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Biological and Environmental Factors for Anxiety

Info: 2926 words (12 pages) Essay
Published: 27th May 2021 in Psychology

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Through the course of development starting from childhood and following into the years of adolescence, there can be a variety of factors that may certainly influence how a child experiences and reacts to different outcomes within their young lives. However, there exist circumstances that - from both a biological and environmental standpoint – can prove to be quite influential on the development of a child. These circumstances show reliance on an individual’s genetics – not only in how they act, but through their appearance, behaviour, and potential brain development. As a child grows and matures over time, uncontrollable aspects within their own familial or personal environment may demonstrate a great impact on how they reach adolescence, and even young adulthood. These uncontrollable factors not only find themselves influencing how an individual perceives various outcomes within their lives, but how they may also act upon them with an uncontrollable awareness on how they feel or wish to feel within that certain period. Following this, the given case study allows students to analyze exactly how such small actions is capable of demonstrating signs of anxiety disorder, and how such can influence the behaviour of a young girl named Kerry, with regards to her own familial and public environment. In her case, she is currently a grade 4 student who has been exhibited aspects of shyness and a quiet, centralized nature since her beginning of preschool year at the age of three. Now well into elementary school, Kerry has demonstrated increasingly developmental signs of anxiety disorder, despite her young age. Her family, and within the context surrounding her established anxious behaviour, demonstrates that there are evidently many factors that play a role as to how she may have exactly come into the way she is currently described. In this specific case, although Kerry has been demonstrating these behaviours, it is clearly as caused by her biological and environmental interactions, and how they are comparatively that of an existing condition to that of her younger brother. Kerry’s condition is made clear through the exact contribution of her biological and environmental influences, how they impact her future development, and her outlook of systematic interactions.

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The genetic development of an individual is solely reliant on the genetic coding passed on through the joint yet randomized parental genetic combinations, bringing uniqueness to a developing child. In the sense of siblings, such remains the same; individuals experience and handle instances of change differently from one another. Within this case study, students are introduced to both Kerry and her younger brother, Mike, who each exhibit different characteristics when compared to one another, especially in the sense of anxiety and aforementioned anxious behaviour. The difference in this light comes from the contribution of potential genetic combinations, as can be seen and formed by Punnett Squares – a simple form of comparing genetic coding to determine probable outcomes for offspring having specific genotypes (McNamara, J. September 20, 2019. Lecture 3). It shows possible combinations of either paternal and maternal alleles (or traits), which can be used to elaborate on Kerry’s scenario. Because her father, Dave, had struggled with anxiety throughout

his life, it is likely to assume he carries the dominant gene for anxiety, whereas her mother does not – making it a fifty percent chance of their children either carrying the gene for anxiety as a dominant or recessive gene. In the case of Kerry, because she has exhibited great signs of anxious behaviour, it is evident that she has inherited anxiety as a dominant trait from her father.

In a similar sense, both children have been exposed to varying environmental factors, although raised within the same household in similar conditions. Despite these similarities, one might question as to why one child has such anxious behaviour, while the other does not. The answer lies within how each experienced interactions with their parents – more specifically their mother. In the case study, it is explained that Kerry has had a great reliance on her mother from the start of a young age. By the time she had turned three years old, her mother had returned to work as a nurse. This point in time is where Kerry’s anxious behaviour had begun to show. In the case of her younger brother Mike, he was only one years old when his mother had returned to work, showing no drastic change in behaviour, as he was too young to be greatly affected by this change. This is similar in the case of Rhesus monkeys, and the effects maternal depravation may have on their development; researchers found that social deprivation throughout infancy resulted in extreme demonstrations of behaviour as in social and emotional deficits (McNamara & Dyer, 2019, p. 68). This concept is held in a similar fashion to human infants; although Kerry herself had not been faced with maternal deprivation during her infancy, the sudden change in her mother’s absence had generated a lost reliance. The way in which a child grows through the interactions of those within an early home environment is a key factor in healthy cognitive and socio-emotional development, especially in regards to maternal care and connections (Orri, Côté, Tremblay, & Doyle, 2019). Depending on her mother from such an early age, the sudden absence had caused Kerry to develop a sense of loss, acting as both an emotional and social deficit in her interactions. As apparent in this scenario, both Kerry’s genetic and environmental - even familial – aspects have played a role in how she has developed these anxious traits.

