Watch the attached segment of the film “Babies” and analyze the film “Babies” from a scientific, observational lens. Please focus on the babies’ behaviors and their interactions with their environments. Below are some prompts to guide your response and organize these observations, which should be no more than one page (1′ margins, 11pt Times New Roman, single spaced).
Please pick one or two of the following questions to respond to:
-What kinds of information are the babies paying attention to and have access to?
-How do babies explore their environment differently in different cultures? In what ways does that change with age?
-How is the caregiving structure and social environment different for these babies and what are the effects of this on their behavior?
-What is most similar across cultures about infant behavior and most different between cultures about the babies’ lives?
-Pick one type of infant behavior for an in-depth comparison across the different families? (e.g., eating, playing, sleeping)
PLEASE INCLUDE references to one or two of the 7 themes of DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY LIKE:
1. Nature vs Nurture
2. The Active Child
3. Continuity vs Discontinuity
4. Mechanism of Change
sociocultural context (preferably reference this one since we compare different babies from diff environmental settings)
7. Research and child welfare.
WEEK ONE LECTURE NOTES : LEC 1 and LEC 2
Lecture 1: Developmental Psychology INTRO
WHAT IS IT?
– Is a method for studying human nature.
– The study of human development is multidisciplinary
– Studying development means looking at change over time
– Development is hierarchical and self-organizing
o Hierarchical means that it’s building upon itself
o Self organizing means that each stage of development opens up the doors for a range of different
– Can involve any age, but will focus on first two decades
o Can look at development in older individuals or in the middle of life or early in life
– A way to think about change evolving over time/growth
Many reasons to take this course
– Know how to raise children
– Make a better society
– Understand human nature
WHAT WE COVER?
– Themes, theories, history
– Biological development
– Cognitive development
– Social development
– Emotional development
– Developmental psychologists are interested in individual differences
o i.e what makes you different from others or me different than you
– Children grow up in VERY diverse environment
o Parenting, attitudes towards children, sleeping arrangements, FOOD, transition to adolescence
– Preponderance on data from WEIRD populations
o W:western E: educated I: industrialized R:rich D: democratic
o Are NOT the norm across the world but def make up the vast majority of the data in this course
Development is FAST and SLOW
– Depends on perspective and frame
– From a parents perspective development takes a lot of time
o Takes about 50,000 calories a month to parent a child
– Humans spend the MOST time developing in terms of mammals
o HUMANS HAVE A DEVELOPMENTAL PERIOD THAT APES DON’T CALLED EARLY CHILDHOOD
o We are adding in developmental periods that other animals don’t have and dwelling in these periods for
large amounts of time
– WHY? Why are we taking such a long time to develop
o PURPOSE for extended developmental period/ extended childhood
o By having a long childhood and a long period of time to Develop our brain can begin to test our
environment and rather than developing the exact same brain for every single person we can all be
really a mess with very diff environments
o We’re all adapted to our own environments our own developmental history
o For us to have these periods of plasticity where our brain open itself to environment input
Idea of plasticity is that it’s the same mechanisms of learning as later on in life but its enhanced
at particular stages of development
▪ We have these Periods of plasticity period of heightened ability to learn from experiences and
environment as many different stages of our development
OUR SENSORY PROCESSES develop FIRST and they are self organizing
o Bc without learning ab sensory environment and without developing our sensory capacities we
wouldn’t be able to take maximal advantage or the MOTOR PERIOD that opens next and language
Attune our hearing in order to take advantage of language
^^^hierarchical and self organizing seen in the graph
If we specifically zoom into the language section:…..
we have language discrimination, word forms etc
In the solid line is the variability
Sometimes in open earlier or later or be extended or
shortened or more narrow
**** if yours was long you probably know more and are a lot
better at whatever it is than others
LECTURE 2: Themes and History of Developmental Psychology
HISTORY of Child Develop
– Nature vs Nurture?
o Also a theme
– Which plays more of a role ?
