1) What is attachment? How does it affect a person’s future social competence? 2) Does it differ across cultures? 3) Infants show temperamental differences in general disposition from birth. Is...

1) What is attachment? How does it affect a person’s future social competence? 2) Does it differ across cultures? 3) Infants show temperamental differences in general disposition from birth. Is temperament fixed and unchangeable? 4) Define “goodness of fit.” 5) What changes in the body and the brain do children experience in the preschool years? 6)  In what ways do children’s gross and fine motor skills develop during the preschool years?7) How do information-processing approaches and Vygotsky’s theory explain cognitive development? 

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1) Attachment is a mutual and lasting bond between, in this context, an infant and his or her caregiver. The consequential emotional tie ensures psycho-social needs are met and the baby's overall existence is enhanced. It is not unique to humans and was explored by ethologist John Bowlby who adapted his studies of animals after observing unstable and traumatized children in a London psychoanalytic clinic. Bowlby's four characteristics of attachment (proximity maintenance, safe haven, secure base and separation distress) relate to early experiences and he proposes that the expectation that needs will be met is established and sustained from infancy through adolescence, concluding that future social competence, although reliant on many additional factors, may be affected by the nature of the attachment formed and experienced throughout childhood. 

2) Mary Ainsworth, a student of Bowlby, describes different forms of attachment, stemming from her research and her laboratory-tested technique for assessing patterns in babies which is known as The Strange Situation. From a cultural perspective, Ainsworth's technique has been countered in some non-western cultures as they have different expectations regarding interaction with babies and, due to the stressful setting for The Strange Situation, other methods are preferred in more natural settings. However, after other cross-cultural studies, such as The Waters and Deane Attachment Q-set (AQS), which included mothers in China, Columbia, Germany, Israel and other countries, the findings most often conclude that the mother as a "secure base" is, in fact, a universal phenomenon although the forms it takes may vary (Posada et al. 1995).

3) Temperament, although it does have emotional elements, is considered an enduring and consistent basis for how a person behaves rather than what a person does.(Thomas and Chess, 1977) It is the very differences in temperament and the basic biological structure or makeup of a person from which personality develops. Infant temperament influences attachment and the way a baby who may be considered "difficult" is managed by the primary caregiver can result in securely attached babies, provided the caregiver knows how to soothe and handle an irritable baby. 

4) In defining "goodness of fit" in this context, consideration is given to the environment within which an infant/ child lives and demands and constraints that stem from that. To ensure compatibility within the environment, not only the environment itself is key but also the people within that environment. A "good fit" is assumed when a child's abilities and temperament are commensurate with any demands and expectations placed on the child.   

4) In discussing "goodness of fit," it becomes apparent why some siblings and family members have good relationships and others struggle. An ability to "bring out the best" in someone else stems from managing temperament - often subconsciously. Similarly, when relationships go wrong it may be attributable to an inability to satisfy the needs of a sibling or partner and vice versa as the "goodness of fit" principle relies on cooperation. Compatibility is only ensured when compromises can be reached without resentment developing.

5) During the preschool years, a child begins to test his environment and develop his personality. Self-awareness develops, from an infant's understanding of his surroundings and his nurturing "self- concept" which is then reinforced through self-efficacy (Bandura 1994) and a realization that external events - however limited- can be controlled, and then through an ongoing process of personality development. Erik Erikson recognizes the development stage of "autonomy versus shame and doubt," as the second stage in personality development. This stage, according to Erikson, ensures that boundaries are in place and children come to understand the need for limits and control.

By the age of three, the brain is approximately 80% of its adult size. It is particularly "plastic" in childhood and flexible to new experiences. Therefore, positive environmental influences are crucial as children absorb and learn from new experiences which, if they are not nurturing or beneficial, can have a detrimental effect. The potential for learning exists within the brain and it is the external stimulus which ensures development; for example, a parent talking and introducing a child to language.

6) In the preschool years, sensory, motor, emotional, and intellectual skills develop and are actively encouraged through play and interaction.  "Milestones" are recognizable achievements which are mostly systematic- the one skill prepares an infant or child for the next one. Gross motor skills use the larger muscles, the first recognizable one of which would be head control and then rolling over. Having mastered standing up and walking; catching a ball, jumping, etc and, managing a flight of stairs, are all achieved during the preschool years. These skills must be encouraged and will enable a child to participate in sport at school level. 

Fine motor skills develop, especially as children become more adept in gross motor skills. What starts out as a basic ability to grasp objects develops into tasks using both hands. Children are encouraged to manipulate toys; sugar or play dough being a favorite. Managing a knife and fork, doing up buttons, coloring in between lines and holding a pencil correctly are all highly praised fine motor skills. Obviously, they continue to develop during the early school years. It is the child's awareness of his changing body- now he can walk, for example- and his perceptual recognition and expectation that encourages him to take the next step. Hand eye co-ordination thus encourages these skills and results in developmental milestones being reached. 

7) Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development, the socio-cultural perspective, concentrates on the way children learn from others and how they operate within a "Zone of Proximal Development." (ZPD)Children who struggle with tasks can be encouraged through additional guidance. This allows the most basic or elementary functions to transpose into higher level thinking. It also studies the "potential" of a child rather than focusing on skills already acquired and mastered.

The information-processing approach to cognitive development relies on the concept that babies and children actually "process" and even analyse information thus ensuring ongoing development and not necessarily development in fixed stages. 

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A Child's World: Infancy through Adolescence. Diane E Papalia, et al, 10th edition; McCraw Hill