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Theories of Infant Development


Fogel Chapter 2 Created by Ilse DeKoeyer-Laros Theories of Infant Development Overview Chapter 2 Biological Approaches Learning Theories Cognitive Theories Systems ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Theories of Infant Development

Theories of Infant Development
  • Fogel
  • Chapter 2

Created by Ilse DeKoeyer-Laros
Overview Chapter 2
  • Biological Approaches
  • Learning Theories
  • Cognitive Theories
  • Systems Theories
  • Clinical Theories

Experiential Exercises
What is a Scientific Theory?
  • a set of concepts that explains the observable
    world with structures, processes, or mechanisms
    that are presumed to exist but that cannot be
    observed directly (p. 44)
  • Helps to organize systematic observations, using
    accepted methods of observation and assessment
  • Phrased in terms of general principles that can
    be applied to specific research findings and
  • Should accurately predict future observations in
    a majority of cases.

Theories of Human Development
  • Focus on describing and predicting the ways in
    which children change over time the origin of
    individual differences

Biological Approaches
  • Charles Darwin
  • natural selection those who can successfully
    adapt to the environment will live long enough to
    reproduce pass down their characteristics to
    the next generation
  • the environment influences which types of
    characteristics will survive and continue to

Biological Approaches
  • Genotype raw genetic code, made up of DNA
  • the actions of the genotype are affected
    by the environment
    surrounding the genes
  • this happens via the epigenome biochemical
    markers that turn on or off the actions of
    particular genes within each cell
  • Phenotypes the products of the
    genotype-environment interactions
  • include tissues but also behaviors, intelligence,

Biological Approaches
  • the genotype
  • determines the opportunities
  • by which the environment
  • may have an influence on the phenotype

Biological Approaches Behavior Ecology Theory
  • The study of behavior from an evolutionary
    perspective all animals have species-specific
    behaviors that evolved through the process of
    natural selection

Biological Approaches Behavior Ecology Theory
  • Critical period limited period of time during
    which learning can occur that has a permanent and
    irreversible effect
  • the first 6 prenatal months (brain body)
  • the early years (attachment, language)

Biological Approaches Behavior Genetic Theory
  • the study of possible environmental and genetic
    explanations for individual differences in
    behavior and personality characteristics
  • Research compares individuals that vary in their
    genetics and environments
  • Genetics twins (identical vs. fraternal),
    regular siblings, adopted siblings
  • Environment shared or nonshared

Biological Approaches Behavior Genetic Theory
  • Heritability the extent to which individual
    differences are due to genetic factors
  • the percentage of variability between individuals
    explained by genetic variability
  • appr. 30 of the differences between people can
    be explained by genetic variability
  • A certain set of genes increases the probability
    of developing a particular characteristic but
    doesnt determine it

Biological Approaches Behavior Genetic Theory
  • Often, environmental variability has a larger
    probability of predicting individual phenotypes
    than does genetic variability
  • many genes, each with a small influence
  • Sometimes, genetic variability between
    individuals has a larger probability of
    predicting phenotypes than does environmental
  • e.g., inheriting or not inheriting color
    blindness genes

Problems with Biological Approaches
  • Harder to apply to phenomena that did not occur
    in the original species-typical environment
  • Difficult to sort out the relative effects of
    genetic and environmental variability
  • Behavior genetics does not tell us anything
  • about the probability that a particular
    individual will inherit a genetic potential or
    show a characteristic
  • about the ways in which genes and environment act
    to produce a phenotype no guidelines for
    intervention or for enhancing development

Learning Theories
  • Major contributions
  • discovered simple yet powerful ways to enhance
  • have shown that any species can be trained to
    achieve more than expected by evolutionary models
    of species-typical behavior
  • Major types
  • Classical conditioning
  • Operant conditioning
  • Social Learning Theory

Learning Theories Classical Conditioning
  • An unconditioned response will occur at a new,
    conditioned stimulus after repeated exposure to
    pairing of conditioned unconditioned stimuli

Learning Theories Operant Conditioning
B.F. Skinner (1904-1990)
  • Operant conditioning the process by which the
    frequency of an operant (spontaneous behavior) is
    controlled by its consequences