o Genes and Hereditary Factors
o Environmental Variables
▪ Childhood experiences
▪ How we were raised
▪ Social relationships
▪ Surrounding culture
o TEAM Nature
o Children were born with innate knowledge
o EX: CONCEPT OF ANIMAL
▪ That allowed to recognize animals
▪ This is an animal like a biological being
o student of Plato
o TEAM Nurture
o Children born as a blank slate , needed to learn everything they weren’t born with concepts like animals
comes from experience
o Concepts evolve from experience and from watching animals and trees
LOCKE: 2,000 yrs later
o TEAM NURTURE
o Agreed with Aristotle that children are a tabula rasa =blank slate
▪ Therefore thought there was a strong role for and of parental input
▪ Parental discipline in the growth of character
o Goal of child rearing is growth of character
o Instill discipline and reason then treat like adult
o Education from parent is important to how children respond and grow
o TEAM NURTURE
o Children learned spontaneously through their interactions with the environment
o They should be free to explore
o Not receiving education until the age 12
o Around age of 12 children would be able to reason with what was being told to them
▪ And therefore judge those things for themselves
▪ No point for formal instruction until this point
Social Reform Movements
– During industrial revolution in U.S and U.K children worked as poorly paid laborers with few if any legal
o 5-6 yrs old
o 1884 Earl of Shaftesbury spoke to British House of Commons on conditions of children miners
o His efforts resulted in law forbidding children under the age of 10 from working
National Child Labor Committee backed Fair Labor Standards Act and passed in 1938 w child labor provisions
that remain law of land today = children under 16 not allowed to work
Philosophers and movements Played large role in how we approach and think of children as well as how we
– Played huge role in children
– Published “Baby Biography” In 1877 of infant son Williams development
o Represented on of first methods of studying child development =OBSERVATION
▪ Piaxau? Piaja
o Reflected upon way william was developing
Natural selection continues to influence modern day developmental theories like attachment theory and
– Social worker
– Founding member of national Child Labor Committee and was instrumental in lobbying for establishment of
juvenile court system
– More playgrounds and kindergarten
– Federal child labor law
Thyra J Edward
– Social worker
– Chicago school of Civics
– Founded her own children’s home
– Improve child welfare legislation
Enduring themes in Child development
Nature vs Nurture
o How nature and nurture interact to shape developmental processes
o They do interact, its not one or the other
o They both interact for almost every human trait
o NATURE: biological endowment
▪ Genes we receive from our parents
▪ Wide range of environments both physical and social that influence our development
• i.e womb during which we are in prenatal period
• Homes we grow up in
• Schools we attend
• Communities in which we live
o Genetically related and schizophrenia
▪ Individuals that have more shared genes with individuals with schizophrenia are more likely to
develop schizophrenia themselves
▪ NATURE aspect , genes are influencing
▪ However we also see nurture playing a role as well bc in identical twins that share 100% of their
genes the incidence or rate of risk is only around 45% so huge component that’s unaccounted
for besides genes
▪ ******** adopted children with a parent with schizophrenia the children who were at highest
risk of getting schizophrenia were those that had a diagnosed parent AND who were adopted
into a troubled family (environmental stress + genetic predisposition) much more likely to get it
The Active Child
o Idea is that infants shape their own development through selective attention
o Children contribute to their own development by choosing what to engage in or with
o Come into this world with preferences some of which genetically determined others and then we
choose to engage in these things which would open the opportunity for us to go further down that path
▪ Like temperament which is directly linked with genetic
o Construct our own environments and actively participate into shaping and developing ourselves
o Even young infants show references for patters i.e for moms face
o By end of second month infants coo more when they look at moms face, which elicits more talking and
smiling from mom which elicits more cooing from infant
o Original preference for mothers face leads infants to social interactions that strengthen mother infant
o How might toddlers shape their own development???
▪ Think about all the new motor skills toddlers have and how that can shape what they can get up
to in the world? How it might catapult them into different developmental stages
Continuity vs Discontinuity
o Does children development unfold gradually or does it occur in stages?
