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The Main Concepts Related To Child Development

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Today, my best friend Danielle called me. I picked up the phone, and on the other end of the line is the girl that I have known since I was born. I asked her, “Hey! How are you?”, to which she replies, in a frantic tone, that she just found out she is pregnant. My friend and I have been inseparable since birth, so I pretty much know everything about this girl. This means that I also know that she has little-to-no working knowledge regarding children or even how to take care of a child. I also know that I can be of great help in teaching her about average pregnancies and children, since I am currently taking a Child Development course. I am going to teach my friend Danielle about sensitive prenatal periods, newborn reflexes, Piagetian ideas of cognitive changes, and attachment and security of attachment in children.

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Sensitive periods during the prenatal period are very important and may have lasting effects that could span the the rest of the child’s life. A sensitive period is defined as “when teratogens are most effective at disrupting prenatal development”. I selected this concept to educate Danielle because I am aware that my friend has had history with certain substances that, when pregnant, become potentially harmful teratogens, which can and will affect her fetus. For instance, if Danielle did not know that alcohol is a harmful substance to a fetus, and continued to drink her favorite mimosas, she could be potentially damaging her baby’s Central Nervous System, which is one of the most integral parts of a human and their development since it includes the brain and spine. Also, if she was not aware that nicotine was a harmful teratogen and could affect the baby during the sensitive period of development, then there can be lasting effects such as, “exert[ing] its harmful effect on the fetus by constricting the blood vessels, which leads to less blood flow to the baby. Because blood circulating from the mother is the only way the fetus can get oxygen, this leads to hypoxia, or low flow of oxygen, and the fetus effectively suffocates, leading to low birth weight or even death”. One last example of a teratogen I know she has used that will affect her baby during sensitive periods is cocaine, which like most illegal drugs, disrupt the development of neurons and brain tissues. This could lead to cysts in the brain, which after birth can create learning and/or behavioral problems.

Informing Danielle about sensitive periods may help decrease the likelihood that she would drink another mimosa, smoke from her vape, or use a stimulant like cocaine during the duration of her pregnancy in order to protect the budding baby in its prenatal development from potential and preventable birth defects. She can use this information to avoid using them herself, and steer clear of those around her that use them as well. She can also use this information to educate others about the harmful effects teratogens may cause. When it comes to newborns and their reflexes, I know my friend knows almost nothing about it. Reflexes are defined as “involuntary movements or actions. Some movements are spontaneous and occur as part of the baby’s normal activity. Others are responses to certain actions”.

I selected this concept to explain to Danielle because I know that she is unaware that babies are more complex and predictable than she might believe. One example of what could happen if Danielle did not know about reflexes in newborns is that she might not be aware that when a baby’s palm is stroked, it will close their hand in a grasp, called the Grasp Reflex. She might just believe that this baby wanted to hold her finger, or whatever it may be, and not realize it is in fact a reflex. Another example is the Rooting Reflex; when the corner of the baby’s mouth is stroked or touched, the newborn will turn their head and open their mouth in order to “root” in the direction of the stroking. “This helps the baby find the breast or bottle to begin feeding”. If she did not know about this reflex, she might not be able to tell when the baby is hungry or is actually just exhibiting a reflex when the baby’s mouth was brushed against. One last example is the Moro, or startle reflex, where the baby will “throw back their head, extends out their arms and legs, cry, and then pull the arms and legs back in”. Babies do this in response to loud sounds, sudden movements and even their own cry can trigger this. If Danielle isn’t aware of this reflex, she might just believe her baby is easily irritable and won’t know how to change the environment in order to make it more comfortable for her baby. Informing Danielle about the concepts of reflexes can benefit her and her baby by making sure the baby’s Central Nervous System is developing normally, helping Danielle learn cues about her baby such as if the baby is uncomfortable or hungry, and lastly, this knowledge can benefit her by also benefiting other women or men that she might choose to share this information with, which can in turn reduce the number of unhappy babies and possibly, in turn, create better sleep for those around the baby.

