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The Exploration of Child Development in Babies, the Documentary

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The documentary Babies follows four children and their journey from newborns to one-year olds. These babies come from different cultures and distant countries, Ponijao from Opuwo, Namibia, Mari from Tokyo, Japan, Bayar from Bayanchandmani Mongolia, and Hattie from San Francisco, California. The film shows how these infants develop physically, cognitively, and socially and although each one of them go through similar growth changes that are expected experiences during infancy for normal brain maturation to occur, they grow up differently and have varying personalities due to the contrast in how they were raised.

Firstly, with the children’s biosocial, or physical development, they all were able to achieve the same motor skills however some were able to move around independently faster while others took a bit more time. For example, Ponijao, out of all four, seemed to be the one to crawl and take her first steps quicker, most likely because physically, she was the most mobile ever since birth. This could also be because due to having the example of her siblings and seeing them walk around. Hattie and Mari, on the other hand, had no siblings to grow up with, but they seemed to have developed certain skills at what is the norm for their age. Lastly, Bayar was the one who struggled the most to stay on his feet and take his first steps. This could be a consequence of having been tightly restrained, for the first few weeks to months of life, impeding the advancement of his motor skills. Additionally, fine motor skills were viewed when Hattie was peeling a banana with such delicacy and concentration using her small fingers, even to peel off the little strings. In addition, the film included how medical care for infants, differs from a rural village to a busy, urban city. Ponijao and Bayar lived in rural areas where medical care was of no importance, compared to Hattie and Mari who live in the city where frequent, monthly check-ups are encouraged by doctors and the media. However, even though there is a difference with regards to the medical care that the babies did or did not receive, they were all healthy. It is evident why dependent experiences vary, because every culture has their own ways of bringing up a child.

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Secondly, Ponijao, Bayar, Hattie, and Mari’s cognitive development which includes their imagination, perception, memory, and language all matured throughout their first year of life. Since Hattie and Mari live in developed countries (United States and Japan), they have a wide access and are exposed to books and toys that contribute to their language development, such as Hattie who would listen to her mother’s reading of a book. This, alongside her parents constantly talking to her, contributed to her learning the English language. Ponijao was always hanging around her mother and siblings whom which were always communicating with each other, this in turn was a key factor in helping her learn the language of her culture. It was evident that the mothers from Namibia, United States, and Japan used child-directed speech towards their babies while the infants replied with babbling. On the other hand, Bayar was the one who had the least exposure to being talked to or hearing anyone talk because most of his days were spent alone and even when his mother was around, there was still silence. This could possibly have slowed down the efficiency of his speech, leading to in the future, him being more quiet compared to the other three babies. Going along with their growing knowledge of language, the babies developed secondary circular reactions. For example, if a parent smiled or laughed, the baby would quickly follow along showing that as a baby’s brain matures, so does their perception of people and objects. With regards to tertiary circular reactions, Bayar was a prime example. As he got older, he acted as a “little scientist” by unrolling a roll of toilet paper and eating it to climbing on top of something high, resulting in him falling down. These experiences, whether they end up positive or negative, stay recorded in a child’s memory for future reference to help them decipher if a certain action or decision will benefit them or not.

Lastly, throughout the first twelve months of life, the babies’ emotions and social skills were able to flourish. All four had social interactions with people but in different amounts and different ways. As mentioned before, Bayar had very little interaction with his family, his mother was rarely around him and he would always end up fighting with his older brother, which in the future could cause him to be more aggressive, independent, and have less of a loving bond with his mother. Though there would be no problem with separation anxiety as he grows older, like maybe Ponijao would. In the film, she was always embraced in her mother’s arms and when she was not, she would be crawling around with her peers happily and always giggling. When an infant is close to their parents and family since birth, it helps create a stronger social bond with the family, although it can lead to negative attachment issues as they develop. Hattie and Mari probably had the most interaction with other babies their age, since both of them were seen being put in classes, such as “baby yoga” or having playdates, that consisted of arts and crafts. Yet again, culture and varying parenting styles have a huge impact on a child’s psychosocial development, some raise their children in a way that makes them a “social butterfly”, while others grow up to be a “lone ranger”.

Taking everything into consideration, I believe the two major factors that affect a child’s development are culture and parenting styles. Ponijao, Bayar, Hattie, and Mari all were raised differently by their caregivers, but they all grew up in a safe environment where their development was not in harms way. Going forward I will now have more patience with children and marvel at the little things that they achieve. I learned that each child is different and depending on how they were raised, especially in the first two crucial years of life, shapes them in who they become in their early childhood years all the way to adulthood. All of this information will be very useful to me if I decide to work around children, because it will help me understand that a child may act a certain way not only because of personality issues, but because culture also has a major influence on a child’s behavior.

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