Fulfills general education Social Science requirement
Survey of social, intellectual, and personality development in infancy, childhood, and adolescence.
Developmental change in human beings is dramatic. In the brief two years following birth, for example, humans alter from nearly helpless bundles into walking, talking dynamos. The path of human development is also in some ways paradoxical. As toddlers, children acquire new knowledge at a remarkable pace, but at the same time they are prone to a degree of thoughtlessness that would lead them into imminent danger (e.g., such as swallowing strange substances, dashing in front of traffic) if adults weren’t present to save them from the consequences of their own exuberance. Even the older, school-aged child holds unusual beliefs about people and the world, yet nevertheless can accomplish striking intellectual feats, such as reading and mathematical calculation. As well, adults tend to learn things faster than children, but at the same time, adults typically are unable to achieve the level of expertise that is readily attained if learning begins in childhood. What accounts for the huge growth in knowledge and skill that we see in human development, and also for its seeming unevenness? In what ways do prenatal experiences set the stage for subsequent developmental outcomes? How do cultural attitudes and approaches toward children vary, and in what ways do such differences significantly affect development? What kinds of parenting practices best promote children’s well-being? What is unique about human developmental change relative to other species? These are among the questions we will consider in this course. A particular focus will be mechanisms and processes that promote development and the innovative methodologies that are providing altogether new insights into these fundamental processes. As well, we will consider a range of important real-world applications of emerging knowledge of developmental principles, such as birth practices, parenting, designing educational curricula, fostering creativity, and promoting integrity, “grit,” and long-term well-being.