Essay: Milestones in Early Childhood Development the Relationship

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Milestones in Early Childhood Development

The relationship between a child and the parents has been the subject of extensive research, because it helps us to understand how to raise children in a way that prepares them to be well adjusted and productive members of society. There remain many obstacles to researching and understanding the relationship between a child and the child's primary caretaker(s) as it impacts the child in later life. For instance, we know that attachment is a primary key not just as it defines the relationship between the child and the parent or primary caretaker(s), but also as the child grows up and how that child relates to others as an adult. There are numerous cases that can be cited where the relationship has gone horribly wrong, especially between the child and mother, only to result in adult behaviors that have resulted in horrifying disaster the individual, their family, and society. For this reason, it becomes imperative that studies continue to go on to understand childhood development, and even before birth, the relationship between the child and the parent and, or, primary caretaker(s).

Much progress has been made in the area of fetus development, and it has been established that the environment of the fetus in the womb, and external to it as it develops in the womb, have an impact on the development of the fetus (Blank, Robert H., 1992, 23). Social researcher and author Robert H. Blank says that this has given rise to a new area of fetus-human rights (Blank, 23). Blank says that the potential harm that a mother does to the fetus through behaviors such as alcohol and drug use, or abuse, have caused medical and legal authorities to come together on behalf of the fetus, and there have been cases where women who abuse drugs and alcohol have been prosecuted for the threat it posed to the fetus (Blank, 23).

The assertion of maternal control over her body is being challenged by mounting evidence that particular behavior of the mother during pregnancy might endanger the life or health of the fetus. For Patricia a. King this "increasing awareness that a mother's activities during pregnancy may affect the health of the offspring creates pressing policy issues that raise possible conflicts among fetuses, mothers and researchers" (1980, 81). Although the scientific data are new, the idea that a pregnant mother intuitively takes on an obligation to provide a healthy setting for the developing fetus is certainly not of recent origin. Aristotle in the Politics for instance, exhorts pregnant mothers to "pay attention to their bodies... take regular exercise, and follow a nourishing diet" (VII, xvi, 14) (Blank, 23)."

Responsibility to a life while still in the womb, especially at the early stages in the life of the fetus, could mean a difference in the way that we perceive the rights of women to terminate pregnancies. For this reason, legislating fetus rights has been a slippery slope, which not many lawmakers wish to pursue at this point in history. What we do know, however, is that bonding between the mother and the child begins while the fetus is in the woman and developing (Blank, 15). This early prenatal relationship establishes the basis for the relationship that the parents and the child will have.

Attachment Styles

Attachment, says David Messer (1993), in his book, Mastery Motivation in Early Childhood: Development, Measurement, and Social Processes, begins when the child feels secure (Messer, 13). From this perspective, we can easily see how the sense of security can begin not at birth, but before birth, while the fetus is developing. After birth, Messer says, exploration of the child's world is driven by their sense of security, and for that reason, attachment is an important aspect of a child's development (Messer, 13). This, of course, takes us back to Blank who speaks to the issue of parental responsibility, and that it is the responsibility of the parents, beginning at conception, throughout the birth, and after birth of the child to accept parenting responsibility (Blank, 23). That means that the most secure environment and surroundings to facilitate the exploration of the child's world, and to help the child have the sense of security needed to be curious and to learn about the world around him in safe and healthy way (Blank, 23).

Messer cites the previous study and research of Maslin-Cole and Bretherton and Morgan in positing the idea that "attachment, temperament, and maternal scaffolding and social environment to mastery motivation and competence (Messer, 13)." The studies of Maslin-Cole and Bretherton demonstrated that interaction by adults in a child's activities is reflected in the child's mastery motivation and competence (Messer, 13). There are other studies that Messer cites leading to this same conclusion concerning mastery motivation and competence (Messer, 13).

Equally important as the closeness that leads to the repetitious adult involvement in the child's activities that establish a positive attachment, is the opposite, the attachment style that leads to insecurity and impaired development (Messer, 13). Intrusive parenting can lead to troubled development in the child (Messer, 13). Messer puts forth two arguments:

One is that mastery motivation can be considered as part of the attentional system of infants. The other is that social interaction influences the development of both mastery and related attentional processes. In putting forward these arguments, emphasis is given to the way that attentional, cognitive and social behaviours fit together (Messer, 19)."

As has been found in previous research studies, Messer emphasizes that the first year of life is one of the most important years in the development of a child (Messer, 20). One of the most interesting aspects of Messer's research found that 12-month-old children who engaged in persistent activities, demonstrated a higher level of persistent problem solving scores (Messer, 22). Messer attributes this to what the child comes to realize is a "means-to-an-end (Messer, 22)." While these kinds of studies are necessary to understand the relationships that develop, or do not develop, and how that impacts the adult's behavior in society, is important. Persistence is a positive trait, when it is guided with parental oversight toward positive outcomes in the child's development. Problem solving, then, is a characteristic that Messer sees as coming early in the child's development. Messer says that this leads to mastery, and mastery leads to goal oriented behaviors (Messer, 22).

Most parents want to think of their children in terms of problem solvers, and goal oriented. This is not something that takes a lot of time, because we see it, as Messer has said, as occurring in the first 12 months of a child's development. Therefore, if we practice persistence in our interactions with our children, the result will be persistent children, who develop problem solving abilities, as opposed to those children whose parents are not interactive with them, and who perhaps experience early childhood frustration, which is going to manifest itself somewhere in the child's life, and probably in a negative way.

In older infants (13 months), Tamis-LeMonda and Bornstein (1990) have reported that the longest periods of sustained attention during unstructured free play was negatively (0.3) related to concurrent language production (often a marker for later intellectual competence). Thus, it may be that by the second year simple attention is no longer associated with competence; more differentiated measures are needed by this age to identify attentional characteristics of more able infants. This echoes the findings of Messer et al. (1986) and supports the notion of a transformation in mastery behaviour (Messer, 22)."

The measures in Messer's study predict mastery motivation and the child's ability to stay focused as the child develops. There is no way to emphasize the importance of the parent's role in establishing attachment with the child. While the child is going to reach these milestones, the child remains dependent upon the parent(s) for their continued stimulation at an emotional and physical level of security and comfort that is reliable and consistent. Parents must be responsible for the parenting of their children in ways that lead the child to healthy development. No child, if we go with these studies, has to be developmentally static. This is not necessarily to say that the parents must be of a superior intellect, only that they must devote a superior quality time and commitment to raising their child.

These studies, however, lead to predictions about behavior that are reliable, because studies show that these milestones and these attachment styles are successful. Messer says that there is a complex attentional processes and later ability (Messer, 25). Messer says:

habituation, novelty preference and mastery all predict later IQ. There is a paradox, however, as shorter attention during a habituation task and longer attention during a mastery task are related to later IQ. Even so, the two sets of measures appear to have moderate relations with one another. These findings suggest there could be a common characteristic or causal mechanism which produces shorter inspection in habituation tasks and longer attention in mastery tasks (Messer,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Milestones in Early Childhood Development the Relationship.  (2008, October 23).  Retrieved July 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/milestones-early-childhood-development/71896

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"Milestones in Early Childhood Development the Relationship."  Essaytown.com.  October 23, 2008.  Accessed July 19, 2019.
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