Cognitive Development

From a newborn baby to an eleven year old child, cognitive development is affected by both inherited genes (nature) and experiences that take place throughout our lives (nurture). The development of the human brain plays an important role in living, learning, and other skills needed throughout life. Our brain’s cognitive understanding and interpretation of information is what makes us all individuals. Though many machines or computers can perform many functions such as mathematics or language, they cannot come close to replicating the complexities that allow every individual to form the personality and emotion that makes us unique.

PRENATAL-BIRTH: Watching a fetus develop from a fertilized egg is very intricate yet miraculous process. This just the beginning developmental stages of what Berger refers to as “by far the most complex structure in the known universe,” (Berger, 2005). A mother has great influence on the fetus developing inside her body including things such as emotions, diet, and everyday activities which can have both positive as well as detrimental effects. According to Berger about twenty-two percent of births are cesarean section, or C-section. I was a few weeks overdue when my mother went into labor with me.

When she arrived at the hospital the doctor decided that there was some fetal distress and that my mother would have to undergo a C-section. I was born a health eight-pound four-ounce baby girl on July third. My brother was also C-section, so my mother was left with scarring over most of her lower abdomen. THE FIRST TWO YEARS: The first couple years newborns develop physically and mentally at an amazing rate, unlike any other time of development during their life. Many aspects of a baby’s development form the base for life-long learning.

According to Berger, the concept of plasticity of human traits, which states “personality, intellect, habits, and emotions change throughout life for a combination of reasons” affect development (Berger, 2005, p. 15). A baby’s brain plays an important role after the baby is born. Newborns naturally cry and begin to breathe on their own. At birth babies already have more than 100 billion brain cells and their brain is about 25 percent of its adult weight. In the first two month you can see a baby’s brain developing as they begin to have purposeful eye contact, turn to noises, and improve coordination.

Cognitive milestones from birth to age one include; following moving objects with eyes, recognizing differences in people (cry when given to stranger), imitating gestures, and placing small objects into containers, but without purpose. Babies also find a way to fit small things into places. This can be very dangerous if they stick anything into electrical outlets. For me while my mother was given birth to my younger brother, I was staying at my aunt’s house. While watching cartoons and eating peanuts when I found a way to some how get one lodged in my nose.

I told my mother as soon as I saw her but she could not see a peanut in my nose and thought I possibly was imagining it. About three days later I sneezed out what my father called a “moldy, green blob. ” Babies spend a lot of time sleeping, and it has been found that adequate levels of sleep also contribute to maturation of the brain. Growth hormones have been found to be released during sleep, which would have a great effect on the growth of a baby’s brain. In contrast though, you may have heard someone say, “People who say they slept like a baby usually don’t have one.

It is unheard of for a baby under the age of one to sleep completely through the night. This has not been connected to brain maturation, but rather how the baby is raised, and what schedule the baby gets to choose, theirs or the parents. My mother said that if she ever wanted a break she would just put me in the car seat and drive because it would put me right to sleep. Even as I got older, I was a good traveler because I spent most of the time relaxing and napping. Many studies have shown that different areas of a baby’s brain mature at different times.

As we have discussed in class, a baby’s eyesight is not 20/20 when they are first born, and they also see using binocular vision. Brain scans have shown the visual area of the brain to be the most active in newborns those that have use of their eyes. As I mentioned earlier my mom would put me in the car seat when she wanted me to fall asleep. As I got older I began to notice the lights outside the car at night. My parents said my eyes would get big and I would point and say “da dights! ” My dad said I especially liked the big arrow that curled around and flashed outside an auction house.

As language develops, many children may say words differently as they learn how to control their mouth muscles to make certain sounds. I know when I was growing up my mom said I had trouble pronouncing words. Socks would come out as “hox”, and as I mentioned before lights would come out as “dights”. Also when I was growing up, a woman my mother knew had dropped her baby on its head, and the baby died consequently from receiving a blood clot. After I heard this, anytime I would hit my head I thought the same thing was going to happen to me. My mother said I would cry and ask, “Do I have a blood clunk?! A baby’s brain is forming millions of connections that will greatly affect development physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially. THE PLAY YEARS: Early childhood is a time when children gain many cognitive skills. According to Berger, Piaget believes younger children seem to be limited to their own self-perspective, also known as egocentrism (Berger, 218). Some obstacles of logical operations they face include; centration, focus on appearance, static reasoning, and irreversibility. One area of preoperational thought I can relate with is focus on appearance.

