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Conversely, children who grow up in neglectful or abusive relationships with parents who are overly intrusive and controlling are at high risk for a variety of adverse health and behavioral outcomes Barber, ; Egeland et al. The development of health-promoting relationships between parents and their children is rooted in evolutionary pressures that lead children to be born wired to interact with their social environment in ways that will ensure their survival and promote their eventual development Bowlby, Through reaching out, babbling, facial expressions, and gestures, very young children signal to caregivers when they are ready to engage with them.

Caregivers may respond by producing similar vocalizations and gestures to signal back to infants that they have heard and understood Masataka, Cabrera and colleagues found that children of fathers who react to their behavior in a sensitive way by following their cues, responding, and engaging them are more linguistically and socially competent relative to children of fathers who do not react in these ways Cabrera et al.

A consistent give and take with responsive caregivers provides the child with tailored experiences that are enriching and stimulating; forms an emotional connection between caregiver and child; builds on the child's interests and capacities; helps the child develop a sense of self; and stimulates the child's intellectual, social, physical, and emotional and behavioral growth Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, ; National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, This give and take is particularly important for language development.

It is believed that through this process, the child learns that she or he is loved and will love others in return, and that she or he is accepted and cared for and will also eventually accept and care for others. For infants, social expectations and a sense of self-efficacy in initiating social interactions are influenced by their early interactions with their caregivers. McQuaid and colleagues found that mothers' contingent smiles i. The adult's response to the child's overtures for interaction needs to be contingent on the child's behaviors.

Infants' spontaneous vocalizations are characterized by pauses that enable caregivers to respond vocally. Children who have experience with turn taking are able to vocalize back to the caregiver in a synchronized manner Masataka, Young children's social and emotional development is influenced by the degree to which primary caregivers engage them in this kind of growth-promoting interaction Cassidy, As described in Chapter 1 , securely attached infants develop basic trust in their caregivers and seek the caregiver's comfort and love when alarmed because they expect to receive protection and emotional support.

In the face of the demands of daily life, with parents being unable to offer individualized responsiveness and synchronized, attuned interactions all of the time, sensitive caregiving makes it possible to manage and repair disruptions that inevitably occur in day-to-day parenting.

Some research indicates that lower-income families are at higher risk for not engaging in these types of interactions with their children Paterson, , but there is variability within and across economic and cultural groups Cabrera et al. In a study of mothers of premature infants, for example, American Indian mothers relative to African American mothers looked and gestured more with their infants based on observer ratings Brooks et al.

Such differences may be related to variation in sociocultural norms or to other factors. Parents who experience such stressors as low income, conflict with partners or other adults, depression, and household chaos face more challenges to engaging in emotionally responsive parenting because of the emotional toll these stressors can exact Conger and Donnellan, ; Markman and Brooks-Gunn, ; McLoyd, Building the capacities of all caregivers to form responsive and nurturing relationships with their children is crucial to promoting child well-being.

As detailed in Chapters 4 and 5 , experimental studies largely confirm evidence from correlational studies showing that sensitive parenting and attachment security are related to children's social-emotional development Van Der Voort et al. One international study found that an intervention focused on responsive stimulation could promote positive caregiving behaviors among impoverished families Yousafzai et al. Another study found that home visiting for parents of preterm infants that entailed promotion of more sensitive and responsive parenting skills modestly improved parent-infant interactions Goyal et al.

These and other interventions that successfully promote positive parent-child interactions, secure attachment, and healthy child development have been developed for parents of both infants Armstrong and Morris, and preschoolers Bagner and Eyberg, However, the success of preventive interventions in improving the quality of parent-infant attachment, a parent's relationship with her or his child, and the resulting child mental and physical outcomes depends upon the quality of the intervention Chaffin et al.

Although much of the literature has focused on non-Hispanic white and black families, and mainly on mothers, preventive interventions with successful maternal and child outcomes have also been developed for Hispanic and Asian families Ho et al. Observational research suggests that children's development is enhanced by parents' use of predictable and orderly routines.

