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Piaget Cognitive Development: A Quick Guide

Piaget Cognitive Development. From infancy through childhood, parents physicians place great emphasis on physical milestones. Walking, crawling, and the first tooth peeking through pink gums are the tangible manifestations of growth. However, the mental aspects are just as significant. Although the inner workings of the brain are invisible to the naked eye, promoting a child’s cognitive development is essential to their thought processes, memory, problem-solving, and decision making well into their adult years.

Cognitive Development

Cognitive Skills To Piaget Cognitive Development

To understand Piaget cognitive development, one must first be aware of cognitive skills. Cognitive skills are skills pertaining to cognition—the way we acquire knowledge about the environment and the world that surrounds us. Processing information is possible because of the various cognitive skills that allow us to interpret perceptions of the five senses: what we hear, see, touch, taste, and smell. Cognitive skills consist of the following:

These skills are involved in all daily tasks such as answering the phone, responding to a friend’s message, or even watching television.

What is Piaget Cognitive Development?

Cognitive development is the neurological and psychological development of the various functions of thinking. It entails applying cognitive skills to consciously interpret one’s surrounding environment. As a person matures, so does their ability to engage in higher thinking processes like problem-solving, emotional regulation, learning, and remembering. The term describes the brain’s development as it pertains to cognition.

According to Piaget cognitive development, there are set age-appropriate milestones spanning from infancy into adulthood. Reaching these milestones on time indicates optimal development. The concept first originated in the early 1900s when IQ tests were proposed as an accurate measurement of intelligence.

Areas of Piaget Cognitive Development

Cognitive development includes basic components of thinking. For optimal cognitive development, it is best to focus on the areas of information processing, intelligence, reasoning, memory, and language.

  • Information Processing—As the brain works in a sequence, it receives input through the senses, processes that information, and then receives output.
  • Intelligence—The mental capacity to learn, reason, plan, solve problem and comprehend complex ideas.
  • Reasoning—Applying and establishing facts, beliefs, and information.
  • Memory Part of the brain that stores and retrieve information as needed.
  • Language—The process in which children understand and communicate language.

Piaget Cognitive Development: 4 Stages

Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was a Swiss psychologist who constructed the most widely accepted theory of cognitive development known as Piaget Cognitive Development. While there are numerous theories, Piaget Cognitive Development provides an accurate depiction of the evolution of a child’s thinking processes. His theory was inspired by observing his children. He assumed that children’s intellect develops through accommodation, which is the process of taking in and altering information from their environment, and assimilation, which is how humans relate new information to previously existing information. It is concerned with all children and focuses on the progression of development instead of learning miscellaneous behaviors. A series of four stages mark the progression of cognitive development beginning in infancy and throughout childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood.

Sensorimotor Stage – Birth to 2 Years

The sensorimotor stage of cognitive development starts at the time of birth and ends as a toddler. Cognitive growth happens rapidly as the infant familiarizes itself with their reality. Cognitive abilities remain limited, but the child learns to separate their bodies from the environment through their senses and reflexes. In the sensorimotor stage, they respond to the sudden influx of new stimuli: noises, movements, people, and emotions.

The sensorimotor stage is divided into six substages:

  • Reflexes: Birth to One Month—A child’s intelligence is rooted in action. The child acquires knowledge in the reflex stage by adapting to their environment. This includes all natural “instinct” behaviors upon birth.
  • Primary Circular Reactions: One to Four Months—Reflex actions, like sucking a thumb, are intentionally repeated after the child realizes they are pleasurable. Primary circular reactions refer only to reactions within the body.
  • Secondary Circular Reactions: Four to Eight Months—Actions that are not reflex based originate in the child’s behavior. The child’s action results in a preferred event in the environment, rather than their body, and they seek to recreate the event by engaging in the behaviors that precipitated the event.
  • Coordination of Secondary Circular Reactions: Eight to Twelve Months—Cause and effect relationships are correlated with the child’s behaviors in the previous stages. They intentionally interact with the environment to fulfill their needs.
  • Tertiary Circular Reactions: Twelve to Eighteen Months—Minor change to cognition comes about as the child purposefully alters their actions to solve problems. Tertiary circular reactions have a trial-and-error foundation.
  • Mental Combinations: Eighteen to Twenty-four Months—Mental combinations concludes the period in which children understand their environment solely through actions. They associate symbols and language with their environment and form basic sentences.

