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Inherited and Environmental Influences on Development

The environmental and inherited influences on development, also known as, nature and nurture both play key roles in the shaping of developmental processes. Nature refers to inherited or biological traits such as, abilities and capacities that are genetically passed down by one’s parents. On the other hand, nurture refers to environmental influences that play a role in shaping our behaviors, such as methods of childrearing and other products of society. Differences in lateralization of the brain between males and females may be ascribed to both genetic differences in the corpus callosum, which is larger in women, and environmental factors; girls usually receive more extensive verbal encouragement than boys do. Both nature and nurture are theorized to be attributing factors that influence and shape development. Developmental Psychologists place strong emphasis on the belief that both nature and nurture are leading causes that influence and shape human behavior and development by either biological factors: nature, or environmental factors: nurture.

1. What are some inherited influences on development?

2. What are some environmental influences on development?

3. What role does socialization play as an environmental influence on development?

Psychologists and developmental experts have been able to attribute the behaviors of an individual to particular influences on development that can be separated into two categories: inherited and environmental influences on development.

What are some inherited influences on development?

It is widely speculated that factors of inherited influence are more important than the environmental factors that affect a child’s growth and development. Obviously we know that inherited biological factors do play a great role in shaping human development, this is a widely acknowledged fact. While this is true, one must still not disregard the significance of environmental influences in the early stages of growth and development. Many studies emphasizing the significance of inherited influences are, however, impossible to disregard or ignore. For example, it is almost universally accepted that a child faces biological risks in their mental and physical development when the mother smokes cigarettes during pregnancy. However, many would argue that you cannot directly attribute negative social behaviors to the mother smoking tobacco during pregnancy. According to research presented at the Behavior Genetics Association, “there is uncertainty about why there are links between maternal smoking during pregnancy and offspring antisocial behavior”. This uncertainty creates room for the argument that environmental influences can be attributed as the factor responsible for these negative behavioral developments. However, many scholars still argue that recent research and data “indicates that findings differ for offspring antisocial behavior where the association with prenatal smoking appears to be entirely explained by inherited pathways that are not attributable to maternal antisocial behavior.” This argument is strengthened by data presented at the Behavior Genetics Association in 2007, below is a graph of the findings. The research showed an increased rate of antisocial behaviors amongst the offspring of parents who smoked during pregnancy. (Rice, 2007)

(PNAS, 2007)

What are some environmental influences on development?

The environmental impacts on one’s behavior can often determine factors that will shape future behaviors. During critical and sensitive periods development can be greatly affected. Critical periods occur when the existence of certain types of environmental stimuli become necessary for development to continue conventionally. It is theorized that development during the critical period is easily influenced, specifically in the area of personality and social development. On the other hand, during sensitive periods the organism becomes particularly vulnerable to certain types of stimuli in their environment. Unlike critical periods, the absence of stimuli in a sensitive period does not always result in immutable consequences.

What role does socialization play as an environmental influence on development?

Societal influences are believed to play a large role on the environmental impacts of development. The way we have been socialized or conditioned is a response to environmental stimuli. For instance, gender is something socially constructed and society places expectations on individuals according to their gender, which will determine the roles they will later fulfill in society. A publication from U.C. Santa Cruz states the following of gender acquisition and the societal influences that are perpetuated around them.

Gender stereotypes in infants are perpetuated by society's expectations and perceptions. Societal influences, preconceived notions and expectations enforce already existing gender stereotypes…In the study of forty-eight children, their mothers, and 16 college students, gender based stereotypes influenced interaction with infants which in turn socialized the infants to conform to their respective gender role. Ratings of the female infants centered on their small size and beauty. Male infants are judged usually according to their ability and intelligence. While evidence of gender stereotyping in infant ratings are becoming less dominant after adolescence, sex stereotyping in adults' behavior towards infants has changed little. Obviously, society shapes the gender stereotypes that both children and adults hold. (Rivera, 1996)

Research by psychologists over the last several decades has increasingly pointed to hereditary factors being more important, especially for basic personality traits such as emotional tone.  However, the acquisition of values, beliefs, and expectations seem to be due more to socialization and unique experiences, especially during childhood. (Oneil, 2006)

Most psychologists and developmental specialists agree upon the fact that influences from both inherited and environmental elements are equally important to the construction of growth and development. However, certain behaviors and growth patterns are believed to result from greater attributes of environmental and inherited influences.