Learning Theories Operant Conditioning
  • Reinforcers consequences that increase the
    frequency of the preceding behavior
  • Positive reinforcer an action or reward that
    follows the operant and increases its frequency
  • Negative reinforcer the removal of an aversive
    stimulus increases the frequency of an operant
  • Punishment unrewarding consequence that
    decreases the frequency of an operant
  • Extinction the frequency of an operant
    decreases when a reinforcing consequence is

Learning Theories Social Learning Theory
  • Social Learning Theory proposes that
  • infants come to control not only their behavior
    but also the behavior of other people around them
  • entirely new behaviors could be acquired almost
    immediately through observational learning
  • the self (including cognitions and motivations)
    is an intelligent actor and organizer of

Albert Bandura (1925 - )
Problems with Learning Theory
  • Real life is more complex than laboratory!
  • Many other processes (e.g., genetics) may
    influence the way behavior is acquired
  • Cannot explain the sequence and timing of
    developmental stages
  • Cannot explain the spontaneous emergence of new
  • E.g., stranger anxiety even when children have no
    experience with strangers, or smiling in blind

Cognitive Theories
  • Focus on the mental experience of the person and
    aim to understand intelligence how people of
    different ages know about, perceive, plan, and
    remember their experiences
  • Behavior is considered a form of intelligence
  • most of what people do is goal directed and
    depends on knowing what to do in certain
  • Types
  • Constructivist Theory
  • Information Processing Theories

Cognitive Theories Constructivist Theory
  • Intelligence is a form of adaptation to the
  • Knowledge is an active process of co-construction
    between the knower and what is to be known

Jean Piaget (18961980)
Cognitive Theories Constructivist Theory
  • Two principles of biological adaptation
  • Assimilation individuals use their existing
    abilities in response to challenges from the
    environment the application of what one already
    knows or does to the current situation
  • Accommodation the alteration of existing
    abilities to better fit the requirements of the
    task or situation
  • Most actions involve
  • both assimilation and accommodation

Cognitive Theories Constructivist Theory
  • Piagets main goal was to apply his theory to the
    development of human intelligence he looked for
    the origins of intelligence in infancy
  • First two years of life sensorimotor substage
  • explore learn through movements and senses
  • main feature the growth of infants
    understanding of their bodies and how these
    relate to other things
  • six substages (see Chapters 510)

Cognitive Theories Constructivist Theory
Cognitive Theories Constructivist Theory
  • Individuals play an active role in their own
    development motivation for developmental change
    comes from the experience of disequilibrium
  • Infants develop knowledge by means of their own
    actions on the environment it is constructed
  • Infants will learn better from experiences that
    can be assimilated to their current level
  • schemes available set of skills and knowledge
    sensorimotor or conceptual

Problems with Constructivist Theory
  • Development does not always occur in the stages
    defined by Piaget
  • research has shown that certain behaviors may
    appear earlier than Piagets stages suggest that
    they should (e.g., imitation in newborns)
  • Piaget did not take into account the effects of
    adults on infants

Cognitive Theories Information-Processing Theories
  • Goal to specify the way in which the mind
    handles the information presented by the
  • Research usually with sophisticated technology
  • e.g., to measure such things as visual fixation
    time, eye movement patterns, auditory

Problems with Information-Processing Theory
  • Few clues about how each component develops
    more a theory of how infants act and think than a
    theory of how action and thought develop
  • Many different approaches and thousands of
    research studies difficult to interpret,
    especially since there is no broad theoretical

Systems Theories
  • Goal to understand developmental change in the
    whole child in the whole environment
  • System a set of interdependent components, each
    of which affects the others in reciprocal fashion
  • Theories include
  • Ecological Systems Theory
  • Interactive Systems Theory
  • Dynamic Systems Theory

Systems Theories
  • Transaction the process by which systems
    components affect each other in a bidirectional
    and reciprocal way
  • Example

Parent relaxed, attentive, smiles
Infant smiles
Systems Theories
  • Systems have the property of self-organization
    organized patterns emerge out of the mutual
    influences of each component of the system on the

Systems Theories
  • Feedback components of a system have an effect
    on their own behavior during their transactions
    with other components
  • deviation-correcting feedback (or negative
  • deviation-amplifying feedback (or positive

Systems Theories
  • deviation-correcting feedback maintains a
    systems characteristics over time in spite of
    small deviations

Infant smiles
Parent relaxed
Parent stressed
  • deviation-amplifying feedback changes a system as
    a result of a small deviation

Parent more stressed
Infant cries more
Infant fussy
Parent stressed
Systems Theories Ecological Systems Theory
  • The ecology of human development
  • the study of the progressive, mutual
    accommodation, throughout the life span, between
    a growing human organism and the changing
    immediate environments in which it lives, as the
    process is affected by relations obtaining within
    and between those immediate settings, as well as
    the larger social contexts in which the
    settings are embedded (Bronfenbrenner, 1979).

