"Major Characteristics of Development"
Physical - Physical development obviously starts long before the common "infantile" stage that we all think of today. Brain development begins in the weeks following conception. A noticeable brain is apparent after only three to four weeks, when the neural plate folds up to form the neural tube. The bottom of the tube becomes the spinal cord. "Lumps" then emerge at the top of the tube and form the forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain. The so-called primitive or lower portions of the brain develop earliest, and regulate such biological functions as digestion, respiration, and elimination; they also control sleep-wake states and permit simple motor reactions. All of the above traits of the brain are what makes life possible. By three months after conception, the midbrain and hindbrain are well on their way to being developed, but the forebrain still has a long way to go. Gradually these two hemispheres become larger and more convoluted, making for a characteristically human brain. Many processes are involved in early brain development, but I won't go into much detail as they are not true parts of infancy physical development. These processes include 1proliferation of brain cells, where neurons are produced at a staggering rate during the prenatal period, 2migration, when neurons migrate from their place of origin to places where they will become part of specialized functioning units, and finally 3organization, which is a complex process involving differentiation of neurons, synapse formation, and competition among and pruning of neurons. The brain weighs about 25% of its adult total at birth, and by age 2, it reaches 75%. Lateralization is one important feature of brain organization, which causes the two hemispheres of the cerebral cortex to become asymmetrical.
Aside from brain development, other tremendous amounts of growth and development occur during the first two years of infancy. Reflexes are one of the newborn's greatest strengths. Two types of reflexes include survival reflexes and primitive reflexes. Survival reflexes all have a clear adaptive value, where primitive reflexes are not clearly useful to the infant, though have been proven to be extremely useful in diagnosing infants' neurological problems. Primitive reflexes typically disappear during the early months of infancy. Infants are able to establish organized and individualized patterns of daily activity. In the first few months of life, infants grow rapidly, gaining nearly an ounce of weight a day and an inch in length each month. By age 2, they have already attained about half of their eventual adult height and weigh 27 to 30 pounds. They may grow a couple of centimeters one day and then not grow at all for a few weeks. In the end, 90-95% of the infants' days are growth free, and yet their occasional bursts of physical growth add up to a substantial increase in size and weight. Bones and muscles also develop quickly during infancy. The two month year old is only able to lift his/her head up when lying on their stomach, while by 12 months of age, can walk well alone, and drink from a cup. This is an example how just how fast and critical physical development is throughout infancy.
Cognitive - Piaget's first of four cognitive stages of development is the sensorimotor stage, which claims that infants deal with the world directly through their perceptions/senses and their actions/motor abilities. At this point, they are unable to use any sort of symbols, such as gestures or representative images, to help them mentally devise solutions to problems. Infants learn a great deal about the world and acquire tools for solving problems directly through their sensory and motor experiences.
Psychosocial - Erikson's first conflict, trust versus mistrust. This is Erikson's proposal that revolves around whether or not an infant becomes able to rely on other people to be responsive to his or her needs. To develop...
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