As the concept of stress is brought forward, one must also inquire about the effects long-term stress can have on an individual, if knowingly left untreated. The development of a child exists as something incredibly fragile and vulnerable to change, especially when such comes at a sudden and unexpected point in time. Due to the amount of anxious behaviour that may be put on a child because of this, the possibilities of perceived hesitant and emotional stress plays a role, as a response to an instance of sudden familial change encountered in childhood is crucial, since gathered stress experience influences anxious and social development into adulthood (Cheetham‐Blake, Turner‐Cobb, Family, & Turner, 2019, p. 283). Kerry’s early anxiety as a result of this abrupt change is a definite factor into her future emotional and physical development, especially as she grows in an educational environment. Only in grade four, she has already displayed physical weakness in her attendance at school, as well as displays an overthinking nature in relation to avoiding school excursions. Unable to look beyond these worrisome fears, Kerry’s potential development – emotionally and physically – will be stunted if not lagged, describing her past experiences of social rejection and change as “painful” and unrewarding (McNamara, J. Sept 27, 2019. Lecture 4). This allows her to rely, in part, on neural circuitry that constantly reminds her of any pain from her childhood anxieties, increasingly becoming as a biological impact rather than just seemingly mental. This prohibits Kerry from experiencing school and social life without a sense of fear.

Apart from the aforementioned biological and partial environmental factors that have shown to impact Kerry in the development of her anxious behaviour, the combination in relation of the two have yet to be expanded upon. The relationship between both features are best centralized in Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model, wherein each outlined category examines an individual’s interpersonal relationships within their respective groups in society (McNamara, J. Sept 14, 2019. Lecture 2). The model also classifies five environmental systems, in which an individual interacts. The two environmental systems that best elaborate on Kerry’s familial scenario includes the Microsystem and Mesosystem – both of which are the first two inner systems, and are networked as closely to a specific individual (McNamara & Dyer, p. 23). Bronfenbrenner’s model outlines the various interactions an individual has with those closest in their lives – namely parental figures.

As outlined throughout this essay, the numerous and randomized combinations of genetics never seemingly provide perfect caricatures in the sense of how individual’s desire to possibly behave, appear, or act in given circumstances. In a similar sense of one’s environmental factors and their interactions amongst family, peers, and other individuals, it should appear as no surprise to find their influence in the behaviour of another individual, especially in that of a child in a similar situation to that of young Kerry. As evidently shown in the context of her scenario, the development of her anxiety has contributed greatly by the interactions brought on in relation to the attachment of parental figures, especially that of her mother. As Kerry will mature throughout her most critical periods of development, she must be able to recognize the potential for various coping mechanisms available for her own discovery, even finding what works best. Anxiety - especially as severe as Kerry’s at such a young age – not only influences her own physical, mental, and emotional development, but rather the various interactions and experiences within different environments that she is unable to explore herself - because of these crippling fears. Kerry is just one example of how one’s genetics and environmental factors remain beyond their control, insisting them to seek effective coping strategies that suits them best.

References

  • Cheetham‐Blake, T. J., Turner‐Cobb, J. M., Family, H. E., & Turner, J. E. (2019). Resiliencecharacteristics and prior life stress determine anticipatory response to acute social stress inchildren aged 7–11 years. British Journal of Health Psychology, 24(2), 282–297. doi:10.1111/bjhp.12353
  • McNamara, J. (Sept 14, 2019) Lecture 2, CHYS 1F90, Brock University.
  • McNamara, J. (Sept 20, 2019) Lecture 3, CHYS 1F90, Brock University.
  • McNamara, J., & Dyer, H. (2019). CHYS 1F90 Course Package. Brock University.
  • Orri, M., Côté, S. M., Tremblay, R. E., & Doyle, O. (2019). Impact of an early childhoodintervention on the home environment, and subsequent effects on child cognitive andemotional development: A secondary analysis. Plos One, 14(7), 1–17. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0219133

 

