Child development studies is an interdisciplinary field, which studies the development of a child from conception to childhood through adolescence and emerging adulthood. Child development is divided into three broad domains – physical, cognitive, and emotional and social. Some experts state that child development is a continuous process while others argue that it follows discontinuous stages.
Recent theories on child development include information processing, which views the mind as a complex computer; ethology, which emphasizes the evolutionary origins and adaptive behavior; Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory that focuses on understanding cultural influences; ecological systems theory where environment is believed to play a role in development; and dynamic systems perspective according to which changes in physical or social systems account for a child’s behavior (Chapter 1). The characteristics of each individual depend on their genotypes and environment.
Chromosomes, which contain genes determine our hereditary characteristics. The child inherits two genes on each chromosome from its parents. The dominant gene is responsible for inherited characteristics. Chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome, occur due to errors at the time of meiosis. Genetic counseling helps parents avoid the risk of giving birth to children with genetic defects. The child’s family, economic status, neighborhood, school, and favorable public policies play an important influence in shaping his or her personality (Chapter 2).
More couples are choosing to remain childless, using birth control measures, and delaying their birth ages today compared to previous times. Children with low birth weight are more prone to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes in adulthood and high birth weight are more prone to breast cancer in adulthood. Factors such as teratogens; usage of certain prescription drugs, such as thalidomide; illegal drugs; tobacco; alcohol; exposure to radiation; environmental pollution, infectious diseases; nutrition; emotional stress; and maternal age shape prenatal development (Chapter 3).
The Apgar score determines a newborn child’s physical condition at birth. Natural childbirth involves preparing an expectant mother about childbirth. Various medical interventions, such as fetal monitors, forceps, and cesarean delivery assist during childbirth complications. Complications at birth might cause conditions like cerebral palsy in a newborn. Brazelton’s Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale is used to assess the behavior of the newborn (Chapter 4).
Chapter 1: History, Theory, and Research Strategies, pp. 1-76.
Chapter 2: Biological and Environmental Foundations, pp. 1-67
Chapter 3: Prenatal Development, pp. 1-39.
Chapter 4: Birth and the Newborn Baby, pp. 1-48.