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1) Given the way the brain and nervous develop, what sort of sensory environment would probably be most conducive to healthy neural development in the infant? Why? Inadequate nutrition before birth and in the first years of life can seriously interfere with brain development and lead to such neurological and behavioral disorders as learning disabilities and mental retardation. There is considerable evidence showing that infants exposed to good nutrition, and adequate psychosocial stimulation had measurably better brain function at twelve years of age than those raised in a less stimulating environment.

Early stress can affect brain function, learning, and memory adversely and permanently. New research provides a scientific basis for the obvious fact that children who experience extreme stress in their earliest years are at greater risk for developing a variety of cognitive, behavioral, and emotional difficulties later in life. How the brain develops hinges on a complex interplay between the genes that you are born with and the experiences you have. Early experiences have a decisive impact on the architecture of the brain, and on the nature and extent of adult capacities. Early interactions don’t just create a context, they directly affect the way the brain is ‘wired’. Brain development is non-linear; there are prime times for acquiring different kinds of knowledge and skills. By the time children reach age three, their brains are twice as active as those of adults. Activity levels drop during adolescence. What they need along with appropriate sensitive and responsive parenting:

• Protection from physical danger
• Adequate nutrition
• Adequate health care, such as immunization, oral rehydration therapy and hygiene
• Appropriate language stimulation
• Motor and sensory stimulation
• Caring interaction with family and other adults including age-appropriate play

Children require protection from violence, trauma, and unsafe environments. Early Childhood Development is largely dependent on love, physical and verbal stimulation and play – often termed “psychosocial development”. In its broadest sense, the term psychosocial refers to the social, emotional, mental and motor domains. Practically, this means touching, talking, caring for and playing with children.[1] Babies use their senses to take in information about the world around them every waking moment. Although they can’t interpret what they take in for the first few months, they are storing up knowledge to help them do this later.

As young infants become capable of perceptual judgments involving distance, direction, shape and depth, they are soon able to organize their observations in their mind, which allows them to categorize objects and understand the differences between things that they see (e.g., people, animals, furniture). This helps them to understand the world around them. Around 6 months, they understand the concept of object permanence, which means that objects still exist even if they can’t see or hear them. As babies become more mobile, they begin to develop problem-solving skills, such as how to get to the toy they want, and their growing banks of observation and memory help them understand cause and effect. Little ones learn about the world best through experience, and their “playtime” is actually curious exploration that helps them understand what things are and how they work.[2] Sensory environment for infants:

• Toys with lights
• Toys with music
• Toys that make noise
• Toys with colors
• An adult introducing these toys to the infant
• An adult that talks and interacts with the infant during play

2) Why is the emergence of a capacity for mental representation essential for the development of thought? How do mental representations of a blind infant differ from those of a sighted infant? In what ways might they differ? In what ways are they the same? Swiss theorist Jean Piaget inspired a vision of children as busy, motivated explorers whose thinking develops as they act directly on the environment. Piaget believed that the child’s mind forms and modifies psychological structures so they achieve a better fit with external reality. In Piaget’s theory, children move through four stages between infancy and adolescence. During these stages, Piaget claimed, all aspects of cognition develop in an integrated fashion, changing in a similar way at about the same time. Piaget’s first stage, the sensorimotor stage, spans the first two years of life. Piaget believed that infants and toddlers “think” with their eyes, ears, hands, and other sensorimotor equipment. They cannot yet carry out many activities inside their heads. But by the end of toddlerhood, children can solve everyday practical problems and represent their experiences in speech, gesture, and play.[3]

A mental representation (or cognitive representation), in philosophy of mind, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and cognitive science, is a hypothetical internal cognitive symbol that represents external reality, or else a mental process that makes use of such a symbol; “a formal system for making explicit certain entities or types of information, together with a specification of how the system does this.” Mental representation is the mental imagery of things that are not currently seen or sensed by the sense organs. In our minds we often have images of objects, events and settings.[4] The emergence of mental representation is essential to the development of thought in that it uses one’s imagination and memory of past events. The mental representations of a blind infant are different than those of a sighted infant because the blind infant has to rely on other sensory memories. The blind infant relies on the sense of taste, touch, smell, and hearing to recall certain things and events. The sighted infant relies on sight, taste, touch, smell and hearing to recall certain things and events. The mental representation of both infants is important to the development of thought because it uses past memories to conclude new theories. 3) Can you discern a relationship between reciprocal socialization and operant conditioning?