Theoretical Perspectives Examining the Development of Children With (ADHD)

Trends have shown that the amount of children in the United States diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, additionally known as (ADHD) over time has steadily increased among young children and adolescent youth. The exponential surge in diagnosis of ADHD has increased the amount of prescription drugs used to treat individuals. Issues surrounding these developments pose a multitude of questions that include:

1. How are applications of the theoretical perspectives of development examined to help understand disorders such as ADHD?

2. What are the associated risk factors of medications used to treat ADHD in children?

The increasingly steady number of children being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in the U.S has resulted in an array of developmental obstacles; the actual number of children diagnosed with ADHD remains unknown, as does the amount of those children that are being treated with prescription medications.

How are Applications of the theoretical perspectives of development examined to help understand disorders such as ADHD?

Theoretical perspectives that lifespan Developmentalists examine as they identify the different patterns of growth, change, and behavioral stability that take place in the duration of the entire lifespan help bring further understanding to behaviors and the possibly of treating undesired behaviors. Among these theoretical perspectives include, learning, language, cognitive, social, moral, and personality development. All of these perspectives can be applied to assist the understanding of behaviors including the behaviors of children with ADHD. A commonly used behavioral method for the treatment of ADHD is the approach of cognitive behavioral therapy. A definition for cognitive behavioral therapy has been provided by, the Mayo Clinic.

With cognitive behavioral therapy, you work with a mental health counselor (psychotherapist) in a structured way, attending a limited number of sessions. By helping you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking, cognitive behavioral therapy allows you to view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way (Mayo Clinic Staff).

What are the associated risk factors of medications used to treat ADHD in children?

An in depth analysis addressing the associated risks of prescription medications used to treat ADHD in children must be taken into strong consideration before any decisions are made to place that child on such medications. The most commonly prescribed drugs to both children and adults for the treatment of ADHD are stimulants. A publication from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded the following of children undergoing treatment for ADHD: “NSCH does not assess use of ADHD treatments other than medication…thus, the number of children with reported ADHD diagnoses who received other types of treatments is not known.” Studies indicate that the use of stimulants, prescribed to treat ADHD can lead to harmful side-affects. Not to mention the risk of becoming reliant upon, or even addicted to prescription stimulants. (Kennedy, 2005)

Distinctions Separating Self-Concept and Self-Esteem

The image that an individual perceives him or herself as is believed to greatly influence the social and cognitive development of that individual. The establishment of self-concept and self-esteem are two greatly influential aspects of a child’s development. Environmental and inherited influences are theorized to have affect on the development of self-concept. Promotion of social development by parents or caregivers may substantially increase the likelihood of a child developing a positive self-esteem depending on variables such as nature and nurture of the situation.

1. What differences separate self-concept from self-esteem?

2. What are the theoretical perspectives on self-concept and self-esteem?

3. How can caregivers facilitate children’s development in these areas?

The development of the self in early and middle childhood encompasses the growth of independent ideas and goals, which veer from expectations of the primary role models, the process where developments of social comparisons are made reflects one’s self-concept, however, self-esteem refers to the way an individual perceives themselves through self evaluation; both are vital to social development and can be positively or negatively influenced by caregivers.

What differences separate self-concept from self-esteem?

The term self-concept refers to the perception regarding what one is like as an individual, and that individual’s identity. The self-concept allows individuals to identify with specific characteristics of the self that allow them to differ from other individuals. For instance, a response to a question exemplifying one’s individual strengths reflects one’s self-concept, or identity. The development of self-concept is primarily used to reflect strengths perceived by an individual about his or her self that are used to provide meaning to their actions and purpose in life. In children, self-concepts may not be accurate; an individual’s self-concept changes throughout life, this is dependant upon changes in a culture’s views regarding others outside of their own, changes involving state institutions, and products of other societal and environmental influences. According to research found by William W. Purkry, author of: An Overview of Self-Concept Theory for Counselors. Highlights: An ERIC/CAPS Digest: “Self-concept is learned. As far as we know, no one is born with a self-concept. It gradually emerges in the early months of life and is shaped and reshaped through repeated perceived experiences, particularly with significant others.” (Purkey, 1988)

The term self-esteem refers to an individual’s overall and distinct positive and negative self-evaluation. Many important developments on an individual’s self-esteem transpire during middle childhood. Throughout this phase, children experience the maturation of Internal standards. Which is often times the reason that children progressively compare themselves to others. For the majority of children, self-esteem increases as the transition from early childhood to middle childhood takes place. Feelings of inadequacy that relate to an individual’s capacity to do most things takes place when that individual’s self-esteem is negative.