Pre-operational Stage – 2 to 7 years

The pre-operational stage starts as a toddler at age two and continues until seven years of age. This stage is characterized by the child’s eventual expansion towards logic, but they still are unable to think logically or separate ideas because the egocentric mindset which surfaces in this stage limits their intellectual abilities. Children in the preoperational stage think in a manner that is primarily concerned with self. Their thoughts, perceptions, and ideas are indistinguishable from those of other people. They only see the world through their own point of view and cannot consider differing perspectives. Ecocentrism is the reason why young children experience conflict with their peers. While language is central to the pre-operational stage, the children do not use language to communicate with others and resolve conflict, but to make their thinking known.

The pre-operational stage is divided into two substages.

  • Symbolic Function— Children possess the ability to think about an object that is not in their immediate view. They attach symbols to their toys and caregivers in which they have associated with comfort.  Attempts at art and expression through play are manifestations of symbolic function.
  • Intuitive Thought—Thinking changes from symbolic to intuitive with the use of primitive reasoning. Intuitive thought refers to the vast knowledge children learn yet struggle to apply. They become curious about the world, asking many questions.

Concrete Operational Stage – 7 to 11 years

The concrete operational stage is the turning point in a child’s cognitive development. It begins at roughly seven years of age and is defined by the development of organized and rational thinking. Children begin to understand rules and use operations to logically solve problems. As children mature in the concrete operatorial stage, they apply logic exclusively to physical objects. They cannot turn their thinking towards hypothetical situations, only their concrete experiences.

The cognitive development during the concrete operational stage is cornerstone to the education of school-age children. They refine their cognitive abilities to remember information, and then to organize that information logically. Selective attention keeps them focused on a single task, despite distractions. Egocentrism that was previously prominent is eliminated in the concrete operational stage. Children start to see multiple viewpoints.

Although there are no substages, other processes (known as operations) in the concrete operational stage are:

  • Decentering—Considering all aspects of a problem in order to solve it.
  • Seriation—Sorting objects according to its characteristics (i.e. color, size, shape, etc.).
  • Transitivity—Recognizing logical relationships between objects in serial order.  
  • Classification—The ability to identify objects by their size, appearance, or characteristics.
  • Conservation—The length or quantity of an object does not dictate the appearance and arrangement.

Formal Operational Stage – 12 and Up

The formal operational stage is the last stage in Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development. It begins in adolescence around the onset of puberty and lasts into adulthood. These young teenagers in the formal operational stage undergo rapid transformations in their cognitive development. This stage introduces the potential for abstract thought. They think about objects and situations hypothetically, which entails making inferences about situations that are “possibilities.” The former trial-and-error thought process is abandoned for problem-solving through deductive reasoning. They test solutions based on hypotheses.

How To Promote Piaget Cognitive Development

Each child develops at his or her own pace. However, they are not entirely on their own in their progress. Interactions with adults who serve as role models and other children facilitate cognitive development. Despite the child’s stage, incorporating these key activities into a daily routine are conducive to cognitive development.

“Play” with the 5 Senses

Sensory play is any hands-on learning activity that stimulates the five senses—seeing, hearing, touching, or smelling. This form of play of the five senses strengthens the neuron pathways in the brain. A neuron is a specialized brain cell that sends chemical messages to the nerves throughout the nervous system. Sensory play refines the efficiency of the pathways. As a result, the brain responds to the environment and can successfully complete more complex skills.

Exploring the environment through sensory play can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Playdough, building blocks, simple puzzles or board games, singing and reading aloud are some examples.

Sensory Play For Cognitive Development

Establish Routine

The technical definition of routine represents the steps taken to complete the tasks scheduled throughout the day. Waking up and eating breakfast before going to class, and later returning home to finish homework and watch television constitutes as routine. Everyday routines differ depending on the activity. Routines are crucial to cognitive development because it teaches children how to observe transition cues, predict, and become flexible when routines deviate from the norm.

Open-ended Questions and Statements

 Typical questions and statements are closed-ended—requiring only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer or a one-word response, whereas open-ended questions require in-depth answers. Thought out responses encourage children to partake in conversation. Children must think creatively, broadening the use of language and the cognitive skills.

Open-ended questions and statements begin with:

  • “Why do you think…?”
  • “What if…?”
  • “Tell me about…”

Visual Aids

Visual aids such as illustrations, charts, and three-dimensional models improve cognitive development help the child understand the information presented. Visual learning allows the brain to more easily recall details, as they are concrete.

