Everyday children are born; millions of new lives start each day, throughout the world. The growth and the development of these children, has been a topic of confusion and debate for years. Many psychologists are argued over what factors make up the person we are, whether they are biological or environmental. Different theories and conclusions have been drawn over what exactly shapes us, and what effects us from birth through adulthood. Though by studying the differences between theories I was able to draw from each and come up with my own conclusions about development and the nature versus nurture debate. I believe that only through knowledge of many theories are you able to get a clear understanding of development, and then only are you able to really analyze and come to your own conclusions. Once I was done studying the different theories and comparing this to my own thoughts and personal experiences with children I was able to come to my own conclusions about development I have believe that nurture is much more influential on a child s development than nature is.
Infants are born with about one hundred billion nerve cells. All of these nerve cells have not yet made the important connection, which determine a person s social, emotional, and intellectual make-up. Most of the connections are made in the first three years of a human s life. These connections are the most important and whoever and whatever comes in contact with the child will have an effect on them. Infant brain cells are constantly making connections and sending and receiving information from other cells. The signals which are sent and received travel from cell to cell by chemicals such as serotonin. The electrical impulses move over the synaptic gap and to the dendrites, then move down the axon to the terminal buttons, here the information is sent to another cell. These small movements of information between the brain cells are crucial in development. These connections are strengthened by repetition of everyday activities which activate the network of brain cell. These connections are strengthened by whom the child is with, whether it be a parent or caregiver. This leads me to believe that a child s environment and the people whom this child comes in contact with will sharply effect the development of this child. (Kaiser Permanente)
There have been many stage theories such as Piaget s, his stages are based on intellectual development. There are four stages which he believes everyone goes through, in each of these stages a child learns new skills which they use in the next stage of development. All children go through all the stages but at different times. It may take longer or slower for different children. The first stage is sensimotor, this stage occurs from about zero to two years old. In this stage the child begins to learn about their relationship with their environment, and with different objects in that environment. At a young age children learn how to reach, grasp and hold things such as toys and bottles. These simple tasks that infants master are called schemas. Schemas are patterns of thought and behavior, reflexes are the first schemas infants acquire. Piaget developed two principles to explain how infants develop these schemas. The first one assimilation means taking new information and fitting it in to existing schemas. For example if an infant knows how to grasp a finger it will learn how to grasp a bottle. The second, accommodation refers to the changing a schema in order to fit it in new information. Once a infant realizes that it has the ability to grasp a bottle it will know that it can now grasp for a toy. Learning these simple tasks will help them learning how to do things later in life. In Piaget s terms the child is developing meaning for symbols, and will start to think about objects which are not present at the moment. This is called object permanence, children begin to understand that objects exist whether they can see them or not. During this stage the child also requires representational thought. Representation means allowing on thing such as; an object, word or, idea to stand for something else.
In Piaget s second stage, preoperational, the child begins to use language to try to make sense of their world This stage occurs between the ages of two and seven. In this stage the child is trying to discover their world, though their thinking capacity is much less sophisticated then adults, they lack conservation. Conservation is the ability to realize that object stay the same even though they have changed physically.(Sushkin) For example if you show a child two cups of water which hold the same amount of water, then you pour one of those glasses into a tall slim glass the child will tell you that the taller one has more water, even though they have just seen that the water amounts were identical.(Narine 138) The child s inability to realize that the amounts of water are the same comes from what Piaget call centration, this means that they focus all of their attention on one aspect of an element, not the entire thing. This is why they think that the taller glass has more water in it just because it is taller and that is the only aspect they focus on. Children also have trouble with reversibility, that they can t comprehend what will happen if you pour the water back into the original glass. Children in the preoperational stage are also very egocentric they only perceive things from their point of view. In this stage the child also begins to understand numbers and use language more effectively , you can carry out a conversation with a child in this stage.(Sushkin) Piaget s stage theories are informative, though I don t believe that he has explained how greatly the first two stages are effected by the children s environment. To be able to progress through the stages and be able to learn and interact with the environment, and objects within that environment, it must be a healthy one.