What are the theoretical perspectives on self-concept and self-esteem?

There are a multitude of theoretical perspectives that give possible explanation to functions of self-concept and self-esteem. The Educational Resources Information center (ERIC) provides a publication of An Overview of Self-Concept Theory for Counselors, which identifies some of the influential theorists that have contributed to theories of self-concept.

By far the most influential and eloquent voice in self-concept theory was that of Carl Rogers (1947) who introduced an entire system of helping built around the importance of the self. In Rogers' view, the self is the central ingredient in human personality and personal adjustment. Rogers described the self as a social product, developing out of interpersonal relationships and striving for consistency. He maintained that there is a basic human need for positive regard both from others and from oneself. He also believed that in every person there is a tendency towards self-actualization and development so long as this is permitted and encouraged by an inviting environment. (p. 2)

Some of the other theoretical perspectives of self-concept and self-esteem in development include: Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, Erik Erikson’s psychosocial development, Carl Roger’s conception of self, Vygotsky's approach to cognitive development, Lawrence Kohlberg’s development of social learning and moral reasoning, and Abraham Maslow’s theories on personality.

Humanistic psychologist, Carl Rogers theorized that the self was divided into two parts, the real self and the ideal self. An article written by Herb Stevenson for Natural Passages, states the flowing of the ideal self vs. the real self.

The ideal self is some fantasy that we carry around as a measure of what we might be if the fairy god mother ever shows up. Often, this is a picture of life, our life, that we have changed very little since childhood. By taking the time to really examine the depth of the ideal self, we see indirectly how we have judged or dismissed whom we are. The real self is a comparison to that ideal self. It is a description of who am I, really, right now. By comparing the ideal with the real, we begin to see the gaps in perception we have created, the judgments we have made about ourselves, and the gaps that could be preventing us from fully living our lives in the moment as the person that we truly are. (para. 3)

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill defines the concept of representational mapping as the following:

Representational mapping can be described as the self-descriptions that are logical connections among components that can be made primarily concrete, overly positive, and all or nothing. They contain concrete and abstract components, more realistic (but still always positive: "above average" effect) shades of grey (Steps in "self" development).

How can caregivers facilitate children’s development in these areas?

The importance of promoting the development of a healthy self-esteem in children is an environmental influence on behavior that is greatly affected by parenting techniques. Parents and caregivers can facilitate children’s development in the areas of self-concept and self-esteem through childrearing styles. The most effective way to do so is through the implementation of authoritative childrearing techniques. Authoritative parents have the perfect balance of emotional support, warm and loving qualities; yet, they set clear boundaries for behavior. Certain techniques of parenting have proven to result in negative effects on a child’s self-esteem. For instance, Authoritarian parents are extremely controlling and there word is the law, there is no toleration for expression of disagreement. Authoritarian parents enforce strict methods of discipline and punishment that negatively reinforce behaviors of that child, which is likely to result in an increase of the unwanted behaviors occurring again under the same circumstances. The use of positive and negative reinforcers when applied properly has been a proven method of modifying behaviors. The U.K. site Kids’ Behaviour provides useful information on how to properly apply positive and negative reinforcement to promote desired behavioral responses (Morrisey, 2008). Applying the childrearing approaches of reinforcement to daily activities can facilitate the development of both a positive self-esteem and self-concept.

In the 2009 publication, Anderson, Hughes, and Fuemmeler addressed some of the specific issues that surround parental attitudes and child activity.

The objective of this study examined the parental attitudes on children based on the particular types and levels of intensity in physical activity that children engaged in, which could give explanation to the gender differences associated with these activities, in addition to the evaluation of physical engagement serving as a mechanism to shorten time spent engaged in sedentary behaviors. A design of a community sample with participants, which included, 681 parents and 433 children of the mean age of 9.9 years conveyed the importance of activities such as moderate to vigorous intensity levels in the areas of team an individual activities including, sports, physical activity and household chores. (p. 428) As Anderson et al. (2009) conducted their evaluations separate structural models were used to determine factors that differed between boys and girls in relation to parental attitudes and physical activity.

