Monday, July 16, 2012

Adolescence: Psychosocial Milestones

As baby nears adulthood, she goes through a crisis of self. The question on her mind will be, "Who am I?" Erikson called this stage identity versus role confusion. This complex search for self becomes the primary focus of adolescence, contributing at least in part to almost everything she does. The ultimate goal of adolescence and this psychosocial crisis is identity achievement - the understanding of self as a unique individual. The opposite is role confusion, the adolescent simply does not know or sometimes even care what her identity is, and it is characterized by apathy. The adolescent in role confusion has trouble getting homework done, putting clothes away, and thinking about the future. The only response you'll ever hear from such a teen is, "Whatever."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Adolescence: Cognitive Milestones

Just when you thought that baby's childish egocentrism had disappeared, she becomes a teenager. The adolescent egocentrism that makes her think everyone is staring at her will drive you crazy, but it's not her fault. Just like with the growth spurt, neurological development in adolescence comes one piece at a time. The limbic system that controls fear matures, then the prefrontal cortex that regulates those emotions. Teenagers become reactive and emotional before they can regulate those mood swings.

Researchers do have to be careful not to blame everything a teenager does on incomplete brain development as they continue to study adolescence. The research can be expensive and as a result there is not much research done on children between the ages of 10 and 17. So try as you might to get baby to be cautious in these formative years, she probably won't be and the research can't tell you all of just why that is yet.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Adolescence: Biosocial Milestones

Around age 11, you're starting to wonder where your baby went and by 18 she has all but disappeared and turned into an adult - although perhaps a bit less mature and more impulsive.

Childhood ends and melts into adolescence with the onset of puberty. Puberty normally begins between the ages of 8 and 14. With girls you'll notice puberty when she starts to develop breasts, pubic hair makes its first appearance, and she goes through a growth spurt. This is followed by a widening of the hips, her first menstrual period (the technical term is menarche), more pubic hair (its final pattern), and full breast development. With boys, his testes will grow, pubic hair will make an appearance, his penis will grow, he will ejaculate for the first time (spermarche), facial hair will start to grow, he'll go through a growth spurt, his voice will deepen, and finally more pubic hair. The typical age of menarche (girls) is 12 years and 8 months; for boys the typical age of spermarche is a little before 13 years, so the two take place at about the same time.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Middle Childhood: Psychosocial Milestones

Between the ages of 6 and 11, baby will be increasingly more able to self-regulate every day as she takes on more responsibility and shows self-control. She strives for independence and influences your decisions regarding her care. Erikson called this stage industry versus inferiority as she strives to master whatever abilities are valued in her culture. In layman's terms, she spends this time deciding whether she is a winner or a loser.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Middle Childhood: Cognitive Milestones

The cognitive development of middle childhood allows baby to do almost anything she puts her mind to. From musical instruments to chess to poetry, her brain really lets her do it all.

Piaget called this stage in middle childhood concrete operational thought. They can think logically about the world they perceive. He thought that while 5- to 7-year-olds could start to think logically, age 7 is when they are able to apply that logic to concrete situations. One of the concepts mastered at this young age is classification, the ability to group things according to similarities. A class can be a family, people, animals, etc. They start to understand that while any daisy is a flower, not all flowers are daisies. Another example of the concrete stage is called transitive inference, the ability to infer the link between two facts even though it is unspoken, including rules at school that go unstated - called hidden curriculum. This opens the young mind to all sorts of logical thought. Seriation is another related principle of logical thought, the ability to arrange things in sequence.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Middle Childhood: Biosocial Milestones

Between ages 7 and 11, baby will be almost invincible. These years are the healthiest period in her entire life. In these fortunate years, fatal illnesses are rare and mortal injures unusual. Baby's rate of growth slows down by age 6 and now she can settle into her own skin: awkward adolescence is a few years away. Children in middle childhood (aged 7 to 11) can make their own lunch, walk themselves to school, brush their own teeth, etc. Children this age can master plenty of skills with a little motivation and a lot of practice. The "just right" phenomenon has faded away, allowing for plenty of opportunity to try new things.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Early Childhood: Psychosocial Milestones

Between the ages of 2 and 6, baby starts to learn how to express her emotions as her brain matures and the limbic system makes contact with the prefrontal cortex. This emotional regulation is the key to control and happiness in the rest of her life. By age 6 she should be much less explosive than the toddler she was before.

