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Step 1: Select a “hot topic” in child development from the following list: effects of divorce, child abuse and neglect, quality of child care, the obesity epidemic, public policies for children, or use of the Internet and social media.

Step 2: Once you have selected your topic, discuss how each level of the environment may affect development, including bidirectional influences and the role of third parties.

TIP: Look at the Ecological system to better answer this discussion


Now that you have read and reviewed the material on cognitive development during the first two years, take your learning a step further by testing your critical thinking skills on this perspective-taking exercise.

Historically, many theories of development have pitted biology, or nature, against environment, or nurture. For example, attempts to explain the ease with which babies acquire language focused either on the ways in which parents teach language to their children or on the emergence of the infant’s innate language abilities. Behaviorist B. F. Skinner believed that language development could be explained entirely by principles of learning, including imitation, reinforcement, and discrimination. Arguing from the nurture position, linguist Noam Chomsky maintained that language is far too complex to be mastered so early and so easily through learning alone. Instead, Chomsky maintained that our language capacity is inborn.

More recently, developmentalists have concluded that both Skinner’s and  Chomsky’s theories have some validity but that neither is completely correct; rather, it is the interaction of nature and nurture within a specific social context  that accounts for the ease with which children acquire language.

In this exercise, review the following examples of language use and decide whether each provides evidence of the impact of 1) nature, 2)  nurture, or 3) the interaction of nature and nurture in language development. Explain your reasoning.

1.   Whenever 8-month-old Juwan wants his mother, he calls out, “Mama,” and she comes running. Consequently, Juwan utters “Mama” much more frequently now than he did at 7 months of age.

Position Supported:


2.   Even in her very first sentences, 21-month-old Melissa has obviously figured out the basics of subject–predicate word order. Seeing her mother returning from work, for example, she says, “Mommy home,” rather than “home Mommy.”

Position Supported:


3.   Seven-month-old Tara, who is deaf, has begun to babble manually at about the same time hearing infants begin babbling orally.

Position Supported:


4.   When Michelle was an infant, she was able to perceive differences among the spoken sounds of many languages. As she grew, her preference for hearing her native language actually influenced the development of her brain. Now a teenager, Michelle can no longer perceive certain speech sounds from languages other than her own.

Position Supported:


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