization skills and children develop sign language skills faster than speech.

  Phonemes are the basic sounds of speech.

  Morphemes are the basic meanings of language.

One measure of language acquisition is thegmean length of utterancehor MLU.

  Syntax is the system of grammatical rules in a language:

The last thing children learn is the syntax of their language, which is the grammar rules.


Children learn grammar in stages:

  When they start putting three words together, they begin to show an understanding of grammar.  “Me want milk” makes grammatical sense, but “milk want me” does not.

At age 2,  words ”me out” shows grammatical sense

  Semantics – the meaning of words

 increases astronomically in the first 6 years, but it never ceases, so we can learn new words until we die.

  Chomsky’s Language Acquisition Device (LAD) is a supposed brain mechanism that prepares us for learning semantics.


  Overregularization – is the use of the regular tense with irregular words:

I have two hands, therefore, I have two feets.

If I have two cats, I must have two mouses.

If I walked, I must have runned and swimmed.


  Overextensions – is the extension of a word meaning to a broadly incorrect use:

If children have a dog at home, they may determine that all four legged creatures are dogs.

Or, children may decide that their animal is a dog and every other animal must be something else (an underextension).

The Enduring Self

Constructing our personal past

  Studies of autobiographical memories indicate that scaffolding with past talk conversations helps children build a personal past.

  Scaffolding seems to work well by talking about shared experiences.

  An adult’s leading questions create richer autobiographical selves in the children.

  Cultural differences in autobiographical talk occur:

  Experiments show differences between individualistic and collectivistic societies.

Theory of Mind

Making sense of other minds

  By age four, children really begin to relate to each other

  They develop a theory of mind

Other people have other thoughts and perspectives

   At age four, children know their thoughts are not another person’s thoughts
   At age four, they can use this information to manipulate their world (Can I Daddy? Mommy said it was OK.)
   Four-year-olds know how to lie


Specific Cognitive Skills

Children see that people have different minds earlier than Piaget predicted

  Some research pinpoints theory of mind at 18 months

  Some children with older siblings develop theory of mind earlier – maybe as a self-defense mechanism

  Autism interferes with the development of theory of mind and, therefore, autism impairs socializing skills

  Down’s syndrome slows the development of theory of mind, but doesn’t stop it from developing