▪ DEPENDS BOTH, DEPENDS ON PERSPECTIVE
▪ Age related changes occur gradually
▪ Pine tree gets bigger across its age, as it gets older it gets bigger
• Almost linear
• Occurs gradually
▪ Growth occurs in fits and spurts appearing more like discreet stages
▪ I.E butterfly development from caterpillar to chrysalis cocoon to butterfly as age gets older
▪ At each stage of development look very different from one another
o Perspective makes a difference:
▪ Height in a boy once a year for several years makes growth look continues and growing over
time = continuous
▪ However if we examine change in height from one year to the next it makes the changes look
discontinuous bc spurts are at different ages and how much you grow at one age to the next will
differ with how much you grow from another age to the next (like in puberty stages boys can get
randomly super tall but after that spurt will not grow as exponentially or randomly or even at
Mechanisms of Change
o If we take any one behavior what are the forces that act together to make that behavior occur
o What are the cascading interactions that occur across the brain and body to result in the emergence of
o HOW DOES CHANGE OCCUR?
• Some behaviors give rise to other behaviors
o Many mechanisms that work together to create a range of different behaviors
▪ EX: development of math skills
• Studies have shown development of improved strategies for solving problems (in a
behavioral sense) result in development of math skills
o And as you improve your strategy for solving problems your math skills get
Other studies showed connection between frontal cortex and intraparietal sulcus results
in greater math skills (NEURAL)
o More that these regions are interconnected the better ur math skill is
Other studies Present or absence of specific alleles or genes can also result in better
*** we should have more studies at how both or crossover between more than one of
these mechanisms of change from diff areas (how they interact)
o How does the physical, social, cultural, economic and historical circumstances influence children
o Bronfenbrenners Bioecological Model
This model represents how children are influenced by the spheres within which they live their
▪ The child is nested in these system and trying to understand the child without referencing at
least one of these systems is not going to give us a full picture of the child’s development
▪ Cannot understand a child without understanding the parent child relationship
EXAMPLE OF SOCIOCULTURAL CONTEX:
▪ SLEEP and how it influences development in children
• Children in U.S.A typically sleep in separate rooms from parents from about 6 months
• Children in Denmark sleep with their parents for the first several years of life
• ****** think about what do we need to understand in terms of context when looking at
o Understand context and cultures in which we are doing our research
o ****how might community informed research make a difference here?
▪ Important question!!!!
▪ Take a community perspective, that might inform research question and
o All children are unique , How?
Every individual has a unique set of genes even identical twins due to random copying errors
and mutations (they start out w the same genes)
▪ Environment in the womb and environment after birth shape expression of our genes through
Subjective Treatment: Treatment we receive in the world
▪ Someone always thinks they are the favorite , the way we Perceive ourselves in the world
▪ How you might move about your world and change and think about things differently IF you
thought you were the favorite child
▪ Perspectives we take about our place in the world can lead to individual Differences
▪ There is always a favorite child , world perceives us in a particular way
▪ Objective ways were treated as a child
▪ EX: Children who are attractive vs children who aren’t get different sorts of attention/ treatment
The Active Child
▪ Another thing that influences individual differences
▪ “Are you the smart one in your family?”
▪ How you structure your environment
▪ Cause you to do more in that realm to be smarter or study harder bc of praise
Research and Children Welfare
o How can research promote children’s wellbeing?
o Child development research has real world implications
▪ Like in education: no more corporal punishment bc research shows does more harm than good
▪ Juvenile justice
▪ Legal system
***7things that show up in child development
USING SCIENTIFIC METHOD To study child development?
– It’s tough to do science with or on children
– Scientific Method:
o Until tested, all beliefs are hypotheses
o If a hypothesis is tested, and the evidence repeatedly does not support it, the hypothesis must be
abandoned, no matter how reasonable it
o Hypothesis is never proven just evidence is gathered to support it
– How to use scientific method in child development
o Choose a ?
o Formulate Hypothesis
o Develop method of testing the hypothesis
o Use the resulting data to draw conclusions about the hypothesis
o Measures must be both reliable and valid.
o Reliable measures are consistent across:
▪ Raters : have others to taste as well not just you , so want to have other raters so that results
are consistent and not based on you
▪ Time/Number of Tests : consistent in the same results to be considered reliable
o Valid measures need to:
▪ Measure what we think they are measuring (internal validity)
▪ Be generalized beyond the particulars of the research population (external validity)
– Contexts to gather child development data :
o Benefits and disadvantages of them all
▪ Interviews and questionnaires
• Think about children’s ability to report accurately : are they good reporters?
• Language used in questionnaire : reading ability? Words familiar to children?