Explain. Reciprocal socialization “is a socialization process that is bidirectional; children socialize parents just as parents socialize children”. For example, the interaction of mothers and their infants is sometimes symbolized as a dance or dialogue in which following actions of the partners are closely coordinated. This coordinated dance or dialogue can assume the form of mutual synchrony, or it can be reciprocal in a more precise sense. The actions of the partners can be matched, as when one partner imitates the other or when there is mutual smiling. When reciprocal socialization has been investigated in infancy, mutual gaze or eye contact has been found to play an important role in early social interaction. “In one investigation, the mother and infant engaged in a variety of behaviors while they looked at each other; by contrast, when they looked away from each other, the rate of such behaviors dropped considerably”. “In short, the behaviors of mothers and infants involve substantial interconnection and synchronization. And in some investigations, synchrony in parent-child relationships was positively related to children’s social competence. One example of parental response to children’s behavior is the elicitation of scaffolding behavior, which in turn affects the level of behavior children show in the future.

Scaffolding refers to parental behavior that serves to support children’s efforts, allowing them to be more skillful than they would if they relied only on their own abilities. For example, in the game peek-a-boo, parents initially cover their babies, then remove the covering, and finally register “surprise” at the babies’ reappearance. As infants become more skilled at peek-a-boo, infants gradually do some of the covering and uncovering. Parents try to time their actions in such a way that the infant takes turns with the parent. In addition to peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake and “so-big” are other caregiver games that exemplify scaffolding and turn-taking sequences. Scaffolding can be used to support children’s efforts at any age”. “In one investigation, infants who had more extensive scaffolding experiences with their parents, especially in the form of turn taking, were more likely to engage in turn taking as they interacted with their peers”.[5] Operant conditioning (or instrumental conditioning) is a type of learning in which an individual’s behavior is modified by its consequences; the behaviour may change in form, frequency, or strength.

Operant conditioning is a term that was coined by B.F Skinner in 1937 Operant conditioning is distinguished from classical conditioning (or respondent conditioning) in that operant conditioning deals with the modification of “voluntary behaviour” or operant behaviour. Operant behavior operates on the environment and is maintained by its consequences, while classical conditioning deals with the conditioning of reflexive (reflex) behaviours which are elicited by antecedent conditions. Behaviours conditioned via a classical conditioning procedure are not maintained by consequences. Reinforcement and punishment, the core tools of operant conditioning, are either positive (delivered following a response), or negative (withdrawn following a response). This creates a total of four basic consequences, with the addition of a fifth procedure known as extinction (i.e. no change in consequences following a response). It is important to note that actors are not spoken of as being reinforced, punished, or extinguished; it is the actions that are reinforced, punished, or extinguished.

Additionally, reinforcement, punishment, and extinction are not terms whose use is restricted to the laboratory. Naturally occurring consequences can also be said to reinforce, punish, or extinguish behavior and are not always delivered by people. • Reinforcement is a consequence that causes a behavior to occur with greater frequency. • Punishment is a consequence that causes a behavior to occur with less frequency. • Extinction is caused by the lack of any consequence following a behavior. When a behavior is inconsequential (i.e., producing neither favorable nor unfavorable consequences) it will occur less frequently. When a previously reinforced behavior is no longer reinforced with either positive or negative reinforcement, it leads to a decline in that behavior. Four contexts of operant conditioning

Here the terms positive and negative are not used in their popular sense, but rather: positive refers to addition, and negative refers to subtraction. What is added or subtracted may be either reinforcement or punishment. Hence positive punishment is sometimes a confusing term, as it denotes the “addition” of a stimulus or increase in the intensity of a stimulus that is aversive (such as spanking or an electric shock). The four procedures are: 1. Positive reinforcement (Reinforcement): occurs when a behavior (response) is followed by a stimulus that is appetitive or rewarding, increasing the frequency of that behavior. In the Skinner box experiment, a stimulus such as food or a sugar solution can be delivered when the rat engages in a target behavior, such as pressing a lever. 2. Negative reinforcement (Escape): occurs when a behavior (response) is followed by the removal of an aversive stimulus, thereby increasing that behavior’s frequency. In the Skinner box experiment, negative reinforcement can be a loud noise continuously sounding inside the rat’s cage until it engages in the target behavior, such as pressing a lever, upon which the loud noise is removed.

