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The Influence of Environmental Factors on the Development of a Child

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It is interesting to read how boys and girls start to lose “baby fat”, boys more so than girls! From a cute chubby potbellied toddler to a flat-tummied proportional child. Also interesting to read is how not only genetic but environmental factors determine the height and weight of a child. In addition hormones play an important role as well. It is important to measure levels of hormones like Growth Hormones and Thyroid Stimulating Hormones soon after birth since the lack of these can lead to permanent disabilities if not addressed on time. Another developmental change that occurs is the formation new epiphysis which will allow for the formation of a mature skeletal system. By the end of preschool girls and boys start to lose their “baby teeth”, girls lose them before boys. Environmental factors also play a role in when the permanent teeth appear as well as if those permanent teeth will be healthy or not. The brain also grows and increases in weight during this stage and the cerebral cortex forms a number of synapses which then undergo synaptic pruning. Measurement of neural activity with for e.g. fMRI shows rapid growth in the prefrontal cortex (the area involved in executing executive function).

In addition the other structures of the brain like the reticular formation, cerebellum, amygdala also strengthen connections. Play contributes to the development of a child’s cognitive and social skills. Make believe play can predict a variety of cognitive capacities like memory, imagination, creativity, emotion regulation, executive function, language and logical reasoning. Children with imaginary friends have more creative make believe plays and are more sociable with peers. Preschoolers who spend more time in sociodramatic play are more socially competent later. During sociodramatic play a child has a lot of different ideas and has planned a complete scenario and how each step has to be followed by the other in order to conclude the act. Though one might just observe and admire the cuteness during the play, the execution of this act requires a lot of planning, communication and problem solving skills. What might just look like fun has a lot of meaning for the developing child.

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The first thing that I would be concerned about would be to figure out if the child has autism. Autism a condition in which a child displays deficits in 2 core areas of functioning 1) social interaction and communication and 2) restrictive, repetitive patterns of behavior and interest. In addition a child with autism does not involve in make believe play. I will have to evaluate the child for Autism. For any child growing up play is essential. Play allows them to explore and learn more about the environment and about themselves. It allows for them to learn from their mistakes and to try again and again at a game till they win at it. This allows them to prepare for real life struggles and helps them develop strength and resilience. A child who does not involve in play socially isolates him/herself. Social isolation can lead to anxiety and low self-esteem all of which can have detrimental effects. We often see on social media how socially isolated individuals end up performing acts which are not only harmful to them but to the people around them. Children from low income families are on a nutritionally deficit diet. This deficiency does not only effect a child’s height and weight but also their memory and attention, achievement test score, intelligence as well as lead to hyperactivity and aggression.

As mentioned in the video the lady talks about how her father played an important role in developing the skills that she already had. In low income families the lack of this interaction with parents leads to the child not being able to learn and hence lack cognitive skills. In addition maladaptive parenting practices also lead to “reactive and inflexible rather than reflective and flexible forms of behavior and cognition”. Early intervention programs like Head Start and Head Start plus REDI provide children with preschool education, nutritional and health services. The children who attended the program scored higher in IQ and achievement. In addition a greater number graduated from high school and there was a decrease in need for placement in special education schools.

A cross-culture difference that I enjoyed reading about was the difference in drawing skills between children from Asian cultures and Western ones e.g. China and the United States. These children though might have genetic factors that make them good at it but more has to do with their culture/environment that they were raised in. Parents and teachers give these children the artistic knowledge and technique which then allows them to work on their skills. Though I need to keep in mind during sessions that every individual is unique and I cannot generalize what values they hold based on the culture they come from but once confirmed, I can use these artistic skills to help me evaluate and treat my client. I feel that these children might give me a lot of information through what they draw and hence help me understand what they are feelings in a much better way.

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