• Make sure researcher is unobtrusive
• Make sure presence of researcher doesn’t skew or ruin the environment or results
• Set up situation and observe how diff children react
• MRI, Microbiome , Immune system
o Correlation measures how strongly associated two variables are (-1 to 1).
▪ Tells us correlation between 2 variables but NOT causation
▪ More often then not.3 variable exits that is the causation
o The primary goal of studies using correlational designs is to determine whether children who differ in
one variable (e.g., stressful experiences) also differ in predictable ways on a second variable (emotional
o Correlation is a fine statistical approach, but we need to think carefully when using it
o Why is correlation so common in developmental studies?
▪ Cant randomly assign things that were interested in , age cant be randomly assigned to early life
o Correlation and Causation
▪ Correlation does not mean causation!!!!
▪ Only experimental designs can reveal cause effect relationships
▪ Two techniques that are critical
• Random assessment : to avoid biases
• Experimental control to make sure control group doesn’t have active ingredient and
experimental group DOES have it to show comparisons and actual results as due to ONE
variable ONLY (not other factors so control must be identical except one aspect were
Approaches to studying AGE
o Cross sectional VS Longitudinal
▪ Cross: y axis
▪ Longitudinal: x axis
– Do no harm
Gain parental consent and child assent
– Preserve anonymity
Discuss information that is important for child’s welfare
Explain to participants at a level they can understand
– Use respectful language
LECTURE 3: PRENATAL MODULE 2
o Conception is a war zone: millions of sperm battling to reach and implant in single egg
o Zygote : fertilized egg that now has 23 chromosomes from the female and 23 from the male
▪ NO CELL DIVISION has occurred
o MITOSIS: cell division resulting in 2 identical cells
▪ Happens 12 hours after conception
▪ Splitting into 2 cells happens every 12 hours after conception
o CELL MIGRATION: movement of newly formed cells AWAY from their point of origin
▪ We now need these cells to do different things and to do that they must move
▪ Cells that need to become pioneers and pack up their stuff and move out
o CELL DIFFERENTIATION: who are you going to be when you grow up
▪ Cell have to decide what they want to be:
Over 200 possible cell types in the body
Embryonic stem cells can give rise to the >200 possible cell types in the human body
Can be helped on deciding on what they can or should be by their location
• Cells location (nearby cells) and what genes are switched on influence the destiny of
CELL DEATH: APOPTOSIS, PROGRAMMED CELL DEATH
▪ Cells in between each finger die on a schedule to reveal hand/foot from earlier limb plates
So have ZYGOTE then MITOSIS,, CELL MIGRATION, CELL DIFFERENTIATION, CELL DEATH THEN—> THE EMBRYO
o By the 4th day the cells arrange themselves into 2 cell masses.
o After 1 week implantation into cell wall (< 50% of zygotes actually implant into cell wall)
EMBRYO : 3-8 weeks
o The developing organism from 3-8 weeks. Inner cell mass becomes the embryo and the outer cell mass
becomes the amniotic sac and placenta
How does inner cell mass become an embryo?
▪ By end of 2nd week inner cell mass changes from one thick layer to 3 layers w a diff
After the 3 layer structure has developed, a U-shaped groove forms down the center of the top
layer. Zips up from the middle. The top will become the brain and the rest will become spinal
THEN FETUS FROM 9 WEEKS UNTIL BIRTH
THE 4th TRIMESTER: NEWBORN
– Humans are born altricial (i.e., dependent on their parents for survival).
– The first 3 months after birth is often called the 4th trimester (the newborn period)
– Risky phase of development?
Stages of rapid growth can make the developing system vulnerable to the environment
▪ Teratogens are environmental agents that have the potential to harm the fetus.
▪ Many teratogens cause damage only if they are present during a sensitive period of prenatal
▪ Most teratogens exhibit a dose-response relationship (worse outcomes in higher doses).
▪ Thalidomide example (1960s). It was a morning sickness treatment for pregnant women
• At the time cannot cross the placental barrier, but baby’s had limb deformities
• Took between 4th and 6th week after conception specifically (when limbs are forming)
▪ Teratogens are MOST HARMFUL IN PERIOD OF EMBRYO
– Negative effects of prenatal experience may not be immediately evident.
– Fetal programming refers to the belated emergence of effects of prenatal experiences that program
physiological set points that govern physiology in adulthood.
