|MORE PSYCHOMOTOR CHAPTERS . . . . . . . .. . . . . .. .
|Prenatal Development Concerns
Here is a study about prenatal learning:
Thirty-three healthy pregnant women volunteered to test the hypothesis that fetuses can learn. At about 71/2 months into their
pregnancies, the women read and recorded three stories that were used later to test their children. The stories were
carefully chosen to be similar in length, but the common nouns in the stories were changed to ensure overlap. Each mother
was assigned one of the stories as her "target story," which she read aloud 2 times a day when she thought her fetus was
After the birth of these children, sixteen of the newborns participated in the rest of the study. Each infant was fitted with a
headphone and a nipple to suck on. The nipple was electronically wired to monitor sucking patterns. Some of the newborns
were rewarded for sucking longer by hearing a recording of a woman's voice reading the target story. When they sucked for
a shorter period, they heard a woman's voice read an unfamiliar story. Other infants were given different reward patterns.
Some heard their mother's voice reading the stories, and some heard another mother's voice. The results showed that
infants changed their sucking patterns more when they heard the familiar story, even when a woman other than their mother
read the story.
In another study newborns who had heard "Mary Had a Little Lamb" sung to them by their mothers during the two weeks
before birth showed a clear preference for this song over another after birth. The results of these studies suggest that infants
develop a familiarity with auditory stimuli in utero. Fetuses learn from exposure to prefer material they hear during late
A large concern in the world of medicine and special education is premature babies. The age of viability (when the baby can
first survive if born) is getting earlier and earlier thanks to advances in medical technology. However, the last weeks of
pregnancy are critical. At thirty weeks, the eyelids open to reveal fully formed eyes with pupils that respond to light. By 35
weeks, the hands have a firm grasp and the hair is growing. Increased production of fat makes the body more rounded and
less wrinkled. This increase in fat improves control of body temperature. If a baby is born very early, then those things which
would normally take place in utero have to happen without the constancy and protection of the womb.
While genetic and chromosomal disorders cause some birth defects, about 80% are caused by environmental problems
during prenatal development. The unborn child has at least 2 lines of protection from environmental influences. The first is
the amniotic fluid, which protects the fetus from physical injuries. The second is the placental barrier, created by blood
vessel walls that separate the maternal and fetal circulatory systems. This barrier acts as a filter, blocking effectively large
agents, such as bacteria, but not smaller agents, such as viruses. The mother's hormones, alcohol, and nicotine are among
the substances that can cross the placental barrier.
About 3% to 5% of birth defects are caused by infectious diseases transmitted to the developing child. Among the most
dangerous are rubella, syphilis, and AIDS, among many others.
Drugs cause birth defects as well, the most well-known being alcohol. Other drugs known to cause birth defects are
thalidomide, cigarettes, cocaine, and heroin.
Environmental hazards such as lead, pesticides, radiation, and chemicals can cross the placental barrier and affect the
Maternal conditions such as age, stress, malnutrition, and number of pregnancies can pose risks to the unborn child.
1. Go to the Tables page of my website
and scroll to the bottom to the table
"Prenatal and Neonatal Development."
Read through this and write down how
you think that these milestones affect the
psychomotor development of a child.
2. Read the study descriptions in the box
(right there ------------)
and respond (give your opinion).
3. How many weeks does the normal
4. What is the age of viability? (the actual
number of weeks)
5. Give a good definition of a teratogen.
6. All of the problems described can affect
the newborn's psychomotor status.
Explain how each of the following can
affect the psychomotor development of a
2) prenatal exposure to alcohol
3) prenatal exposure to cigarette
4) mother who is 49
5) mother who is 14
6) prenatal exposure to AIDS
7) mother has syphilis
|Effects of Early Stimulation and Early Deprivation
Humans are born more helpless than any other mammal. That mixed blessing means that the infant can't take care of itself
very well and that it can customize its growing brain for the world it encounters. This "neural customizing" can come from
exposure to a barren wasteland of random stimuli or a rich landscape of thoughtful sensory input.