The type of visual aid provided should be catered to the developmental stage. Drawings and illustrations are best for toddlerhood and early childhood, while three-dimensional models in middle childhood. The visual aids increase in complexity throughout adolescence.  

Communication

Language is an integral part of cognitive development. Consistently communicating language skills to children fosters their cognitive development. Speak to children ages five and up in complete sentences with challenging vocabulary words. Ensure to explain the context of the words to demonstrate proper use.

Co-Sleeping With Your Newborn- A Complete Guide

After 9 long months of anticipation and mixed emotions, you finally get to welcome your little bundle of joy into the world. You’ve gained valuable knowledge about the pros and cons of co-sleeping vs. crib- sleeping through the hundreds of books, articles, and magazines that you’ve read. 273.75 days were spent preparing for motherhood but, you’re torn. Which do you choose? In this complete guide you will become familiar with what co-sleeping actually means, the relationship between co-sleeping and breastfeeding as well as the relationship between co-sleeping and sudden infant death syndrome, the pros and cons of co-sleeping, guidance for safe sleep and bed sharing, the relationship between co-sleeping in early childhood and social experiences during infancy, recommendations presented by the American Academy of Pediatrics (APA), the famous Parent- Infant Co-Sleeping Debate, and tips on how to stop sleeping with your newborn.

Co-sleeping with newborn

What is Co-Sleeping?

Here in the United States, a growing trend exists among families with newborn babies. Since 1993, more moms are choosing to hold their infants close throughout the night. This child-rearing practice of bedsharing, defined as infants and young children sharing a bed with their parents for sleep, has grown from about 6 percent to 24 percent in 2015.

A recent survey of over 8,000 caregivers in the United States revealed that rates of regular parent-infant co-sleeping more than doubled between 1993 and 2000, from 5.5% to 12.8%. In contrast to the rapid practice of parent-infant co-sleeping in Western societies, clinicians continue to push for separate sleeping arrangements between parents and their infants. Truth be told, it is likely that numerous parents today feel so unsupported in their decision that they feel the need to conceal their choice from their childcare doctors.

Co-Sleeping With Siblings: Is It Safe?

In a study of urban Chicago families, researchers found that parental co-sleeping is not significantly associated with infant death, but co-sleeping with someone other than a parent, such as a sibling, was associated with increased risk.

Allowing other children to co-sleep in the bed with you and your baby is totally acceptable with caution and boundaries. Do not allow toddlers or older children to sleep directly next to the infant. If other children are sharing the bed, keep your partner between them and the baby.

Co-Sleeping With a Newborn- Instinct or Tradition?

From the moment the nurse places the newborn baby on the mother’s chest, there is an instant mother-infant interaction. This early skin- to- skin contact creates a physiological need to be together immediately after birth and during the hours and days that follow. Just like the nature vs. nurture debate, co-sleeping is both an instinct and a tradition around the world.

Co-Sleeping: Instinct

According to James Mckenna, an anthropologist who has been studying infant sleep for 40 years, mothers and infants mutually gravitate towards each other for survival. Human babies are contact seekers. What they need most is their mother’s and father’s bodies. Through the eyes of Mel Konner, an anthropologist at Emory University, the practice of bed-sharing has existed way before the discovery of the human species. Konner reveals that homo sapien moms and their newborns have been sleeping together for more than 200,000 years. Modern hunter-gatherer cultures provide insight into the traditional co-sleeping behaviors of our early progenitors. Even till this day, the practice continues to be universal and widespread around the world.

Co-Sleeping: Tradition

Yale University’s Human Relation Area Files presents evidence that bed-sharing is a tradition in at least 40 percent of all documented cultures. Some cultures even think it’s cruel to separate a mom and baby at night. In one study, Mayan moms in Guatemala responded with shock and pity when they heard that some American babies sleep away from their moms. In Japan, the most common sleeping arrangement is referred to as kawa no ji or the character for the river: 川. The child is represented by the shorter line and both the mother and father are represented by the longer lines.

Western culture, then again, has a long history of separating mothers and infants at night. Historians have noted that babies from wealthy Roman families slept alongside the bed in cradles and bassinets. By the 10th century, the Catholic Church started banning” infants from the parental bed to prevent poor women from intentionally suffocating an infant whom they didn’t have resources to care for. If a mother was caught sleeping with her one-year-old infant in her bed, she was excommunication from the church.

Co-Sleeping and Breastfeeding

In the mid-1990s, Notre Dame’s James McKenna decided to figure out just what happens at night when a mom sleeps with her baby. What seemed relatively unthinkable to others was actually a relatively easy task for Mckenna and his colleagues to carry out.