This would include that a boy or girl may fear they have changed to the other sex, if they were certain clothes or received a hair cut that resembled that of the opposite sex. When I was about five or six, my mother took me to get my ears pierced. We came to find out that only one of the piercing guns was working, and my mother asked, “Amanda, are you sure you want this done now? ” Of course I insisted I needed it done now. After the first gun clicked and sent what I thought to be deathly pain throughout my body, I would not let them touch me to pierce the other ear.

My angry mother made me walk around the mall the entire day with one ear pierced. I covered the un-pierced ear with my hand because I was afraid that people would think that I was a boy. Conservation experiments can also be done on children to see how appearance can alter their judgments. For example given two equal size glasses of milk, a child may be asked to pick the fullest one. When one is then poured into a taller, skinner glass they tend to choose the taller glass because it appears bigger. In a “Dennis the Menace” cartoon I recently read Dennis was with his mother as she was cutting a pizza.

Dennis was saying, “Cut it into lots of pieces mom, I’m really hungry. ” This is example of how younger children do not understand conservation. Dennis did not understand that even though she could cut it into more pieces, the same amount of pizza would still be there. It is also thought that children may attempt to construct a theory to explain everything they see and hear according to Berger, known as theory-theory. Reasoning for this would be that humans always are pushing for answers of causes or reasoning.

Many cognitive milestones for children between two and four include; recognizing self in a mirror by saying “Baby” or their name, recognizing and matching colors, stacking objects in order of size, drawing meaningful pictures, asking “Why? ” and “How? ” to gain information, knowing age and name, and understanding the meaning of past and present. For children between four and six cognitive milestones range from being to rhyme words, naming colors, matching pictures of familiar objects, naming numerals and letters, knowing personal home address and town they live in, tying shoes, and understanding time (Learning Disabilities, 2005).

Children also learn gross motor skills from peers by imitating what they do such as pouring juice, drawing, or cutting food. I know in our family photo albums there is a picture of my mother and me brushing our teeth. I know in the picture I am far too young to understand not to swallow the toothpaste or make sure I brush all areas, but I am successful in imitating my mother in putting the toothbrush in my mouth and pretending to brush my teeth. THE SCHOOL YEARS: The level of a child’s cognitive development plays an important role in an individual’s ability to attend school.

Children who have not reached a certain level of cognitive development may either have to wait a few years to try to re-enroll or may have to take special classes which provide attention to their individual needs. There are also children who have certain disabilities that prevent them from enrolling in traditional schooling programs. School-aged children, about five to seven years old, possess what Piaget refers to as concrete operational thought (Berger, p. 289).

According to Berger, these logical principles that children use in situations that have visible or tangible objects can be later applied in more systematic and scientific situations. Children also gain the ability to classify objects by a certain characteristic and understand if certain aspects of an object change; it still maintains the same identity. They also gain an understanding of reversibility. This would include that an object can be returned to its original state by reversing the process by which it was changed. Berger refers to two different ways a child is taught to read, phonics and whole language.

Phonics includes teaching reading to children by requiring them to learn the sounds of each letter before they begin to decipher simple words (Berger, 303). Whole-language teaches reading by encouraging children to develop talking, listening, reading, and writing in learning communication (Berger, 303). I remember learning how to read and how hard it was. I can recall being given a question in first grade, where we had to read about a certain situation. My said something like the firefighters just arrived on the fire truck. What will they do next?

I answered that they would sit down and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I remember my teacher talking to me about my answer because I couldn’t read. Cognitive development of the human mind is a very interesting subject, especially when you relate to personal experience. You begin to see that some of the things that happened to you over your lifetime are normal and most people experience the same situations. I believe that having this insight into the cognitive development of the human mind will definitely help me to someday understand my children.


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