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Heredity is the transmission of traits from parents to children. What do we inherit from our parents? We can inherit physical characteristics such as height, hair color or eye color, facial features, etc. From time to time, we might hear that we look just like our mother or we’re tall just like our father.  

Just as we can inherit physical traits from our parents, we can also inherit psychological traits. For example, shyness, aggressiveness, depression or even schizophrenia can all be passed on. 

Genes and Chromosomes

Child Development

Children have all the nerve cells that they will ever have even before they are born. Think of these nerve cells as electrical wires that are not connected. Babies crave stimulation, which helps to “connect the wires.” Holding an infant, talking to them, reading, and playing with toys all help to stimulate the brain and make these connections. 

For certain tasks, there are what are referred to as “ windows of opportunity.” For example, sight is developed during the third and fourth month of life. Without stimulation of the visual system, connections for sight become lost. 

Issues in Child Development

Just as this was Watson’s belief, many factors have been studied trying to determine what is most influential in a child’s development. Behaviorists have developed and studied theories of development, looked at environmental factors, parenting styles, birth order effect, etc in terms of studying child development.  

Stage Development vs. Continuous Development 

Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development consists of four development stages: 

Stage Theories of Development

Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

Erikson’s Psychosocial Stage Theory

Bandura’s Social Learning Theory

Freud’s Psychodynamic Theory

Kohlberg’s Moral Development Theory

Bowlby’s Integrated Attachment Theory

Nature and Nurture Contributions

The  Study of Development looks at  Nature vs Nurture. There are numerous debates on each side of these theories. 

The  Nature Theory is based on the premise that humans behave the way that they do because they are genetically predisposed to doing so. 

The  Nurture Theory believes that humans behave the way that they do because that is how they were taught. Supporters of this theory believe that environmental factors present in our upbringing are most influential in our behavior. 

For example, identical twins (not fraternal) are studied because their genetic make-up is the same. Any differences between twins are due to nurture or the environment. 


What you have acquired…

Growth retardation, underdeveloped brain

German Measles, cataracts, heart problems

Abbreviated limbs…

Physical Development 

Tonic Neck

What do babies know? 

Check this out: 

Interactive Developmental Milestones Chart  http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/

Styles of Parenting

“If I could say just one thing to parents, it would be simply that a child needs someone who believes in him no matter what he does.”
~Alice Keliher

Psychologists are also interested in how parents influence child development. According to Diana Baumrind’s theory, there are three styles of parenting as outlined below:  

Development is a Lifelong Process…

Human development is viewed as a lifelong process. Biological, cognitive and psychosocial aspects work separately as well as overlap throughout our lifetime. Psychologists believe that,  “adaptation throughout life depends on how each of us negotiates the internal and external factors that enhance or constrain our abilities to reach our full potentials. The essence of lifespan development is in how we build on our strengths to transcend these limitations over time.”

Additional Reading Resources

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Birth Order Effect


Research continues to show that the first three years of life are the most critical in terms of emotional and intellectual development of a child. Seventy five percent of brain growth is completed during this time period. 

Babies whose parents talk to them often develop better language skills than babies whose parents do not communicate with them often. Research studies have shown that “at 20 months, babies of talkative parents knew 131 more words than infants of less talkative parents. At 24 months, the difference was 295.” 


You are to answer the following questions in your own words. Please post the questions with your answers in the text box below to submit your work. Remember to use complete sentences, use proper grammar, and don’t forget to proofread and spell check your work before submitting it. This may require additional internet research, so be sure to cite your sources.

5. Identify and discuss Kohlberg’s three stages of moral development.

6. Explain Freud’s beliefs of emotional development based on his Psychodynamic Theory. How is his theory viewed today?

7. What is the National Children’s Study? Explain the purpose of this research study and discuss some of the issues being looked at in terms of development.

8. Discuss some of the arguments between stage development and continuous development.

9. Development is seen as a lifelong process. How does development during one period of a person’s life relate to their development during another period of their life?

10. In your opinion, what do you believe is most important for healthy child development? How can cultural differences and socioeconomic factors influence development? Answer in a short essay.


Use complete sentences to explain what the following terms mean in your own words:

11. Object permanence

12. Stage development

13. Continuous development

14. Babinski reflex

Think About It

15. Albert Bandura argued that, “aggression in children is influenced by the reinforcement of family members, the media, and the environment.” In your own words, write a 100 word paragraph explaining what you think Bandura meant by this statement.

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