Family routines, such as those related to feeding, sleeping, and learning, help structure children's environment and create order and stability that, in turn, help children develop self-regulatory skills by teaching them that events are predictable and there are rewards for waiting Evans et al. Conversely, an unpredictable environment may undermine children's confidence in their ability to influence their environment and predict consequences, which may in turn result in children's having difficulty with regulating their behavior according to situational needs Deater-Deckard et al.

Although family routines vary widely across time and populations, studies have associated such routines with children's developmental outcomes Fiese et al. It is particularly difficult, however, to infer causal effects of routines on child outcomes in correlational studies because of the many contextual factors e. Several literatures have developed around routines thought to promote particular developmental targets. For example, Mindell and colleagues describe results from a randomized controlled trial in which mothers instructed in a specific bedtime routine reported reductions in sleep problems for their infants and toddlers see also Staples et al.

De Castilho and colleagues found in a systematic review of randomized controlled trials consistent associations between children's oral health and elements of their family environment such as parents' toothbrushing habits. And in a nationally representative cross-sectional study, Anderson and Whitaker report strong associations between exposure to various household routines, such as eating meals as a family, obtaining adequate sleep, and limiting screen time, and risk for obesity in preschool-age children.

As discussed above, a growing body of literature also reports associations between more general aspects of children's healthy development, such as social competence, and the organization and predictability of a broader set of day-to-day experiences in the home see Evans and Wachs, In some cases, however, routines are difficult to establish because of demands on parents, such as the nonstandard work schedules some parents are forced to keep.

Reviewing the cross-sectional and longitudinal literature on nonstandard work schedules, for example, Li and colleagues found that 21 of the 23 studies reviewed reported associations between nonstandard work schedules and adverse child developmental outcomes. They found that while parents working nonstandard schedules, particularly those who work night or evening shifts, may be afforded more parent-child time during the day, such schedules can lead to fatigue and stress, with detrimental effects on the parent's physical and psychological capacity to provide quality parenting.

A few studies have found a relationship between measures of household instability and disorganization and risk of adverse cognitive, social, and behavioral outcomes in young children.

Problems in development

In a longitudinal study, for example, Vernon-Feagans and colleagues found that a higher level of household disorganization in early childhood e. This finding held after taking into account a wide range of variables known to influence children's language development.

Household instability e. In another longitudinal study, a questionnaire was used to assess household chaos based on whether parents had a regular morning routine, whether a television was usually on in the home, how calm the home atmosphere was, and the like when children were in kindergarten. Parent-reported chaos accounted for variations in child IQ and conduct problems in first grade beyond other home environment predictors of these outcomes such as lower parental education and poorer home literacy environment Deater-Deckard et al.

In other studies, children rating their homes as more chaotic have been found to earn lower grades Hanscombe et al. Household chaos has strong negative associations with children's abilities to regulate attention and arousal Evans and Wachs, In the short term, this may be an adaptive solution to reduce overarousal.

In the long term, however, it may also lessen children's exposure to important aspects of socialization and, in turn, negatively affect their cognitive and social-emotional development. Emerging evidence suggests that the relationship between household chaos and poorer child outcomes may involve other aspects of the home environment, such as maternal sensitivity.

In chaotic environments, for example, longitudinal research shows that parents' abilities to read, interpret, and respond to their children's needs accurately are compromised Vernon-Feagans et al. Furthermore, supportive and high-quality exchanges between caregivers and young children, thought to support young children's abilities to maintain and volitionally control their attention, are fewer and of lower quality in such environments Conway and Stifter, ; Vernon-Feagans et al.

This association is likely to be of particular importance in infancy, when children lack the self-regulatory capacities to screen out irrelevant stimuli without adult support Conway and Stifter, ; Posner and Rothbart, Even ambient noise from the consistent din of a television playing in the background is associated with toddlers' having difficulty maintaining sustained attention during typical play—a building block for the volitional aspects of executive attentional control Blair et al.