"It used to be that we thought the brain was hard-wired and that it didn't change...but positive environments can actually
produce physical changes in the developing brain, " says Frederick Goodwin.
The brain can literally grow new connections with environmental stimulation. Marian Diamond, neuroanatomist, said,
"When we enriched the environment, we got brains with a thicker cortex, more dendritic branching, and more growth
spines and larger cell bodies."
Increased neural stimulation means a smarter person -- a greater number of neural networks, which are more intricately
woven together. The brain modifies itself structurally, depending on the type and amount of usage. Synaptic growth varies
depending on which kind of activity is given. For novel motor learning, new synapses are generated in the cerebellar
cortex. From repeated motor learning, the brain develops greater density of blood vessels in the molecular layer. Another
part of the brain, the superior colliculus grew 5% to 6% more in an enriched environment. New experiences, such as
reading, can get wired into the malleable brain.
Early deprivation also plays a role. If there is a bad experience, the wrong synapses are shed and the system malfunctions.
A study by neuroscientist Bob Jacobs suggested the same thing. Autopsies on graduate students showed up to 40%
more connections than the brains of high school dropouts. Frequent new learning experiences and challenges are critical
to brain growth. Challenging sensory stimulation has been rightfully compared to a brain "nutrient."
The brain learns fastest and easiest in the early years. It nearly explodes with spectacular growth as it adapts with stunning
precision to the world around it. During this time stimulation, repetition, and novelty are essential to laying the foundations
for later learning.
An interesting concept in attachment research concerns caregiver sensitivity but also infant characteristics. Research
suggests that characteristics of the infant play a role in influencing caregivers' behavior. Do some infants invite and others
resist the caregiver behaviors that lead to secure attachments? Infants react very differently: some are more responsive to
their environment than others, some are more resistant to being held and cuddled than others. Infants that are difficult to
soothe or are easily overstimulated may unwittingly discourage attachment behaviors.
The media has flooded us with stories of infants and children who have been abandoned, beaten, or killed by their
caregivers, deprived of essential emotional and physical comfort, or sexually molested and abused. The following child
characteristics make a child more susceptible to being abused:
~gender -- girls are more at risk
~age -- younger children are more at risk
~temperament -- difficult temperaments more at risk
~income -- poverty makes children more at risk
~family size -- children in larger families are more at risk
~disabilities -- a disability increases risk for a child
The effects of child abuse and neglect can be irreparable. Even when there is no neurological or physical impairment, the
consequences of child abuse can be devastating. Abused and neglected children sometimes show delayed intellectual
development, particularly in the area of verbal intelligence, poor school performance, and deficits in attention and
Early child abuse and neglect may harm the development of a child's attachments, sense of security, self-esteem, and
emotional stability. Children who have been abused or neglected also may have negative mental health outcomes, such as
depression, anxiety disorders, and aggressiveness. A consistent finding is that sexually abused young children exhibit
inappropriate sexual behaviour.
1. Define these words:
2. Here are some activities that may enrich
the environment. For each, come up with a
classroom activity to support it.
3. Have you ever heard of the term
Define this term, if you can find a definition.
4. Do you think that there really are
problems attaching due to a child's
5. After reading the characteristics of
children who are more likely to be abused,
do you think that this means that the child
is partially at fault for his/her abuse?
6. What do you think are some
characteristics of an adult that would make
him/her more likely to abuse a child?
7. NOW, do you think that child abuse and
neglect can actually HAVE an effect on a
child's psychomotor development?
But go down
there first, OK?
(this section is taken from the text, "Play, Development, and Early Education" by James E. Johnson, James F. Christie, and Francis Wardle.)
Here are some ideas about play from history. After you read others' views about play, you will be required to make your own theory of play. Read on . . .
