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Unformatted text preview: Enduring Themes in Child Development The modern study of child development begins with a set of fundamental questions. Everything elsetheories, concepts, research methods, data, and so onis part of the effort to answer these questions. Although experts in the field might choose different particular questions as the most important, there is widespread agreement that the seven questions in Table 1.1 are among the most important. These questions form a set of seven themes that we will highlight throughout the book as we examine specific aspects of child development. In this section, we introduce and briefly discuss each question and the theme that corresponds to it. 1 Nature and Nurture: How Do Nature and Nurture Together Shape Development? The single most basic question about child development is how nature and nurture interact to shape the developmental process. Nature refers to our biological endowment, in particular, the genes we receive from our parents. This genetic inheritance influences everything from broad characteristics such as physical appearance, personality, intellectual ability, and mental health to specific preferences, such as political attitudes and propensity for thrill-seeking (Plomin, DeFries, McClearn, & Rutter, 1997). Nurture refers to the wide range of environments, both physical and social, that influence our development, including the womb in which we spend the prenatal period, the homes in which we grow up, the schools that we attend, the broader communities in which we live, and the many people with whom we interact. Popular versions of the naturenurture issue often present it as an either/or question: What determines how a person develops, heredity or environment? However, this either/or phrasing of the question is deeply misleading. Human 10 CHAPTER 1 AN INTRODUCTION TO CHILD DEVELOPMENT review : TABLE 1.1 Basic Questions About Child Development 1. How do nature and nurture together shape development? (Nature and nurture) 2. How do children shape their own development? (The active child) 3. In what ways is development continuous, and in what ways is it discontinuous? (Continuity/Discontinuity) 4. How does change occur? (Mechanisms of developmental change) 5. How does the sociocultural context influence development? (The sociocultural context) 6. How do children become so different from each other? (Individual differences) 7. How can research promote childrens well-being? (Research and childrens welfare) 500_12356_CH01_passBc.qxp 10/3/05 11:25 AM Page 10 Prof. Emily Down / Prof. Christina Kirkman Hunter College, CUNY Worth Publishers NOT FOR REPRODUCTION CHAPTER 1 ENDURING THEMES IN CHILD DEVELOPMENT 11 development requires both normal DNA and an environment that allows normal interactions with the physical and social world....
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