– Dutch Hunger Winter study:
o Individuals conceived before the famine and exposed to an energy-poor fetal environment late in
gestation as adults had increased risk for insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance. Those
conceived during the famine as adults had increased risk for high serum cholesterol and coronary heart
disease. Although they were normal birth weight, they grew up to be at increased risk for obesity.
– The placenta is an organ that is developed in the uterus during
– The placenta provides oxygen and nutrients for the fetus and removes
– The placenta is not a perfect barrier against environmental toxins and
o Drugs (alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, opioids)
o Environmental pollutants (e.g., lead)
OTHER RISK FACTORS FOR PRENATAL DEVELOPMENT
– Maternal age (higher maternal age is associated with more risks, as is
very low maternal age)
– Nutrition (e.g., folic acid for spina bifida prevention)
– Disease (e.g., Rubella, Zika)
– Maternal emotional state
Some of these effects can be mediated through the father (e.g., Zika can be sexually transmitted)
Complicated area to study:
– Risk factors can go together (e.g., poverty can increase risks at the level of nutrition, maternal emotional state,
– Some associations (like maternal age) are not linear
– Prenatal life is a fight for survival
– Great vulnerability, and protective structures only go so far
Sensitive periods of development highlight the progression of prenatal development
– The transition between fetal and postnatal life is abrupt
What are fetuses doing in the womb?
– Life in the womb:
o Burping, swallowing, kicking, punching
o ITS LOUD 75-90 DB
o Light filtered through abdominal wall
o Maternal movements, umbilical cord, rubbing face, thumb sucking
o WHAT MOM EATS seasons the amniotic fluid
– WHAT CAN THEY LEARN IN THE WOMB
o Newborn infants have been shown to recognize rhymes and stories presented before birth.
o Newborns prefer sounds, tastes and smells that are familiar because of prenatal experience
o *** DECASPER AND FIFER STUDY 1980
▪ Baseline rate of sucking bursts established (within 24 hours of birth).
▪ For half of the infants, sucking at or above their baseline turned on At their mother’s voice
reading a story, and sucking below baseline Was turned on another female voice reading the
same story (vice versa for the other half of infants).
▪ Infants showed a preference for sucking patterns that produced the maternal voice
Lecture 4 : Brain biology
GENETIC INFLUENCES ON CHILD DEVELOPMENT
– Gene (Nature) = DNA
– Environment (Nurture) = everything else
– Epigenetic (example of gene x environment interaction) = changes to gene expression
Chromosome – DNA molecule with all of the genetic material of the organism.
There are 23 pairs of chromosomes in each cell of the body.
A gene is a stretch of DNA (sequence of nucleotides) that codes for a particular gene product (e.g., eye color).
An Allele is the gene type (e.g., blue eyes)
Gene->gene product (proteins) : Transcription(to mRNA) and Translation
– METHYLATION: EPIGENETIC PATTERN THAT OCCURS IN
o Methyl molecule added into process and it silences
genes via the promoter region
o It strops transcription from occurring
– Studies in rats: differ in quality of care they provide to children
o Some do arch back nursing , very active (ABN)
o Some do passive nursing
o Less ABN is associated with methylation of the
glucocorticoid receptor gene. As adults, those rats were more fearful and showed unusual stress
responses (Weaver, 2004).
– Pathway 1: Parent genotype influences child genotype
o Each parent passes 1 chromosome to the child
o Children have 2 copies of each gene one from dad and one from
o Only one of those copies is expressed
– Pathway 2: Childs genotype influences child’s phenotype
o About 1/3 of genes have diff forms or alleles
Simples form of gene expression is “dominant/recessive” pattern
Pathway 3: child’s environment to child’s phenotype
o Everything not in the genetic material itself (including prenatal)
o A given gene can develop differently in different environments – example of PKU= defect on
chromosome 12 can lead to condition (phenylalanine amino acid)
Pathway 4: child’s phenotype to child’s environment
o Children construct their own environments through their interests and choices.
o Active child theme
Pathway #5: Child’s environment to child’s Genotype
o The field of epigenetics has shown that while genes are fixed at birth, the expression patterns of those
genes can change as a function of the environment
– Behavior genetics: the science concerned with how variation in behavior and development results from the
combination of genetic and environmental factors.