Systems Theories Ecological Systems Theory
Systems Theories Ecological Systems Theory
  • 4 levels of system functioning
  • Microsystem all direct relationships between
    child environment
  • Examples the family, play groups, church groups
  • Mesosystem relationships between the
  • Example interaction between family day care
  • Exosystem social systems that affect (but dont
    include) the child
  • Examples parents work, media, school board
  • Macrosystem written unwritten principles
    (e.g., beliefs, values, rules) that regulate
    everyones behavior

Problems with Ecological Systems Theory
  • Does not specify how these systems affect the
  • No guidance concerning which of the ecological
    factors are most likely to affect a family
    under what circumstances
  • Is not developmental does not explain how how
    infants develop from one age to the next

Systems Theories Interactive Systems Theory
  • Louis Sander recognized that parent and infant
    develop together as a system in relationship to
    each other over time

Picture http//
Systems Theories Interactive Systems Theory
  • Vygotsky
  • all individuals are defined by the
    social group and that
    knowledge is an
    active social construction
  • adults do not directly socialize the child but
    follow the childs own motivations to learn
  • mutual, cooperative transaction is at the heart
    of Vygotskys theory, which is why it is
    sometimes called sociocultural theory

Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934)
Systems Theories Interactive Systems Theory
  • Zone of proximal development the time during
    which the next achievement in skill is about to
    occur but has not occurred yet

Systems Theories Interactive Systems Theory
The concept of the zone of proximal development
suggests that children will acquire culturally
acceptable practices only if parents can adjust
the timing and level of their actions to the
ongoing motivational state of the children
Systems Theories Interactive Systems Theory
  • Guided participation the active role that
    children play while observing and participating
    in the organized activities of the family/society
    in the company of adults
  • Cultural differences
  • In one study, Mayan mothers
    maintained adult status level, while
    U.S. mothers
    acted more like peers

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Problems with Interactive Systems Theory
  • Focuses on short-term developmental changes and
    does not provide a framework for understanding
    developmental change
  • Focuses on parent-infant relationships, or small
    groups of co-participants, and not on broader
    issues (e.g., family systems)
  • research inspired by Vygotskys work, however,
    explicitly focuses on cultural factors and

Dynamic Systems Theory
  • How does novelty emerge? Dynamic systems theory
    gives conceptual methodological tools to
    understand this
  • Ilya Prigogine interested in phenomena that make
    their own energy become increasingly complex by
    generating novel forms
  • Self-organization the ability of
    systems to maintain themselves
    and to develop new forms

Ilya Prigogine (1917 - 2003)
Picture from
Dynamic Systems Theory
  • Many dynamic systems display two properties
  • They form predictable and stable patterns in
    their macroscopic behavior
  • They are relatively unpredictable in their
    microscopic behavior
  • Examples
  • Seasons are generally expected to occur around
    the same time each year, but day-to-day weather
    patterns are hard to predict precisely
  • Infant development can be described in general
    stages, an individual infants behavior on a
    given day and pattern of development cannot be

Dynamic Systems Theory
  • Chaos microscopic unpredictability in the
    context of macroscopic stability

Figure 2.7 trajectory of a mathematical
equation that traces a path in 3-dimensional
space that is similar on each cycle but never
exactly the same
Dynamic Systems Theory
  • Dynamic systems theory is unique in that it
    allows for the possibility of indeterminism
  • Determinism all events have a cause, which can
    be found with enough scientific work
  • we are unable to predict events in a persons
    life because we simply do not have sufficient
  • Indeterminism even if we could measure all the
    relevant variables, we still could not completely
    predict future behavior development
  • Butterfly effect a very small perturbation
    creates unpredictable novelty in a system, which
    results in macroscopic developmental change in
    the system