To better understand the relationship between co-sleeping and breastfeeding, he transformed his laboratory into an apartment, recruited dozens of moms and babies to use in this study, and analyzed their bodies while they slept. Both the physical movements of the moms and babies were captured using infrared cameras, as well as their heart rate, breathing patterns, chest movement, body temperatures, brain waves and the carbon dioxide levels between the moms’ and babies’ faces.

What McKenna found was amazing. When the mother is breastfeeding, she positions her body around the infant that resembles a shell. Through experimental observations, he saw that the mother naturally arches her body around her baby and pulls up her knees just enough to touch the baby’s feet. Inside the “shell,” the infant hears the mother’s heartbeat and, thus, subconsciously slows down their own heart rate. Additionally, the child hears the mother’s breathing, which mirrors the sounds that the infant heard in the womb. It contains a swoosh, swoosh sound, which in turns sounds like, ‘hush, hush little baby.

 “It’s no wonder nearly every culture uses a swooshing sound to soothe a crying baby.” -Mckenna

The mom’s warm breath creates little clouds of carbon dioxide around the baby’s face. In spite of the fact that this may sound unsafe for the infant, the mother’s breath fortifies the child’s breathing and reminds them to take a full breath. McKenna found that for the duration of the night, babies who were breastfed in this investigation did not move all over the bed. Instead, newborns stood laser-focused on one location basically staring at their mother’s breast almost all night. In this study, it is evident that infants have evolved to experience this closeness, night after night after night.

Studies have shown that babies who aren’t breastfed have an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Based on James Mckenna’s research, breastfeeding keeps babies and mothers in a lighter stage of sleep, which decreases the risk of SIDS and promotes a greater awareness of what the other is doing.

Co-Sleeping and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden, unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year of age. Even after an autopsy, a thorough examination of the death scene, and an intense review of the deceased individual’s clinical history, an exact cause of this disease can remain unknown. Sometimes known as “crib death,” scientific researchers associate SIDS with deficits in the infant’s brain that control the infant’s breathing and arousal from sleep. While medical examiners have discovered a combination of sleep and environmental factors that might put your baby at risk, they’ve also identified simple measures that you can take to help protect your child from this tragic cause of death.

In a family co-sleeping with their newborn, possible causes of death are clarified by ecological components. On the off chance that the baby was born with brain deficits, low birthweight, or respiratory infections, the items in their crib and/or their sleeping position can ignite these physical issues. A blend of both sleep, environmental, and physical variables can extraordinarily build the danger of SIDS.

Albeit sudden infant death syndrome can strike any infant, scientists have recognized a few factors that may build a child’s hazard. They include:

  • Sex: Boys are slightly more likely to die of SIDS.
  • Age: Infants are most vulnerable between the second and fourth months of life.
  • Race: For reasons that aren’t well-understood, nonwhite infants are more likely to develop SIDS.
  • Family history: Babies who’ve had siblings or cousins die of SIDS are at higher risk of SIDS.
  • Secondhand smoke: Babies who live with smokers have a higher risk of SIDS.
    Being premature: Both being born early and having a low birth weight increase your baby’s chances of SIDS.

In the early 2000s, a few investigations found that bed-sharing considerably raised a child’s danger of SIDS. In these cases, the proof is solid and clear. Parents who drink or take drugs shouldn’t be sleeping with their infants since they could move over onto their child. Mothers who’ve just given birth to infants who are premature should not smoke or sleep in the same bed as their babies because of potential respiratory issues that can occur in the infant. Suffocation can likewise happen when babies sleep on couches since babies can be caught in between their parent and the cushions.

Peter Blair, a medical statistician at the University of Bristol, and his colleagues spent 25 years studying SIDS epidemiology. They found that a baby was 18 times more likely to die of SIDS when sleeping next to a parent who had been drinking. In another study, they found a similar risk for babies sleeping on sofas.

However, what about families who don’t drink or smoke? Whose babies aren’t premature or underweight?

In an analysis from two case-control studies in the UK, Robert Platt, a biostatistician at McGill University, examined the relationship between sudden infant death syndrome and infants who co-sleep in the absence of hazardous circumstances. One examination included 400 total SIDS cases and just 24 cases in which the infant had shared the bed without parental hazards. In the other examination, there were only 12 of these cases out of 1,472 SIDS deaths. In the last investigation, some data about the parent’s drinking propensities was missing. Nevertheless, the two examinations arrived at comparative conclusions. For babies older than 3 months of age, there was no detectable increased risk of SIDS among families that practiced bed-sharing, in the absence of other hazards. So far, only two studies have looked at this question.