Separate structural models (LISREL 8.7) for girls and boys tested whether parental attitudes were related to child TV and computer via child attitudes, sport team participation, and physical activity, controlling for demographic factors. Main Outcome Measures: Child 7-day physical activity, sport teams, weekly TV, computer. Results: Parent– child attitude congruence was more prevalent among boys, and attitudes varied by ethnicity, parent education, and number of children. Positive parent– child attitudes for vigorous team sports were related to increased team participation and physical activity, as well as reduced TV and computer in boys and girls. Value of moderate intensity household chores, such as cleaning house and doing laundry, was related to decreased team participation and increased TV in boys. Only organized team sports, not general physical activity, was related to reduced TV and computer. Conclusion: Results support parents’ role in socializing children’s achievement task values, affecting child activity by transferring specific attitudes. Value of vigorous intensity sports provided the most benefits to activity and reduction of sedentary behavior, while valuing household chores had unexpected negative effects. (p. 428)

Sexual Behaviors of Adolescents and the Associated Risks

The adolescent years are characterized by the development of one’s personal sense of identity. During this phase a transition from middle childhood to early adulthood takes place. In these years, young adults entering puberty explore an array of sexual behaviors that will play a role in shaping their sexual identities. With the exploration of such sexual behaviors follows the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancy.

1. What associated risks are involved with sexual behaviors in adolescents?

2. What are the statistics of sexually transmitted diseases among teens?

3. What are the statistics of pregnancies among teens?

As middle-childhood transitions into the adolescent years an array of physical, cognitive and social changes take place, these are main contributors to the sexual behaviors explored individuals in their adolescent years, however, there are associated risks with connected with these sexual behaviors that include, contraction of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy.

What associated risks are involved with sexual behaviors in adolescents?

The exploration of newly discovered sexual desires among adolescents come with repercussions. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are common among teens. Another primary concern that surrounds the engagement of sexual activity in teens is the possibility of becoming pregnant. Precautionary measures to ensure safety when acting upon sexual urges and needs must be taken into consideration before any sexual contact is to occur. The enforcement of sex-ed in many public schools throughout the U.S decreases the chances of individuals acting upon sexual desires without first examining the risks, and increases likeliness of the use of condoms and other contraceptives.

What are the statistics of sexually transmitted diseases among U.S. teens?

One of the largest concerns surrounding the sexual voyages of adolescents is the threat of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Prepared by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, The Executive Summary, part of the Workshop Summary: Scientific Evidence on Condom Effectiveness for Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Prevention states that:

Recently, a number of Federal agencies sponsored a workshop to answer the following question: "What is the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of latex male condom-use to prevent STD transmission during vaginal intercourse?" This workshop was attended by 180 persons, and the data from numerous peer-reviewed published studies were discussed. Following the workshop, a panel of 28 experts worked to develop this report. (p. 1)

In the United States, more than 65 million individuals are living with an STD, the

majority of which are incurable viral infections. Approximately 15 million new sexually transmitted infections occur annually in the U.S. In the United States, approximately 493,000 individuals have died from AIDS, and 800,000-900,000 peopleare living with HIV disease. (p. 1)

AIDS (ACQUIRED IMMUNE DEFICIENCY SYNDROME) is one of the primary causes of death among youth. AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease that is induced by the HIV virus. There is no known cure for the disease. A basic list of facts regarding the contraction of the HIV virus was provided by, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

HIV can be passed from person to person if someone with HIV infection has sex with or shares drug injection needles with another person. It also can be passed from a mother to her baby when she is pregnant, when she delivers the baby, or if she breast-feeds her baby. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is found in blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk. HIV is spread most often by having sex without using a condom, or by sharing needles. People can be infected with HIV without knowing it. An HIV test is the only way to know for sure. There are treatments that help people with HIV stay healthier, but there is still no cure. Choosing not to have sex and never sharing needles are good ways to protect yourself. Practicing safer sex means always using a new condom with a water-based lubricant. You cannot get HIV from shaking hands, water fountains, bathrooms or eating utensils. (Alto, 2010)

In 2009, 46% of high school students had ever had sexual intercourse, and 14% of high school students had had four or more sex partners during their life.1

 

In 2009, 34% of currently sexually active high school students did not use a condom during last sexual intercourse.1

 

In 2002, 11% of males and females aged 15-19 had engaged in anal sex with someone of the opposite sex; 3% of males aged 15-19 had had anal sex with a male.2

 

In 2002, 55% of males and 54% of females aged 15-19 had engaged in oral sex with someone of the opposite sex.2

 

In 2006, an estimated 5,259 young people aged 13-24 in the 33 states reporting to CDC were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, representing about 14% of the persons diagnosed that year.3

 

Each year, there are approximately 19 million new STD infections, and almost half of them are among youth aged 15 to 24.4

 

In 2002, 12% of all pregnancies, or 757,000, occurred among adolescents aged 15-19.5 (Rowe, 2010)

What are the pregnancies statistics among U.S. teens?