I believe in order for a child to have a full understanding and well developed view of his world, they must be brought up in a healthy environment. The theories such as Piaget s are not focused on that at all, he doesn t discuss the important of environment, only how the child reacts to it. To me this is not good enough and doesn t explain how we come to be who we are. I believe that many aspects of our behavior is created by our environment one of the biggest factors is where we grow up. I was raised in north Jersey till the age of ten, then my family moved to Colts Neck. Growing up in Colts Neck has definitely changed my behavior. My friends were also brought up in North Jersey then their family moved to Washington, New Jersey for their teenage years. Washington is not much better than Newark, they don t have that money and the environment that she grew up in was dramatically different than mine. Now I am going to college working toward a career and have many goals for myself. My friends are not as well off, the oldest is a recovery alcoholic drug addict, who has been in and out of jail for years and has never graduated high school. His sister who is my age didn t graduate high school either, has a new born baby and is living on welfare, her little brother just dropped out of school, and was recently put in a youth detention center. To me this is a clear example of how your environment effects the person you become. I also believe that not only does where you live effect you but who you are around while you grow up. My mother and the rest of my family exposed me to many different things at a young age. Unlike my friends mother who never did anything with them. This I believe has made all the difference, if no one shows you that there are others things out their to learn about and explore you will never have the opportunity to grow as an individual. A parent and a caregiver has a huge responsibility to open children s eyes to a new world outside of their own. A healthy and nurturing relationship between a parent and child makes all the difference. The difference in parenting makes a huge difference in your life, if nature had more of an effect on a person all of my friends wouldn t have ended up the way they did.( Chapman)
Human relationships, and the effects of those relationships are the foundations of a healthy development. From the moment you are born until you die everyone you come in contact with has an effect on you and your behavior. Young children are especially effect by who they meet. If when you are a child you have an unhealthy relationship with a parent or caregiver this will change who you are. If you are able to develop a intimate and nurturing relationship when you are young you will be able to trust and feel secure in your environment, in turn you will be more secure in exploring and learning in that environment. As the psychologists Erik Erikson has pointed out in his stage theories all children pass through crises and the outcome of these crises effect who they are. In his first stage an infant goes through trust verses mistrust. In the first year of your life you depend on adults for everything, food, shelter, warmth, and if you get those things you will develop a positive outlook on life and feel secure in your environment. Though if you don t get those things you will develop mistrust toward people and your environment. This first stage is the building block to a child wanting to explore and learn in their environment. This first relationship the child makes will carry out through the rest of their lives. (Wu)
Being a caregiver myself I see first hand how much a child s environment and the relationships you build with the children effect them. Providing a diverse and caring environment for children is our number one goal. In doing this we try to open their eyes to different things in our world. We show them how to manipulate different things in their environment, and how they can learn through it. By doing this I feel that our nurturing has more of an effect on them then nature does. Some of the children that come to our center come from poor broken families and some have behavioral problems, though once in our center you can see that allowing them to view their environment differently they change. I believe that the environment a child learns in and grows up in will effect who that child is. The interactions between us and the children and the kind of play and activities we provide for them are huge factors in their development. We allow them to discover nature through play and how things works, and I believe that this, showing children things from different perspectives is what allows for amazing growth.
This ability we have to open children s eyes to new experiences and new ways of looking at the world is a great gift. Everyone a child comes in contact with has the opportunity to change that child s life. This is why I feel that nurture is so much more vital to a child s growth and development. If you only view development through one specific theory you will miss out on a huge part of what development actually thrives off. That is why I cannot pin point one theory which I believe is the correct one. As I have said before you must study and learn many new approaches before you are able to come to your own conclusion and mine is that we effect a child s growth. Our attitudes and interaction with the child shape who they are. I don t believe that children are born a certain way I believe that they are made that way through the course of their life. As with my example before of my friends and myself I believe that if they were exposed to a variety of different situations and learning opportunities they would all be different people today.