Studies with older children and adults show that chronic exposure to noise is related to poorer attention during visual and auditory search tasks see Evans, ; Evans and Lepore, In addition, household chaos likely serves as a physiological stressor that undermines higher-order executive processes. Theoretical and empirical work indicates that direct physiological networks link the inner ear with the myelinated vagus of the 10th cranial nerve—a key regulator of parasympathetic stress response Porges, Very high or very low frequencies of auditory stimuli such as those present in ambient and unpredictable noise directly trigger vagal responses indicative of parasympathetic stress modulation Porges et al.

In the same way, novel unpredictable and uncontrollable experiences can activate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal HPA 1 axis Dickerson and Kemeny, General levels of chaos play a role in children's autonomic nervous system and HPA axis functioning Blair et al.

Child Development Ages & Stages

Highly chaotic environments also may affect children's language and early literacy development through similar mechanisms. Overstimulation, which may overtax children's attentional and executive systems, may challenge young children's ability to encode, process, and interpret linguistic information Evans et al. The lack of order in such an environment also may impair children's emerging executive functioning abilities see Schoemaker et al.

Better executive functioning has been found in longitudinal research to be strongly associated with larger receptive vocabularies in early childhood Blair and Razza, ; Hughes and Ensor, , as well as with lower levels of externalizing behaviors Hughes and Ensor, Other longitudinal studies have found positive relationships between family routines and children's executive functioning skills during the preschool years e.

Establish Routines With Your Baby or Child

Parental guidance or discipline is an essential component of parenting. When parents discipline their children, they are not simply punishing the children's bad behavior but aiming to support and nurture them for self-control, self-direction, and their ability to care for others Howard, Effective discipline is thought to require a strong parent-child bond; an approach for teaching and strengthening desired behaviors; and a strategy for decreasing or eliminating undesired or ineffective behaviors American Academy of Pediatrics, Effective discipline entails some of the parenting practices discussed earlier.

In children's earliest years, for example, discipline includes parents' use of routines that not only teach children about the behaviors in which people typically engage but also help them feel secure in their relationship with their parent because they can anticipate those daily activities. As infants become more mobile and begin to explore, parents need to create safe environments for them. Beginning in early childhood and continuing as children get older, positive child behavior may be facilitated through parents' clear communication of expectations, modeling of desired behaviors, and positive reinforcement for positive behaviors American Academy of Pediatrics, Over time, children internalize the attitudes and expectations of their caregivers and learn to self-regulate their behavior.

Parents' use of corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure is a controversial topic in the United States. Broadly defined as parents' intentional use of physical force e. Many researchers and professionals who work with children and families have argued against the use of physical punishment by parents as well as in schools American Psychological Association, ; Hendrix, Although illegal in several countries, in no U. The state laws are consistent with the views of many Americans who approve of the use of spanking, used by many parents as a disciplinary measure with their own children Child Trends Databank, a ; MacKenzie et al.

In a nationally representative survey of attitudes about spanking, 65 percent of women and 78 percent of men ages agreed that children sometimes need to be spanked Child Trends Databank, a. Among parents participating in the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study, 57 percent of mothers and 40 percent of fathers reported spanking their children at age 3, and 52 percent of mothers and 33 percent of fathers reported doing so when their children were age 5 MacKenzie et al. Although physical punishment often results in immediate cessation of behavior that parents view as undesirable in young children, the longer-term consequences for child outcomes are mixed, with research showing a relationship with later behavioral problems.

In a systematic review of studies using randomized controlled, longitudinal, cross-sectional, and other design types, Larzelere and Kuhn found that, compared with other disciplinary strategies, physical punishment was either the primary means of discipline or was severe was associated with less favorable child outcomes. In particular, children who were spanked regularly were more likely than children who were not to be aggressive as children as well as during adulthood. More recent analyses of data from large longitudinal studies conducted in the United States show positive associations between corporal punishment and adverse cognitive and behavioral outcomes in children Berlin et al.

Using data from two cohorts of young children ages and in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, Straus and Paschall found that children whose mothers reported at the beginning of the study that they used corporal punishment performed worse on measures of cognitive ability 4 years later relative to children whose mothers stated that they did not use corporal punishment. In the Early Head Start National Research and Evaluation Project, Berlin and colleagues found that spanking at age 1 predicted aggressive behavior problems at age 2 and lower developmental scores at age 3, but did not predict childhood aggression at age 3 or development at age 2.