Erikson called this psychosocial stage initiative versus guilt as self-esteem comes out. This crisis has to do with baby undertaking new skills and feeling guilty when she fails. As a part of this stage, she develops a self-concept, or a basic understanding of herself. You will undoubtedly notice as a part of this stage that baby may hold herself in very high esteem, thinking she is attractive, strong, smart, and that almost anything can be done. This pride in her own identity, partnered with a longer attention span, are signs of neurological maturity. This stage involves guilt, meaning that baby blames herself when things go wrong, rather than shame which means she feels that other people are blaming her.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Early Childhood: Cognitive Milestones

As baby's thought processes develop, we look back to Piaget. He called the stage between the ages of 2 and 6 preoperational intelligence. It is a period of incredible self-centeredness. Centration is baby's tendency to only focus on one idea, one part of something. She excludes any outside possibilities. For example, Daddy is Daddy only - he cannot be anyone's brother, uncle, or anything else because he is her Daddy. This also exhibits egocentrism - she only thinks of the world from her own perspective. You've probably noticed that by now.

She also has a tendency to focus on only what she sees. This is called focus on appearance. If something is not apparent to her, she generally won't think of it. This is in part because of static reasoning, a characteristic that means a young child thinks that nothing changes. What she sees is what she gets. Another characteristic related to this same mindset is called irreversibility, the belief that things cannot be undone. A snowman cannot become snow again. One 4 and 6 are 10, they are no longer 4 or 6, nor can they ever be again. Part of this can be seen in the "just right" phenomenon, for example, a tomato touched her sandwich and it is now inedible, the tomato cannot be removed.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Early Childhood: Biosocial Milestones

After baby makes it through her first two years and officially becomes a toddler, everything is different. Between the ages of 2 and 6, baby grows from a chubby, toddling thing into a much more mature being whose body and brain is practically adult compared to just a few years before.

Baby's BMI at age 5 is lower than any other time in her life. Her chubby belly, round face and short limbs are replaced by a slim frame at she lengthens out and grows muscle. She suddenly looks much more like a gymnast than the infant she was. Every year between the ages of 2 and 6, your healthy baby should gain nearly 5 pounds and grow about 3 inches. By age 6 she is approximately 46 inches tall, weighs 46 pounds, and her legs are about half of her height - meaning she has adult-like body proportions.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The First Two Years: Psychosocial Milestones

The last facet of baby's first two years is her psychosocial development. Put simply, it is her emotional reactions to the world.

Baby's emotions start off rather simple. At birth there is crying and contentment. By six weeks she smiles to be social and by 3 months it becomes laughter and curiosity. By 4 months she has a big responsive smile and starts to experience her first anger (more evident by 6 months). Between 9 and 14 months she'll grow a fear of social events, strangers and separation as well as unexpected sights and sounds. By 18 months she'l be rounding out her emotional spectrum with self-awareness, pride, shame and embarrassment.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The First Two Years: Cognitive Milestones

So we know about baby's growth on the outside, but let's talk more about what goes on in her head during the first two years.

When it comes to cognitive development, the first place to go is to Jean Piaget. He was the first to demonstrate through research that infants really are intelligent and gave us insight into what baby's brain. His stages of cognitive development are the basis for what we know about baby.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The First Two Years: Biosocial Milestones

You just had a baby! And oh, baby what a baby it is! In the first months and years of life, that baby is going to accomplish more than you can even begin to comprehend.

The most obvious accomplishment in the first two years of your baby's life will be growth. Anyone can see that babies grow so much, even in a matter of days. If your baby was the average baby, she weighed about 7.5 pounds and was about 20 inches long when she was born. These are norms, meaning the standard for a population. She may seem tiny now, but this will change over the next days and months.