Dynamic Systems Theory
  • Self-organization
  • spontaneously creates novelty

Dynamic Systems Theory
  • Esther Thelen and Alan Fogel applied dynamic
    systems theory to explain infant development
  • Infant development is not entirely predictable
    from biological, social, or cognitive factors

Dynamic Systems Theory
  • New abilities emerge through the dynamic
    indeterminacy of self-organization
  • Thelen 6-month-olds have all the skills for
    walking, except for the ability to balance. When
    this ability develops by about 10 months
    infants walk spontaneously (self-organization)
  • Fogel many forms of interpersonal communication
    are transactional (there is feedback between the
    participants) and this transaction is
    characterized by continuous mutual adjustment of
    action and creativity

Dynamic Systems Theory
  • Co-regulation the continuous mutual adjustment
    and co-creativity that appears in spontaneous
  • synonym for self-organization as applied to
    interpersonal communication
  • explains both stability and change
  • frames repeating patterns of co-activity such as
    greetings, games, conversation topics
  • creativity is inherent in communication and
    provides the seeds for spontaneous change

Problems with Dynamic Systems Theory
  • Relatively new theory description of infant
    development is still rather general and it could
    take years of research to further develop the
  • Due to origins in physics, sometimes uses
    complicated mathematical models, but human
    development is not easily reduced to measurable

Clinical Theories
  • Observed infant
  • based upon direct observations of infants,
    constructed from quantitative research methods
  • Clinical infant
  • constructed from clinical work with older
    children and adults and based primarily on
    qualitative research methods and participant

Clinical Theories
  • Clinical infant
  • Participatory memories nonconceptual
  • composed of emotions, desires, and a sense of
    familiarity, without any specific time or place,
    felt as a being with or a reliving of past
    experiences (e.g., the feeling of what it was
    like to be cuddled)
  • Conceptual memories recall about an event
  • communicated in the form of a verbal narrative,
    composed of specific categories for type of
    event, time, and place

Clinical Theories
  • No matter what research method is used, infants
    psychological experience will always be
    unobservable by adults

Clinical Theories
  • Infantile amnesia the inability to have
    conceptual memories of infant experiences
  • Participatory memories
  • likely to be unconscious, because they occurred
    when we did not have language or because they
    were traumatic
  • nonverbal and often involve the whole body
  • often transformed over time
  • for example, the memory of being ignored in
    infancy may be changed into feelings of
    depression in the adult

Clinical Theories Psychotherapeutic Approaches
  • Freud wanted to explore whether patients with
    psychosomatic complaints had any memory of a
    trauma that might have occurred early in life
  • free association asking clients to lie down and
    encouraging them to relax and say anything
    without fear
  • psychoanalysis the use of free association along
    with interpretation in psychotherapy
  • Infants
  • are dominated by the id (irrational needs and
  • gradually learn to control their impulses through
    the ego the ability to tolerate discomfort
    frustration and to moderate the pursuit of

Clinical Theories Psychotherapeutic Approaches
  • Erik Erikson viewed each stage of development as
    a potential crisis of the personality leading to
    a new sense of individual identity
  • development might progress or get sidetracked
  • More social emphasis focused on the way in
    which the infants body related to the family and
    to society

Clinical Theories Psychotherapeutic Approaches
Table 2.5 Psychoanalytic Stages of Development
Clinical Theories Psychotherapeutic Approaches
  • Margaret Mahler (1975) psychoanalyst who
    believed that many psychopathologies could be
    prevented by early intervention worked with
    infants and young children
  • Infant psychiatry the application of clinical
    psychology to work with infants their families
  • most clinical interventions in infancy focus on
    the parent-infant relationship and on parent

Clinical Theories Psychotherapeutic Approaches
  • Daniel Stern (1985) infants have early senses of
    self that remain with the person throughout life
  • Emergent self (0-2 months) awareness of how the
    different movements, sensations, and feelings
    cohere into recognizable states
  • Core self (2-8 months, also called the ecological
    self ) the experience of being an active agent
    that does things in the world, has feelings, and
    has a history of prior experiences
  • Subjective self (8-15 months) infants discover
    that they have inner experiences that are
    different from others around them, and they can
    choose to share feelings and experiences with
  • Verbal self (after 15 months) use language to
    talk about inner states and to construct a
    coherent identity in the company of other people