Platt believes that there may be an increased risk among babies who are younger than 3 months. He further explains that if there is an increased risk, it’s probably not of a comparable magnitude to some of these other risk factors, such as smoking and drinking alcohol. In other words, the risks present in this age group do not pose as much as a risk than parents who decide to co-sleep with their children after they’ve just smoked a cigarette or drank a beer, or two. Overall, the two studies suggest bed-sharing, when no other hazards are present, raises the risk of SIDS by about threefold.

Co-sleeping and SIDS Risk Factors

  • Parents who become tired easily, sleep heavily, consume alcohol or take medication that affects their level of consciousness
  • Illness of either the mother or the baby: First and foremost, you must take care of your health and your baby’s health before co-sleeping with your newborn. Skin- to- skin contact easily distributes germs between the mother and her baby.
  • Babies who are underweight or preterm
  • Sofas and/or waterbeds
  • Soft bedding and pillows
  • Excessive pillows and duvet covers
  • Room Temperature
  • Bedding that covers the infant’s head

Smoking serves as another significant risk factor in sudden infant death syndrome. Compared to their non- smoking counterparts, babies are 15 times more likely to die from SIDS if their mothers smoke during their pregnancy. In 1998, the Department of Health conducted a survey where only 9% of women knew that smoking in pregnancy increased the risk of SIDS. The CESDI Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Infancy (SUDI) Studies found that babies who died within the first year of life were twice as likely to have been exposed to tobacco smoke, with the risk increasing with the number of hours of exposure.

The most frequent risk in bed-sharing arrangements is paternal alcohol consumption among certain social groups. Helen L. Ball found that: “the heaviest drinking bed-sharing fathers were of middle- income, socioeconomic classes III and IV, with little post-16 education, whose partners were breastfeeding their first infants.” As the numbers of babies who are breastfed increases in this section of the population, attention needs to be paid to the wider implications of these changes in infant care practices.

“The heaviest drinking bed-sharing fathers were of middle- income, socioeconomic classes III and IV, with little post-16 education, whose partners were breastfeeding their first infants.”- Helen L. Ball

Guidance for Safe Co-Sleeping and Bed Sharing

  • Keep the mattress firm: Co-sleeping should never take place on a water-bed, sofa, or old sagging mattress because this can put the infant at risk for suffocation.
  • Ensure that your baby’s sleep environment is free of any gaps or small spaces
  • Maintain the room temperature at a comfortable temperature – around 18°C.
  • Do not overdress or swaddle your baby: Care should be taken to ensure that the baby cannot become entangled in loose ties from nightwear. Parents should keep a close eye on signs of overheating, such as sweating or the chest feeling hot to the touch, throughout the night.
  • Keep pillows away from the baby
  • Keep the crib bare: There is no evidence that bumper pads prevent injuries, and there is a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation or entrapment.
  • If your partner is sharing the bed with you and your baby, make sure that he/she is aware that the baby is in the bed
  • Never allow pets to share the bed
  • Become aware of the protective “C”- shaped position for co-sleeping. This is especially important for bottle-feeding mothers
  • Never co-sleep with your infant if you’re under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
  • Regardless of where the infant sleeps, always place an infant on its back to sleep.
The New Zealand Strategy

Specialists have been utilizing the New Zealand Strategy for a considerable length of time and the outcomes have been tremendous. Since 2010, mortality rates have decreased as much as 30 percent in the realm of sudden infant death syndrome.

The New Zealand Strategy specifically figures out which babies are at high risk for SIDS. Through this strategy, families will not be shamed by their decision to co-sleep, rather, they’re being taught how to bed-share more safely. Doctors will talk about what increases the risk, such as drug use and alcohol use, and families are given a so-called Moses basket so that the family can bring the baby into the bed. If parents feel less judged by their doctors, then they are able to receive better advice about the dangerous circumstances surrounding SIDS.

Co-Sleeping Pros

An implied medical advantage of bedsharing is that it encourages increased frequency and duration of breastfeeding, which is broadly held to be the best strategy for nourishing youthful babies. Bedsharing promotes breastfeeding and greater bonding opportunities. While there is no current research contending that co-sleeping has a defensive impact against SIDS, James McKenna’s exploration has demonstrated that babies who sleep by their mothers exhibit positive physiological changes. These progressions can hypothetically decrease the dangers of SIDS.