– Heritable: Characteristics of traits influenced by heredity
– Multifactorial: Traits affected by environment and genetic factors
– Quantitative Genetics Research Designs
o Family study
o Twin study
o Adoption study
o Equal environments assumption
– Molecular Genetics Research Designs
o A basic tenet of behavior genetics is that DNA variation (and protein coding based on DNA transcription)
renders behavioral variation.
o DNA-based methods permit the analysis of genetic influences in large samples of unrelated individuals.
o Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) link specific DNA segments with particular traits.
o Genome-wide complex trait analysis (GCTA) takes estimates of genetic resemblance across large groups
o High heritability does not imply immutability
– Genetically transmitted developmental disorders
o These conditions follow various inheritance patterns and they have been studied using both quantitative
and molecular genetics methodology.
o Dominant-recessive patterns
o Polygenic inheritance
o Chromosomal anomalies
o Genetic anomalies
o Unidentified genetic basis
How much of the measured variance of a phenotypic trait within a population of individuals is attributable to
o Applies to the population: Intelligence
o 50% of the variance in IQ scores the population is attributable to genetic differences between
individuals in the population
How much of the measured variance of a phenotypic trait within a population of individuals is attributable to
o Applies to the population: Intelligence
o Applied to the population studied (height in the USA example)
o High heritability does not imply immutability
o Most often WEIRD samples are used
ENDOPHENOTYPES AND GENES
o mediate the pathways between genes and behavior, and include the effect of genes on the brain and
central nervous system.
o Every human has over 100 billion neurons in their brain.
o Brain develops hierarchically
o Cell body is the metabolic center of the neuron (including the nucleus)
o Dendrites receive input from other cells and conduct it towards the cell body.
o Axons conduct electrical impulses away from the cell body to connections with other neurons
– THE CORTEX:
o Cerebral cortex constitutes 80% of the human brain.
o Is the “gray matter”
o Involved in a variety of mental functions: seeing, hearing,
thinking, problem solving, and feeling
o The cortex is divided into 4 lobes which are associated with
different behavior categories.
▪ Frontal is the brains “executive”.
• Involved in higher order functions (e.g., decision
making, inhibitory control)
▪ Parietal – spatial processing and integration across
▪ Occipital – processing visual information.
▪ Temporal – speech, language, emotion processing, auditory information.
o Association areas – lie between major sensory & motor areas, processing & integrating input from areas
o Cortex includes
▪ Frontal cortex: the front part of the cortex assists in planning, self-control, and self-regulation. It
is very immature in the newborn.
▪ Cerebral cortex: “gray matter” of brain plays primary role in what is thought to be humanlike
▪ Auditory cortex: hearing is quite acute at birth, the result of months of “eavesdropping” during
the fetal period.
▪ Visual cortex: vision is the least mature sense at birth because the fetus has nothing much to
see while in the
o Cerebral lateralization
▪ Cerebral hemispheres: two halves of the cortex
• For the most part, sensory input from one side of the body goes to the opposite
hemisphere of the brain
▪ Corpus callosum: a dense tract of nerve fibers
• Enables the two hemispheres to communicate
Cerebral lateralization: specialization of the brain’s hemispheres for different modes of
ELEMENTS OF BRAIN MATURATION
– Neurogenesis – birth of new neurons
– Migration – neurons move to their locations in the brain
– Myelination – glia ensheath neurons in fat to increase speed
– Synaptogenesis – extraordinary growth of axonal and dendritic fibers resulting in an abundance of neuronal
– Synapse elimination – Trimming down the neuronal connections (by about 40%). Glia are the gardeners.
– Why would synaptogenesis occur?: create complex Brain
ROLE OF EXPERIENCE IN BRAIN DEVELOPMENT
– Plasticity allows there to be less information encoded into genes, and it allows us to adapt to our environment.
– There are two types of plasticity in the brain:
o 1. Experience-Expectant:
▪ Each species has a predictable array of experiences that are typically available to all members of
▪ The brain can thus expect the input from these experiences will be available to fine-tune the
▪ Benefits – less information needs to be precoded into the brain
▪ Disadvantage – vulnerability. What if the expected input is not there.
▪ Occurs during sensitive periods of development
▪ Experiences that each individual has that are distinct from the rest of the species.