3. Positive punishment (Punishment) (also called “Punishment by contingent stimulation”): occurs when a behavior (response) is followed by a stimulus, such as introducing a shock or loud noise, resulting in a decrease in that behavior. 4. Negative punishment (Penalty) (also called “Punishment by contingent withdrawal”): occurs when a behavior (response) is followed by the removal of a stimulus, such as taking away a child’s toy following an undesired behavior, resulting in a decrease in that behavior.[6] 4) If children’s cognitive development is dependent on interactions of others, what obligation does the broader society have regarding such social settings as preschools, schools, and neighborhoods? Mental health professionals cannot stop children from experiencing stress or negative events in their lives. However, the timely provision of preventive and intervention programs can go a long way toward reducing the incidence of emotional and behavioral difficulties. When parents find that their children are struggling, they often turn to their family physician or to a school-based professional helper. Given the position of schools as one of the lead agencies in delivering mental health support to children, it is critical that those in positions to provide these services (e.g., school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers) are well-prepared to engage in prevention, early intervention, and crisis response as needed.

The most efficient place to deliver these types of services is in schools where children spend their days. There is a wide range of effective prevention and intervention strategies that may be used by a school-based professional on any given day. Counseling is one of the foundational skills used either in isolation or as a component of one of the other approaches (e.g., consultation, guidance). Within the ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs (2005), individual or group counseling is one of the key elements in a responsive delivery system. Recently, the National Association of School Psychologists also adopted a Model for Comprehensive and Integrated School Psychological Services (2010b) that promotes the use of “interventions and mental health services to address social and life skill development” as one of the key domains of school psychology practice. Clearly, the provision of counseling services to children and families is an important role for school-based helpers.[7]

Neighborhoods could have informal “monitors” who just check up on all new parents to see if they are doing OK with their new babies. They could visit to make sure the mom doesn’t have postpartum depression, etc. Also, clergy could help with that; social workers from the county could check in on at-risk parents such as drug-takers, mentally-ill parents, and moms in poverty. 5) Resilience seems to have positive effects for both the child and the members of the social community with which he or she interacts. Why is this such an important characteristic? Psychological resilience is an individual’s tendency to cope with stress and adversity. This coping may result in the individual “bouncing back” to a previous state of normal functioning, or simply not showing negative effects. A third, more controversial form of resilience is sometimes referred to as ‘posttraumatic growth’ or ‘steeling effects’ where in the experience adversity leads to better functioning (much like an inoculation gives one the capacity to cope well with future exposure to disease).

Resilience is most commonly understood as a process, and not a trait of an individual. Resilience is a dynamic process whereby individuals exhibit positive behavioral adaptation when they encounter significant adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress. It is different from strengths or developmental assets which are a characteristic of an entire population, regardless of the level of adversity they face. Under adversity, assets function differently (a good school, or parental monitoring, for example, have a great deal more influence in the life of a child from a poorly resourced background than one from a wealthy home with other options for support, recreation, and self-esteem). Resilience is a two-dimensional construct concerning the exposure of adversity and the positive adjustment outcomes of that adversity. This two-dimensional construct implies two judgments: one about a “positive adaptation” and the other about the significance of risk (or adversity).

One point of view about adversity could define it as any risks associated with negative life conditions that are statistically related to adjustment difficulties, such as poverty, children of mothers with schizophrenia, or experiences of disasters. Positive adaptation, on the other hand, is considered in a demonstration of manifested behaviour on social competence or success at meeting any particular tasks at a specific life stage, such as the absence of psychiatric distress after the September 11 terrorism attacks on the United States. Ungar argues that this standard definition of resilience could be problematic because it does not adequately account for cultural and contextual differences in how people in other systems express resilience. Through collaborative mixed methods research in eleven countries, Ungar and his colleagues at the Resilience Research Centre have shown that cultural and contextual factors exert a great deal of influence on the factors that affect resilience among a population of youth-at-risk. Resilience has been shown to be more than just the capacity of individuals to cope well under adversity. Resilience is better understood as the opportunity and capacity of individuals to navigate their way to psychological, social, cultural, and physical resources that may sustain their well-being, and their opportunity and capacity individually and collectively to negotiate for these resources to be provided and experienced in culturally meaningful ways.