Co-Sleeping Cons

Co-sleeping puts the infant at risk for sleep-related deaths, including sudden infant death syndrome, accidental suffocation, and accidental strangulation. About 3,700 babies die each year in the U.S. from sleep-related causes. From a psychiatric viewpoint, prolonged bed sharing may be considered symptomatic of maternal separation anxiety, an inability to set limits, difficulty maintaining a consistent child bedtime routine, or a disturbed mother-infant relationship.

Due to the fragmented and poor quality sleep of family members, elementary school children tend to act out and cause disruptions in family life. Concerns have been raised about the unfavorable results of bedsharing for family relations, particularly the marriage, with some warning that marital intimacy will suffer from prolonged bed sharing arrangements. Whereas bed- sharing can potentially hinder the romantic relationship between parents, there is a lack of empirical evidence to support this possible co-sleeping con. Solitary sleeping and co-sleeping families both report marital intimacy and partner satisfaction despite existing controversies.

In a study comparing both U.S. and Chinese elementary school children, the Chinese children were reported to have more sleep problems such as difficulty falling asleep, fear of sleeping in the dark, talk during sleep, and restless sleep. Although researchers clearly see that these children are suffering from the consequences of sleep disturbances, do nighttime care providers see these characteristics as problematic? Cultural considerations must be included as researchers evaluate the disruption posed by night wakings and other sleep behaviors. Parental recognitions are socially bound and essential to an evaluation of what constitutes a sleep issue. The definitions of sleep onset and night waking problems in young children are, to a certain extent, culturally determined.

Co-Sleeping and Safety Concerns

Those who are against co-sleeping argue that the practice is, in many ways, a dangerous one that, because of health, developmental, and safety concerns, has been and should continue to be abandoned by health professionals and parents. On the other side of the spectrum, some researchers contend that the practice of bedsharing is only a risk factor for SIDS if parents smoke or engage in other hazardous practices. They’ve also argued that entrapment/suffocation is only associated with bedsharing due to other contextual factors such as bed safety (soft mattresses, sleeping together on a couch) and parental variables (e.g. intoxication, smoking).

Co-Sleeping and Childhood Development

One one side of this controversial debate, some researchers argue that co-sleeping deters childhood development. They see the first year as an opportunity for infants to master sleep consolidation and sleep regulation. Other research views the process of sleep consolidation and sleep regulation as a natural process that matures over the course of the first several years of life. Controversy on whether falling asleep and staying asleep should be done naturally and independently or with the aid of parental involvement continues to reign as an issue for this field.

Co-Sleeping: Psychosocial Outcomes

Another formative issue concerns the psychosocial outcomes for children and parents of early sleep arrangements. Of prime interest is whether the requisite path towards independence and separation–individuation will be derailed for bed- sharing infants. In particular, Western societies believe that children should acquire the skills that are needed to thrive as independent individuals. This promotes the belief that ‘self-soothing’ in infants is an important developmental milestone. Co-sleeping or sleeping with a parent or sibling prevents the infant from becoming independent. Despite these convictions, evidence suggests that children who co- slept with their parents during the first year of life, are fundamentally more autonomous in everyday living abilities and in their social relations with peers as preschoolers compared to solitary sleeping children.

In their 18-year longitudinal study of conventional and nontraditional families, Okami and colleagues found that bedsharing during infancy and early childhood was unrelated to long-term problems in sleep, sexual pathology or problems in other areas of behaviour. Some sleep specialists see constant night wakings and excessive dependence on parental help for going to sleep and staying asleep in newborns and young children who co-sleep. However, in numerous nations around the globe where bedsharing is the norm, reports of rest issues are uncommon.

Co-Sleeping in Early Childhood and Social Experiences During Infancy

Marie J. Hayes, Michio Fukumizu, Marcia Troese , Bethany A. Sallinen and Allyson A. Gilles studied the relationship between co- sleeping arrangements in early childhood and social experiences during infancy. They monitored this relationship by using sleep- wake behaviors that took place during the infancy and early childhood periods from current and retrospective parental reports.

A convenience sample of 3-to 5-year-old children was obtained from the University of Maine’s Child Study Center in Orono, Maine. The Child Study Center is part of the Psychology Department at the University and provides a preschool educational experience to families who are encouraged to take interest in the preschool’s research mission. The average age of the children was 3.8 years, 51% were female, and 73% were breastfed during infancy.