The next concept Danielle should know about are the Piagetian ideas of cognitive changes. I want to teach her about this because I know she likely has no idea what or who Piaget and his importance to theories of child development are, even though she might understand better after I explain them. Piaget’s ideas of schemas, adaptation, assimilation and accommodation are important to his theory of cognitive development in children. Danielle might not know that a schema is a “cognitive structure that represents knowledge about everything that we know about the world, including oneself, others, events, etc. ” If she did not know about this, she might not realize that her baby is constantly trying to “connect the dots” between reality, such as that not every animal that has four legs is a cat, and not every animal has legs, and that she is partially responsible for teaching the baby about the world. When it comes to adaptation, or “building schemes through direct interaction with the environment”, this happens through assimilation; which is “using an existing schema to deal with a new object or situation”, and accommodation; which happens “when the existing schema (knowledge) does not work, and needs to be changed to deal with a new object or situation”. If she did not know about Piaget’s theory regarding assimilation, she might not realize that, for example, if the only older man with a beard the baby has ever seen was Santa at the mall, the baby might try to assimilate every older man with a beard into its schema for “Santa”. Also, if Danielle did not know about Piaget’s theory about accommodation, she might not know that she can teach her baby that every older man with a beard was in fact not Santa, but just men with beards, and the baby can modify their schema of Men With Beards into a larger, more accommodating category other than Santa only. Some examples of why Danielle and the baby might benefit from learning about Piagetian ideas of cognitive changes is that not Danielle will see the importance of introducing new objects, food, people and ideas into the baby’s life starting when the baby is young in order to create larger schemas. Another benefit is that when discovering new things about life, the baby can create their own experiments in life, thus learning from the baby’s own experience, may it be sweet potato fries or boiling water, the baby’s knowledge of “Yummy” or “Hot!” will expand to accommodate new experiences. Lastly, another benefit to Danielle from learning about this concept is that she can know to explain the process of what she is doing during a new scenario while she shows a presentation of what she is saying, in order to assimilate in the baby’s mind a connection between the two.

The last concept I would like to teach Danielle about is about attachment and security of attachment in infancy and toddlerhood. I know that her upbringing was one that lacked a lot of emotional support from her mother, since her mother was addicted to drugs most of her young childhood life and her father tried to be the loving parent, but had 4 other children to tend to as well, so I figure attachment is something that may be of use to her. Attachment is defined as “the emotional bond that typically forms between infant and caregiver is the means by which the helpless infant gets primary needs met. It then becomes the engine of subsequent social, emotional, and cognitive development. ” Attachment has also been found to affect personality development, in particular a sense of security, and research shows that “it influences the ability to form stable relationships throughout life”. One example of what could happen if Danielle did not know about this concept of attachment is that although I have no doubt she will provide for her baby’s basic needs -at least- but she will learn that her baby depends on her for much more than food, as shown in Harlow’s monkey experiment. Also, if she did not know about this concept then she would not know that babies also learn social interactions by observing their parents, so since Danielle had a difficult upbringing as a result of her parents lifestyles, hopefully Danielle would take away from this concept that attachment is important in forming parent-child bonds.

Lastly, if she did not know about this concept, she might not realize that babies are more confident in exploring their environment when they feel they have a caregiver to come back to for safety. Informing Danielle about this concept could benefit both her and the baby by learning that children are “better able to control their negative emotions in stressful situations”.

Another benefit is that “they develop better social competence, learn to match feelings with words in dealing with what’s happening around them, and they are less liable to develop internalizing and externalizing behaviour problems”. The last benefit Danielle may reap is the knowledge that children “learn through their parent’s caring behaviours to have a sense of worth, and to empathize and cooperate with others”. The social skills children observe from their parents, like Danielle will soon be, will help the babies form strong relationships with peers in the future.

Overall, I hope Danielle takes my teachings about sensitive prenatal periods, newborn reflexes, Piagetian ideas of cognitive changes, and attachment and security of attachment in children to heart and practices them when she becomes a parent.

15 July 2020

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