Chapter 7: Early Experience and Later Life

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Early Experience and Later LifeThe Development of Children (5th ed.) Cole, Cole & Lightfoot Chapter 7


Primacy of InfancyThe paths first traveled will be the most significant for later development “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.” Plato: “And the beginning, as you know, is always the most important part, especially in dealing with anything young and tender. That is the time when the character is being molded and easily takes any impress one may wish to stamp on it.”


Primacy of InfancyBurton White: “To begin to look at a child’s educational development when he is two years of age is already much too late.” Joseph Needham: “One of the most fundamental processes in development consists in the closing of doors, …in the progressive restriction of possible fates.”


Robert Frost: The Road Not TakenTwo roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Robert Frost: The Road Not TakenThen took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black.


Robert Frost: The Road Not TakenOh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.


Overview of the JourneyEffects of Parent-Child Separation Vulnerability and Resilience Recovery from Deprivation Shaping Developmental Pathways


Effects of Parent- Child SeparationTemporary Separation Extended Separation Isolated Children


Temporary SeparationOut-of-home care By the time they are 4 years of age, nearly all children in the United States are in nonparental care on a regular basis In fact, nearly half of all infants are regularly cared for by someone other than their mothers and fathers Percentage of children regularly receiving nonparental care


Temporary SeparationOut-of-home care Poor-quality care (the case in nearly half of the day care centers) was a risk factor for later cognitive and social difficulties, especially when combined with insensitive mothering or in families with internal conflicts Also particularly the case when 20+ hours/week of non-maternal care during first year of life


Temporary SeparationRepeated hospitalization found to be associated with subsequent behavior problems and delinquency Although may be due to stress of ill health or from low SES conditions, rather than from separation Separation by war situations (England WW II) 20 years later, behavior fell within normal limits


Extended SeparationOrphanage (crèche) in Lebanon (little stimulation and human contact; similar results in Romania) Although normal at 2 months, developed intellectually at only ½ of the expected rate by the end of the first year If adopted before 2 years old: Functioning normally 2-3 years later If adopted between ages of 2-6: Only slightly retarded If remained institutionalized: Females at 12-16 were so retarded that they were unable to function in society Boys transferred to another institution at age 6 that provided more intellectual stimulation and experiences – at 10-14 were still retarded, but able to function in society


Extended SeparationHighest risk for those children whose separation was coupled with residence in a facility with multiple caregivers and a suboptimal range of experiences


Isolated ChildrenWhile studies of isolated children (e.g., Victor, the Wild Child) leave little doubt that severe isolation can profoundly disrupt normal development They also show (e.g., twin Czech boys, discovered at age 6) that early deprivation is not necessarily devastating to later development


Vulnerability and ResilienceRisk Factors and Resilience Child Characteristics Family Characteristics Community Characteristics


Risk FactorsFour key factors (Rutter, et al.) Family discord Parental social deviance (criminal or psychiatric) Social disadvantage (e.g., low SES, large number of children close in age) Poor school environment (e.g., high rates of turnover and absence among staff and pupils) Cumulative effect No factor alone was associated with psychiatric disorders in childhood But if as few as two were present at the same time, the risk increased significantly


Average IQ scores for 13-year-oldsSameroff et al., 1993


Resilient ChildrenHad the ability to recover quickly from the adverse effects of early experience or to persevere in the face of stress with no apparent negative psychological consequences Protective factors from Individual characteristics… Family characteristics… Community characteristics…


Characteristics of the ChildRisk factors In infancy and early childhood: irregularity of biological functions, negative responses to new situations and people, frequent negative mood In middle childhood: easily distracted (i.e., short attention span), had a hard time adjusting to new circumstances


Characteristics of the ChildProtective factors Secure attachments High intelligence and self-esteem Pride over personal accomplishments


Characteristics of the FamilyRisk factors Member of low-income family Premature birth or birth trauma Mother with low educational level Parent with some form of psychopathology


Characteristics of the FamilyProtective factors (Kauai study) No more than 4 children in family More than 2 years between older/younger siblings Availability of alternative caregivers who provide attention Workload of mother, even if employed outside the home, was not excessive Family provided structure and rules during adolescence Family was cohesive


Characteristics of the CommunityRisk factors Low SES communities Inner-city neighborhoods Protective factors Small towns or rural areas Strong social support networks provided by kin, neighbors, and social service agencies Schools with attentive personnel and good academic programs


Recovery from DeprivationTransactional Analysis Harlow’s Monkeys Recovery from Isolation


Transactional AnalysisHowever, if usual chain of consequences can be broken and favorable transactions established (e.g., supportive spouse), normal behavior is likely to followModels of development that trace the interaction between child’s and environmental characteristics over time


Harlow’s MonkeysTotally isolated for only the first 3 months were not permanently affected by the experience Totally isolated for the first 6 months recovered only partially (e.g., incapable of normal sexual behavior) Isolated for only the second 6 months recovered quite quickly Total isolation for entire first year resulted in full-fledged social misfits who showed no desire for social play or interchange, and behaved abusively toward their infants

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Last Updated: 8th March 2018

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