Results showed that early childhood co-sleeping was reactive. Co-sleeping in early childhood was associated with sleep location in infancy (i.e. proximity to the mother’s bed) during wake–sleep transitions and night feedings. In infancy, researchers recalled an inverse relationship between the use of security objects in early childhood and current parent- seeking behaviors, night waking, poor bedtime routines, fear of the dark, and social contact during wake–sleep transitions. These findings suggest that co-sleeping in early childhood is related to social experiences during infancy, particularly the amount of parent social contact and security object use.

At 12 months old, a newborn’s proximity to the mother’s bed was related to co-sleeping at 2 and 4 years of age. Infant sleep location in a different room was related to self- soothing techniques that were practiced independently by the infant. Self-calming was additionally identified with a more prominent delay in parental intervention for night crying. Self-soothing opportunities are presented to the infant with increased proximal distance from the maternal bed, less parental awareness of infant awakenings, and longer delays in responding.

Interestingly enough, the use of a sleep aid may do more harm than good at sleep onset. In infancy, security object attachment and difficulty without the object were associated with more solitary sleeping and independent sleep onset skills in early childhood. Infants who did not use a sleep aid were associated with more co-sleeping in early childhood. In sum, you will find that infants who have more independent sleep onset skills, solid sleep routines, and low rates of nightwalking in early childhood have a history of using a sleep aid during infancy. In Western society, it’s possible that parental encouragement of object use may be simply a corollary of parental practices that are cultural conventions. These parents believe that early independent sleep onset skills are best developed by the parental delay in response to infant night crying and ritualized bedtime routines.

Tips on How to Stop Co-Sleeping With Your Baby

It is evident that co-sleeping has both its pros and cons. If you are a parent who is 100% comfortable with continuing on the co-sleeping route, that’s totally fine! But if you are a parent who wants to slowly wean you and your child off of a co-sleeping agenda, then stay tuned for these tips on how to stop co-sleeping with your baby.

Why did you begin to co-sleep with your infant in the first place? How you address this issue relies upon how and why you are co-sleeping with your infant. However, regardless of your condition, there are additional components for an effective change.

You must have a consistent nighttime routine

Is your child going to sleep in your bed every night or not? On the off chance that your child resists or you miss that feeling when your child slept close to you throughout the night, you are disturbing the establishment of a new sleeping pattern. Keep in mind that intermittent reinforcement is a powerful mechanism for encouraging undesirable behavior. According to Craig Canapari, director of the Yale Pediatric Sleep Center, the number one reason families fail at extricating their child from their bed is that they are inconsistent.

Devise a sleep time plan

Consistency requires all hands on deck. All caregivers must be aware of what this new plan consists of. If you decide that the child will not be sharing the bed with you tonight, make sure your partner is aware of this decision. Discuss with your partner where your child will sleep during the day so you are prepared to act upon this decision at night.

Agree on a “quit date”

Choose a specific date to start a change in co-sleeping behaviors.

Make solitary sleeping fun

Feelings of apprehension are completely normal for anyone who’s facing any kind of change in a normal routine. But in terms of co-sleeping, some children might feel uncertain about spending the night alone in their own bedroom without their parents. To ease this scary situation, take your child to choose a new set of pajamas or a fun bedding set. Pick out a new stuffed animal to use as a transitional object.

Face this new experience alongside your child

The beginning of a solitary sleep routine is experienced by both the child and their family. You can’t expect your child to start sleeping by themselves in an unfamiliar place right off the bat so it’s important to ease into this new situation. Craig Canapari suggests that you move with your child in their room for a week or so before starting to withdraw your presence.

Help your baby fall asleep on their own

Your child is bound to wake up at some point during the night but in order to go back to sleep without parental aid, they have to work on falling back asleep on their own. Some parents find success in checking on their baby in the middle of the night and reassuring her, without picking her up or bringing her to bed with them.

Be patient

Rest assured, co-sleeping does not last forever! Just like any other behavior, solitary sleeping becomes automatic when the correct measures are taken. Eventually, your baby will learn how to sleep on their own and your bed will become yours again.

