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Nature and Nurture (page 4)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

In many and probably most other developmental areas, however, children may be most receptive to a certain type of stimulation at one point in their lives but be able to benefit from it to some degree later as well. Tonya, in the introductory case study, may have encountered only limited exposure to language as a result of her mother’s weakened condition. Immersed later in a rich verbal environment, Tonya would have a second chance to expand her verbal talents. Thus educational experiences at a later time can often make up for experiences missed at an earlier period (Bruer, 1999). Many theorists use the term sensitive period (rather than critical period) when referring to such a long time frame of heightened sensitivity to particular environmental experiences.

Children’s natural tendencies affect their environment. In addition to being affected by nature and nurture, children’s own behaviors influence their growth. Youngsters make many choices, seek out information, and, over time, refine their ideas (Flavell, 1994; Piaget, 1985). For example, children often request information (“What cooperate mean, Mommy?”) and experiences (“Uncle Kevin, can I play on your computer?”). Children even help create environments that exacerbate their genetic tendencies. For example, children with irritable dispositions might pick fights and provoke others to lash back at them, creating a more aggressive climate in which to grow.

As children get older, they become increasingly able to seek stimulation that suits their tendencies. For example, imagine that Marissa has an inherited talent for verbal skills—learning vocabulary, comprehending stories, and so on. As a baby, she relies on her parents to talk to her. As a toddler, she asks her parents for particular kinds of stimulation (“Read book, Daddy!”). In elementary school she reads to herself from books supplied by her teachers. As a teenager, she takes the bus to the library and selects her own books. Marissa’s experience would suggest that genetic tendencies become more powerful as children grow older—an expectation that is in fact consistent with genetic research (Scarr & McCartney, 1983).

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