1. Play is energy in surplus, relaxed, or arousing forms. Play is frivolous behavior and allows surplus energy to be released. (Friedrich Schiller and Herbert Spencer)
2. Play is conation, which is saying that play is about character shown through play treated as causality, practice, effectance, or courage. (Urie Bronfenbrenner)
3. Play is emotion, which sees play as an abstraction or as a parody. Play can have a cathartic effect, allowing children to rid themselves of negative feelings associated with
traumatic events. (Sigmund Freud)
4. Play is evolution, in which play is a recapitulation, civilizing, flexibility, adaptive potentiation, adaptive variability, or the creation of surplus resources. Play allows children to
rid themselves of primitive instincts that are no longer needed in modern adult life. (G. Stanley Hall and Arnold Gessell)
5. Play is cognition, where play is envisaged as assimilation, abstraction, subjunctivity, and creativity. (Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky)
6. Play is communication, in which play is perceived as signals, frames, and metacommunications. (Jerome Bruner)
7. Play is peak experience, which is play as self-actualization, as flow and being in the zone. (Abraham Maslow)
8. Play is chaos manipulation, in which play is a preparation for the unexpected in life or a manifestation of unpredictable permutations. (Vander Ven and Goerner)
9. "Enforced learning will not stay in the mind ... let your children's lessons take the form of play." (Plato, the Greek philosopher).
10. Play is the enemy, the "left hand of the devil," to be guarded against so that children would focus on family responsibilities, chores, work, and their schooling (to learn to
read the Bible). (Puritan belief)
11. "Play is what the body wants to do, work that the body is obliged to do." (Mark Twain)
12. Play and work are on a four-point continuum: chaos, play, work, and drudgery. (John Dewey)
13. "Play is the child's work." (Maria Montessori)
14. "Play gives us pleasure, a sense of accomplishment, of belonging . . . without huge risk our cares, worries, sadness, secrets are released." (Lenore Terr)
15. "Play is, among other things, a kind of aerobic workout for the human capacity to change -- a freewheeling form of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual
exercise." (Al and Tipper Gore)
16. "To get an idea of playing it is helpful to think of the preoccupation that characterizes the play of the young child. The content does not matter. What matters is the
near-withdrawal state, akin to the concentration of older children and adults. The playing child inhabits an area that cannot easily be left out. Nor can it easily admit
intrusions." (Donald Woods Winnicott)
17. Play restores energy. Work uses up energy and creates an energy deficit. This energy can be regenerated either by sleep or by engaging in play. (Moritz Lazarus)
18. Play is practice. It offers a safe means for the young of a species to practice and perfect vital skills that are required for adult life. (Karl Groos)
19. Play is a problem-solving task. When playing, children do not worry about accomplishing goals, so they are free to experiment with novel combinations of behavior that
they are not likely to try if they are under pressure to achieve a goal. (Jerome Bruner)
20. Play is progress, fate, power, identity, imaginary, self, frivolity. (Brian Sutton-Smith)
21. Play is intrinsically motivated; flexible; produces positive affect; voluntary; egalitarian; nonliteral.
22. Play is for having fun, being outdoors, being with friends, choosing freely, not working, pretending, enacting fantasy and drama, playing games.
BUILD YOUR OWN THEORY OF PLAY!!!
Carefully reflect on these questions:
1. WHY DO YOU THINK CHILDREN PLAY?
2. WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS THE PURPOSE OF CHILDREN'S PLAY?
3. HOW DOES THIS PURPOSE WORK? HOW DOES IT INCREASE FLEXIBILITY OR IMAGINATION, SOCIAL SKILLS,
OR WHATEVER YOU BELIEVE TO BE THE PURPOSE OF PLAY?
4. WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LEARNING AND PLAY?
5. TO WHAT EXTENT SHOULD YOUNG CHILDREN PLAY? FOR WHAT AGES IS PLAY IMPORTANT? AT WHAT AGE
DOES PLAY BECOME UNIMPORTANT, INAPPROPRIATE, A WASTE OF TIME?
6. SHOULD PLAY BE ENCOURAGED IN EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS?
|"Children who spontaneously engage in [make-believe play], when compared to their
less playful peers, tend to be more friendly, popular, expressive, cooperative, verbal,
and creative, less impulsive and aggressive, and more likely to take the perspective of
others ... More impressive, kindergarteners' participation in sociodramatic play predicts
their social and social-cognitive maturity in first and second grades." (Fein and Kinney,