SECTION B

Question #1

In reference to various other genetic diseases, one central focus of the CHYS 1F90 course has been on the fatality of Tay-Sachs disease. Genetic conditions have long since been attributed to the inherited randomized genetic outcomes passed on from both maternal and paternal lines. In the case of Tay-Sachs disease, the genetic outcome demonstrates to be a combination that proves fatal to potential offspring, if inherited. As such, the disease emphasizes a severely high – almost definite - mortality rate on infants, with a minimal chance of survival. Analysing this, because of such a small percentage of survival, parental adults may not carry the disease as a dominant trait in their genetics, and cannot therefore have the disease themselves. The question lies in how a child may inherit Tay-Sachs, if not a dominant trait in either parent. The very mechanisms of Tay-Sachs is demonstrated in its definition as a recessive genetic disease (McNamara, J. September 20, 2019. Lecture 3). Through a simplification, the meaning is that so long as the allele of a combination of genetics from both parental individuals does not express Tay-Sachs disease as a whole, it will fail to be expressed regardless of its presence. For an infant to develop Tay-Sachs, both genes within the allele would have the disease’s expression, only being possible if both parents carried the recessive gene, while not expressing it in and of itself. In order to discover the likelihood of a child contracting the disease from their parents’ genetic combinations, researchers, scientists, and doctors may use the Punnett Square – as described and explained in lecture – to determine how different combinations may form, as if into a potential disorder. In a Punnett Square, if each parent carries both a dominant and recessive gene, then the chances of a potential child having what is known as a homozygous recessive allele, is ¼ (25%) (McNamara). The likelihood of each parent passing on this potential disease is ½ (50%). In this sense, it is possible to screen for such possibilities, as researchers would simply need samples of genetic DNA in order to outline any potential combinations for Tay-Sachs.

Question #2

The very conceptual practice of learning over the course of one’s developmental stages of childhood can show to have a great impact as they grow through adolescence, as well as into early adulthood. To measure the outcome of their learning – as well as any intellectual skills the individual may have developed over time – the concept of one’s IQ (otherwise Intellectual Quotient) has been used. The judgement of one’s IQ is to determine the exact capacity of knowledge of which they are capable of within that age of their life. While the concept of IQ and IQ testing relies on one’s intelligence, it is not to say that this is not subject to change over a period of time. Specifically, a child’s learning, or rather their learning style, has the capacity to change as they develop through their education. This is focused on the idea of expanding upon their knowledge; can always improve on your intellect through both cognition and metacognition. In the sense of metacognition, the concept explores what learning strategies a child may know what is available, and understanding what works to assist in their learning. To simplify, metacognition is thinking about your thinking; exactly how the child is able to understand what learning strategies best work for them in their own education (McNamara, J. Sept 27, 2019. Lecture 4). In relation, cognition works similarly, in which a student may utilize their known strategies to help integrate more information – this includes such strategies such as note-taking and note summarization (McNamara). Cognition deals with more mental processes such as memory and learning, while metacognition deals with the thoughts on how to improve on these processes. A child’s IQ does not remain as a static and unchanging quantity throughout their lives; their capacity to learn is constantly improved upon and expanded, as the strategies of both cognition and metacognition – thinking about your thinking and actively incorporating such strategies – come into play in their education, and therefore improves upon their IQ over time.

Question #4

As prominently discussed, the Ontario government has implemented full-day early learning programs for young children starting at the age of four, taking place over the course of two years through both junior and senior kindergarten. Primarily implemented to support vulnerable children based on lower socio-economic status in households, the concept of full-day kindergarten has shown to be quite beneficial in terms of a child’s transitional periods into future grades – namely showing improvement of social development and strengthened communication among peers. Seemingly, throughout education, the presence of achievement gaps – especially in today’s educational environment – emphasizes a problematic situation that examines the various differences shown in groups of students through their own academic presentation, strengths, and weaknesses.  Forms of these academic performances have long since been attributed from a variety of different backgrounds, and have been recognized with regards to children’s racial, gender, disability, ethnic and familial income status. During the development a child experiences between the ages of three and six, the critical period of synaptogenesis takes place, in which the formation of synapses occur between neurons in the central nervous system, and is at its heightened peak (McNamara, J. Oct. 11, 2019. Lecture 6). This rapid period of growth within a child’s brain evidently plays a crucial role in the learning and the formation of memory for early lessons in the classroom. Looking towards the effects of synaptogenesis within a child’s mind, because of these newly formed synapses between neurons, a child’s learning becomes more centralized. Full-day kindergarten should decrease any achievement gap between more vulnerable and privileged children, namely because full-day kindergarten allows underprivileged children – those who may not have the opportunity to be exposed to as many educational opportunities p to fully experience any learning they may not have had the opportunity to be exposed to, as if they had remained in only half-day kindergarten.

References

  • McNamara, J. (Sept 20, 2019) Lecture 3, CHYS 1F90, Brock University
  • McNamara, J. (Sept 27, 2019) Lecture 4, CHYS 1F90, Brock University
  • McNamara, J. (Oct 7, 2019) Lecture 6, CHYS 1F90, Brock University

 

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