The overall effects of spanking were not large. In the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study, MacKenzie and colleagues found that children whose mothers spanked them at age 5 relative to those whose mothers did not had higher levels of externalizing behavior at age 9.

High-frequency spanking by fathers when the children were age 5 was also associated with lower child-receptive vocabulary at age 9. These studies controlled for a number of factors besides parents' use of physical punishment e. Some have proposed that the circumstances in which physical discipline takes place e.


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Using data from a large longitudinal survey, McLoyd and Smith found that spanking was associated with an increase in problem behaviors in African American, white, and Hispanic children when mothers exhibited low levels of emotional support but not when emotional support from mothers was high. Time-out is a discipline strategy recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for children who are toddlers or older American Academy of Pediatrics, , and along with redirection appears to be used increasingly by parents instead of more direct verbal or physical punishment Barkin et al.

Research on best practices for the use of time-out continues to emerge, generally pointing to relatively short time-outs that are shortened further if the child responds rapidly to the request to go into time-out and engages in appropriate behavior during time-out Donaldson et al. However, these studies are limited by very small sample sizes. States, seeking to shape briefer and more effective uses of the technique and to avoid prolonged seclusion, are just beginning to prescribe how time-out should be administered in schools Freeman and Sugai, Parenting knowledge, attitudes, and practices are embedded in various ecologies that include family composition, social class, ethnicity, and culture, all of which are related to how parents treat their children and what they believe about their children as they grow, and all of which affect child outcomes.

Family systems theory offers a useful perspective from which to view parenting behavior, to understand what shapes it, and to explain its complex relation to child outcomes.

As a system, the family operates according to an evolving set of implicit rules that establish routines, regulate behavior, legitimate emotional support and expression, provide for communication, establish an organized power structure or hierarchy, and provide for negotiating and problem solving so that family tasks can be carried out effectively Goldenberg and Goldenberg, Families as systems also create a climate or internal environment with features that shape parenting behavior and influence child outcomes.

Family climates can be characterized along various dimensions, such as cohesive-conflictual, supportive-dismissive, tightly or loosely controlled, orderly-chaotic, oriented toward academic achievement or not, expressive of positive or negative emotions, hierarchical-democratic, fostering autonomy versus dependence, promoting stereotypical gender roles or not, and fostering strong ethnic and cultural identity or not.

Roles are defined within the family system in ways that may influence parenting. Family members may operate with a division of labor based on their own personal resources, mental health, skills, and education, in which one member specializes in and is responsible for one set of functions, such as garnering economic resources needed by the family, and another takes responsibility for educating the children.

When these differences work well, family members complement and compensate for one another in ways that may soften the rough edges of one and make up for the inadequacies of another.

My Identity - an activity for developing self-awareness in children

As discussed in this chapter and throughout the report, children do best when they develop sustaining and supportive relationships with parents. Yet while attachment theory has been useful in understanding mainly how mothers form relationships with children, it has been less useful at guiding research with fathers Grossmann et al.

As systems, however, families are interdependent with the broader world and thus are susceptible to influences and inputs from their environments. Actions occurring in one system can result in reactions in another. For example, children who have not developed healthy relationships with their parents may have difficulty developing positive relationships with teachers.

In short, family systems are influenced by the evolving cultural, political, economic, and geographic conditions in which they are embedded. Members of a cultural group share a common identity, heritage, and values, which also reflect the broad economic and political circumstances in which they live.

Parenting skills

An understanding of salient macrolevel societal shifts e. This rethinking in turn highlights the need to understand how complex living systems function and how they reorganize to accommodate changes in their environments Wachs, The following key points emerged from the committee's examination of core parenting knowledge, attitudes, and practices:. Turn recording back on. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Search term. Physical Health and Safety Children need to be cared for in a way that promotes their ability to thrive and ensures their survival and protection from injury and physical and sexual maltreatment.