Clinical Theories Somatic Awareness Approaches
  • May use talk, but typically use body movement
    touch as a way to access the participatory
    memories of early childhood
  • since infants experience their world via movement
    and touch, this seems to be a more direct route
    to an adults infant experience than merely

Clinical Theories Somatic Awareness Approaches
  • Watsu clients are moved freely in the water,
    stretched gently, and cradled in the
    practitioners arms

By being moved so freely through the water, by
being stretched and repeatedly returned to a
fetal position, the adult has the opportunity to
heal in himself whatever pain or loss he may
still carry from that time (Dull, 1995, p. 65).
Clinical Theories Somatic Awareness Approaches
  • Rosen method by listening to the clients body
    with gentle touch and to the words they use to
    describe their experience, the practitioner can
    help the client to relax, relieve pain, and
    breathe easier

the body tells its own story
Clinical Theories Somatic Awareness Approaches
  • Moshe Feldenkrais (19041984), originally a
    physicist and judo instructor, invented The
    Feldenkrais Method
  • organic learning very young children use all
    their senses and every part of their bodies,
    while adults appear to involve less of themselves
  • Feldenkrais believed that alienation from the
    body contributes to habitual, usually
    unconscious, patterns of muscular tension and
    psychosomatic illnesses

Clinical Theories Somatic Awareness Approaches
  • Two Feldenkrais methods
  • Awareness through Movement
  • students are asked to make small, slow movements
    )often based on the movements observed in
    babies), reduce their efforts, and sense how even
    simple movements are connected with every part of
    the body
  • Functional Integration
  • students lie on a padded table as a practitioner
    gently touches and moves them, promoting deep
    relaxation, kinesthetic awareness, and new ways
    to move

Clinical Theories Somatic Awareness Approaches
  • Bodymind centering (BMC)
  • adults do exercises based on normal infant
    sensorimotor development
  • has been used in the treatment of parent-infant
    relationships at risk and with infants who
    experience sensorimotor difficulties
  • Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen
  • dance teacher physical therapist
  • could help many clients by taking them through
    the sensorimotor stages of prenatal and infant
    development, step by step

Clinical Theories Somatic Awareness Approaches
  • Dance Movement Psychotherapy expressive
    dance-like movements to foster a more integrated
    sense of self in relation to others
  • successful for infants and children with autism,
    communication delays, sensory integration
    difficulties, hyperactivity, and trauma (Tortora,
  • kinesthetic empathy the ability to feel another
    persons feelings by moving like that other
  • Somatic psychotherapy focuses on felt bodily
    sensations, breathing, and movement on the
    pathway to psychological well-being

Problems with Clinical Theories
  • More could be learned by combining systematic
    qualitative with quantitative methods
  • Hard to prove whether participatory memories of
    infancy are what that adult actually experienced
    as a baby
  • memories of early infancy are typically about
    feelings and body states, not about particular
  • the adults parents would find it difficult to
    remember whether a particular event happened, and
    even if they did, their experience of it as a
    parent would not be the same as the infants
  • Psychoanalytical theories tend to focus reward or
    blame on the parents, but the child contributes
    as well
  • No one approach can treat all behavioral and
    psychological issues of children and adults

Experiential Exercises Exploring the Clinical
  • The infants psychological experience is
    unobservable so how can we understand the
    clinical infant?
  • by re-experiencing infant-like movements,
    sensations, and states of being
  • by interacting with infants as a participant
  • by talking to your parents or caregivers about
    your own infancy

Experiential Exercises Exploring the Clinical
  • This book includes Experiential Exercises
    simple exercises that allow an opportunity to
    experience the clinical infant for yourself
  • Do these in a quiet room where you can feel what
    is happening in your body.
  • Many students feel self-conscious when first
    doing this. It is, after all, unusual for adults
    to act like babies!
  • Almost all students, however, change their minds
    after actually doing the exercises for a while.

Experiential Exercises Finger painting
  • Done individually or in groups
  • Need materials, space and time
  • Just start painting!
  • Notice the concrete feelings in yourself such as
    emotions or sensations of color, temperature,
  • Notice if any memories come back to you. Are they
    pleasant or unpleasant?
  • What does this experience tell you about yourself
    today? About yourself as a child?