An epidemic surrounding teenage pregnancy has emerged in America; every day in the U.S. a high volume of adolescents give birth. The statistics of teen pregnancy seem to appear much lower in other industrialized nations. Teens in the U.S. are likely to use birth control. The narrow-mindedness that surrounds the practice of premarital sex in the U.S. can be rooted to a lack of sex education. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, teen pregnancy among girls between the ages of 15-19 have shown trends that have decreased by 37 percent between 1988 and 2005. “However, the teen pregnancy rate between 2005 and 2006 increased 3 percent.”

Proper sex education has proven to be one of the most effective measures of reducing the risks among youth of contracting STDs and teenage pregnancy. Promoting proper awareness through sex education provides individuals with the information needed to practice the measures of safe sex (Henshaw, 2010).

Life Expectancy Calculations

According to the calculations provided by MSN’s life expectancy calculator, my approximate life expectancy is 86 years of age. The positive and negative factors of my lifestyle were examined. (Msn, 2011)

1. What lifestyle modifications can be made to increase my longevity?

2. Who are the youngest and oldest people you have known, and what lifestyle choices attributed to their longevity?

A variety of important developmental components of physical and mental health are main attributers to the longevity of one’s lifespan, some of these factors depend on levels of stress, personality type, engagement in physical activity, in addition to, a variety of behavioral and genetic predispositions that are theorized to influence the human lifespan.

What lifestyle modifications can be made to increase my longevity?

Stress has a large impact on health factors that include, personality type. Type A personalities are believed to be more prone to the disposition of heart disease. Listed below are some of the personality traits of type A and type B personalities, provided by the website changingminds.org, which provides further information in regard to these associated health issues.

The Type A personality generally lives at a higher stress level. This is driven by

They enjoy achievement of goals, with greater enjoyment in achieving of more difficult goals. They are thus constantly working hard to achieve these.

They find it difficult to stop, even when they have achieved goals.

They feel the pressure of time, constantly working flat out.

They are highly competitive and will, if necessary create competition.

They hate failure and will work hard to avoid it.

They are generally pretty fit and often well-educated (a result of their anxiety).

The Type B personality generally lives at a lower stress level and are typically:

They work steadily, enjoying achievements but not becoming stressed when they are not achieved.

When faced with competition, they do not mind losing and either enjoy the game or back down.

They may be creative and enjoy exploring ideas and concepts.

They are often reflective, thinking about the outer and inner worlds (Type A and type B).

Unfortunately I carry more characteristics of the type A personality, which predisposes me to such health complications later in life that are associated with type A personalities. Although, I cannot change my entire personality, there are, however, certain behavioral modification techniques I can apply to everyday life to reduce specific stressors. I carry certain tendencies that border obsessive-compulsive behaviors, which is a common characteristic of type A personalities. These obsessive behaviors are stressors that can be controlled through behavior modification techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

Who are the youngest and oldest people you have known, and what lifestyle choices attributed to their longevity?

The longest living individual I have known personally would have to be my great-grandmother on my father’s side who lived to the age of 87, which is close to the approximation of my life according to the lifespan calculator. She was always a physically active individual that enjoyed the simplicities in life. Her laidback attitude leads me to say that she had a type B personality.

The youngest person in my life that has died was caused by something that could have been prevented. I was a small child at the time, but twenty-eight year old Mark, my father’s closest friend suffered from an addiction to heroin that engulfed his entire existence. His addiction caused him to contract the HIV virus, which soon after turned into full-blown AIDS that facilitated the slow deterioration leading to his death less than two years after contracting the virus. It is unknown whether he contracted the virus through sharing of needles, or having unprotected sex. Thee use of hard narcotics such as heroin would have eventually lead to death if measures were not taken to control the addiction. However, the lifestyles often associated with drug addicts follow a set of lifestyle influences put forth by peers. Addicts often associated with addicts and share things like needles and engage in unprotected sex, which is an unfortunate cause of death affecting many individuals that suffer from such disorders as drug addiction.

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