▪ If the experience is there (often especially during a sensitive stage of development) then the
function will develop. If the experience is not present, then the function will not develop
▪ Took students with many years of experience playing wind instruments.
• Experts had higher thickness in lip related cortical regions (red).
• Cortical thickness was positively associated with years of training.
– Parent’s genotype and phenotype influence children’s development
– Children’s genotype and phenotype influence their own development
Nature AND nurture influence development
Experience-expectant and experience-dependent process operate in child development
How Babies Explore their Environment Differently in Their Cultures and How it Changes with Age
The study of child development is pegged on the observational skills enhanced by scientific
knowledge. As a result, it unearths the dynamic, unique, and interactive nature of how the environment
influences a child’s behavior, actions, reactions, and thoughts. My observational perception of the
documentary Babies by Thomas Balmes explores how raising children in the different cultures of
Namibia, the United States, Mongolia, and Japan, instill particular inputs from the environment.
The children were born and raised differently based on their environment which can result in
differences in their development. The Namibian child is born at home in the absence of a medical
practitioner. On the contrary, in Mongolia, Japan, and the United States, the children were born in a
healthcare facility in the presence of caregivers and their fathers. Notably, mothers were present during
the early months. Even though fathers were supportive in the Mongolian, Japanese, and American
cultures, the Namibian father was predominantly absent throughout the child development stages.
Mothers were readily available to provide a nurturing environment to their children whereby they ensured
their children were comfortable, well-fed, cleaned, and slept without disturbance (Balmés, 2010; Lancy,
The Namibian and the Mongolian children were raised in rural cultures, while the American and
the Japanese children grew up in urban cultures. All children were breastfed and were mostly with their
mothers, which was vital in enhancing the bond between the children and their mothers as we learned
from our lectures on maternal preferences babies can develop. Through facial preference and a preference
for the smell of their mother’s breast milk we can also see how babies in the movie and in real time can
develop maternal preference.
The children played with readily available items in their environments and, as a result, portrayed
a specific trend of socialization. Even though they all started making their first steps at almost the same
age, the American child was exposed to a baby jumper designed to encourage them to walk. From time to
time, the Namibian and Mongolian children were left to move around on their own. Therefore, such a
technique shaped how they interacted with their siblings and the animals around them (Balmés, 2010;
McLeod, 2007). The American child was taken to a park where they drove a toy car while the Namibian
child played with sticks, water, and mud. The Japanese child was taken for a bicycle ride while the
Mongolian child played with water, toys, and plastics (Balmés, 2010). When the children were frustrated,
uncomfortable, or threatened, they cried or threw tantrums. The Namibian child would be breastfed while
standing. Equally, they became used to eating with their siblings from the same pot. Similarly, the
American child was comfortable eating an entire banana alone.
The theme of nature vs. nurture is extensively explored in the documentary film. Under nature, it
is evident that the children cried whenever they wanted to attract their mothers’ attention. Crying is a trait
adopted by all children whenever they want to communicate to others that they are uncomfortable
(Balmés, 2010; Lancy, 2017). When the Namibian child wanted to be breastfed, they cried, prompting
their mother to bend and allow them to suck milk. Notably, the Namibian child is elated when their
mother pats their back. Under nurture, the mothers in the four cultures sing, read, or speak to their
children to teach them something or soothe them. For example, in the film, an American mother teaches
her daughter to say “no” and “uh oh.” Whenever the mother reads something, she imitates it. In contrast,
the interaction between a child from Namibian and their siblings helps them make some familiar sounds.
In conclusion, the film’s Namibian, Mongolian, American, and Japanese children are raised in
different cultures. Their interaction with the environment highly influences how they act and react. The
Namibian and Mongolian children are raised in rural cultures where they more often interact with their
siblings and animals. Consequently, sometimes they are left to move around on their own and make more
of their own decisions therefore creating a stronger case for a theme of The Active Child to take place. On
the contrary, the American and the Japanese children grow up in urban cultures where their parents are
always concerned about their movements.
Balmés, T. (Director). (2010). Babies [Film]. StudioCanal.
McLeod, S. (2007). Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development.
Lancy, D. F. (2017). Raising children: Surprising insights from other cultures. Cambridge University
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