Studies of demobilized child soldiers, high school drop-outs, urban poor, immigrant youth, and other populations at risk are showing these patterns. Among adults, these same themes emerge, as detailed in the work of Zautra, Hall and Murray (2010).[8] 6) An increasing number of children are being diagnosed with and treated for ADHD every year. What factors might attribute to the increase in diagnosis and treatment? More children in the U.S. are being diagnosed with ADHD than even before — 10.4 million in 2010 — according to a new study that concluded a staggering rise in diagnoses of 66 percent since the year 2000. “There is increased concern on behalf of parents and teachers and doctors. There’s been a lot more press and advertising and public health announcements around diagnoses and treatment,” said Craig Garfield, a researcher at Northwestern University and the lead author of the study. “Therefore, more people are probably asking their doctors about (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).” The study, which will be published in the journal Academic Pediatrics, did not focus exclusively on new diagnoses.

Instead, Garfield said researchers analyzed trends using a national sample of visits to more than 4,000 office-based physicians. The 66 percent increase refers to the number of ADHD-related office visits, some new patients and others repeat visits for ongoing treatment, he said. But the dramatic jump heats up the ongoing debate over whether ADHD is overdiagnosed — and how many children are over-medicated as a result. In October, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its guidelines to suggest that children as young as 4 and as old as 18 could be evaluated and treated for the disorder. Previously, it only targeted those between 6 and 12. A few weeks ago, in a study of 900,000 children in British Columbia, researchers found that younger male students were 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed than their older counterparts, and younger female students were 70 percent more likely, which raised the question of whether immaturity is often mistaken for ADHD. At first glance, the Northwestern study might add more cause for concern, but Garfield pointed out that even though the diagnoses have increased, treating ADHD with psychostimulants has dropped: In 2000, Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall and other meds were used in 96 percent of treatment visits, compared to 87 percent in 2010.

“One of the real stories here is that there was a decrease in some of those medications prescribed, but there wasn’t an increase in other medications that are typically used as substitutes,” he said. “ADHD is a diagnosis that has a lot of judgment associated with it from parents and from other people in children’s lives, but I have been doing this long enough to see that kids really do respond to the treatment,” he said. “So my hope is the trend of increased visits is resulting in better outcomes for kids.”[9] 7) Identify ways in which the attributions apply to others may work to confirm stereotypes along racial and gender lines. What can we do to change that? Gender stereotypes are simplistic generalizations about the gender attributes, differences, and roles of individuals and/or groups. Stereotypes can be positive or negative, but they rarely communicate accurate information about others. When people automatically apply gender assumptions to others regardless of the evidence to the contrary, they are perpetuating gender stereotyping. Many people recognize the dangers of gender stereotyping, yet continue to make these types of generalizations.[10]

Race-based stereotypes and myths pose a great threat to racial equality. That’s because racial stereotypes and myths can lead to prejudice and hatred, which, in turn, lead to discrimination against entire ethnic groups. The problem is that the individuals who make up racial groups are so unique that no generalization can capture who they are. In short, race-based stereotypes are dehumanizing. To deconstruct stereotypes, it’s important to know how they work, identify the most common ones and understand which behaviors contribute to ethnic stereotyping. Racism won’t go away until the racial myths that fuel it do.[11]

There are negative stereotypes and positive stereotypes. But because they generalize groups of people in manners that lead to discrimination and ignore the diversity within groups, stereotypes should be avoided. Instead, judge individuals based on your personal experiences with them and not on how you believe people from their gender and/or race group behave.


[1] http://www.unicef.org/dprk/ecd.pdf
[2] http://www.ehow.com/about_5247129_psychological-development-infants.html [3] http://www.pearsonhighered.com/showcase/berkica7e/assets/Berk_0205718167_Ch06.pdf [4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_representation

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reciprocal_socialization
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operant_conditioning
[7] http://www.uk.sagepub.com/upm-data/44226_3.pdf
[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_resilience
[9] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/21/adhd-diagnoses-up-by-66-perent_n_1370793.html [10] http://www.cliffsnotes.com/study_guide/Gender-Stereotypes.topicArticleId-26957,articleId-26896.html [11] http://racerelations.about.com/od/understandingrac1/tp/Identifying-And-Dismantling-Race-Based-Stereotypes-And-Myths.htm

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