Please do not think of yourself as a so-called “bad parent” if you choose to co-sleep with your child at any stage of their lives. This article is not meant to make you feel that you failed your children in any way because you allow them to share the bed with you at night. I hope you found the information in this article useful and helpful. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

For further reading…

In an analysis from two case-control studies in the UK, Robert Platt, a biostatistician at McGill University, examined the relationship between sudden infant death syndrome and infants who co-sleep in the absence of hazardous circumstances. One examination included 400 total SIDS cases and just 24 cases in which the infant had shared the bed without parental hazards. In the other examination, there were only 12 of these cases out of 1,472 SIDS deaths. In the last investigation, some data about the parent’s drinking propensities was missing. Nevertheless, the two examinations arrived at comparative conclusions. For babies older than 3 months of age, there was no detectable increased risk of SIDS among families that practiced bed-sharing, in the absence of other hazards. So far, only two studies have looked at this question.

Platt believes that there may be an increased risk among babies who are younger than 3 months. He further explains that if there is an increased risk, it’s probably not of a comparable magnitude to some of these other risk factors, such as smoking and drinking alcohol. In other words, the risks present in this age group do not pose as much as a risk than parents who decide to co-sleep with their children after they’ve just smoked a cigarette or drank a beer, or two. Overall, the two studies suggest bed-sharing, when no other hazards are present, raises the risk of SIDS by about threefold.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Risk Factors:

The risk factors for SIDS include:

  • Parents who become tired easily, sleep heavily, consume alcohol or take medication that affects their level of consciousness
  • Illness of either the mother or the baby: First and foremost, you must take care of your health and your baby’s health before co-sleeping with your newborn. Skin- to- skin contact easily distributes germs between the mother and her baby.
  • Babies who are underweight or preterm
  • Sofas and/or waterbeds
  • Soft bedding and pillows
  • Excessive pillows and duvet covers
  • Room Temperature
  • Bedding that covers the infant’s head

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Smoking:

Smoking serves as another significant risk factor in sudden infant death syndrome. Compared to their non- smoking counterparts, babies are 15 times more likely to die from SIDS if their mothers smoke during their pregnancy. In 1998, the Department of Health conducted a survey where only 9% of women knew that smoking in pregnancy increased the risk of SIDS. The CESDI Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Infancy (SUDI) Studies found that babies who died within the first year of life were twice as likely to have been exposed to tobacco smoke, with the risk increasing with the number of hours of exposure.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Alcohol:

The most frequent risk in bed-sharing arrangements is paternal alcohol consumption among certain social groups. Helen L. Ball found that: “the heaviest drinking bed-sharing fathers were of middle- income, socioeconomic classes III and IV, with little post-16 education, whose partners were breastfeeding their first infants.” As the numbers of babies who are breastfed increases in this section of the population, attention needs to be paid to the wider implications of these changes in infant care practices.

“The heaviest drinking bed-sharing fathers were of middle- income, socioeconomic classes III and IV, with little post-16 education, whose partners were breastfeeding their first infants.”- Helen L. Ball

American Academy of Pediatrics: Recommendations on SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an association of 66,000 essential care pediatricians, pediatric therapeutic subspecialists, and pediatric surgeons. They are committed to the wellbeing, security, and prosperity of newborn children, youngsters, teenagers and youthful grown-ups.

“SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment,” draws on new research and serves as the first update to Academy policy since 2011. In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) expressed an opposition to bed-sharing with this statement: “It should be avoided at all times with a full-term normal-weight infant younger than 4 months.”

“It should be avoided at all times with a full-term normal-weight infant younger than 4 months.”- The American Academy of Pediatrics (APA)

Newly revised recommendations call for newborn babies to share their parents’ bedroom for the first six months and, optimally, for the first year of life. Parents should rest their baby on a firm sleep surface, such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet. Lori Feldman-Winter, a member on the Task Force on SIDS, says: “There should be no pillows, sheets, blankets or other items that could obstruct the infant’s breathing or cause overheating.” While infants are at an increased risk for SIDS between the ages of 1 and 4 months, new evidence demonstrates that soft bedding continues to pose hazards to babies who are 4 months and older. To guarantee a safe resting place for your baby, stay away from soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. The crib should be bare and the infant should be placed on their back. Research has shown that room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.

“There should be no pillows, sheets, blankets or other items that could obstruct the infant’s breathing or cause overheating.”- Lori Feldman- Winter

Doctors strongly emphasize the importance of skin-to-skin care immediately following birth. Skin-to-skin contact ought to be limited if one, or both, parents smoke tobacco, abuse alcohol, or other illicit drugs. For this can jeopardize the infant’s health and ultimately, their life.

Breastfeeding is likewise prescribed as protection against SIDS. After feeding, the AAP urges guardians to move the infant to his or her separate sleeping space, preferably a crib or bassinet in the parents’ bedroom. Winter explains: “If you are feeding your baby and think that there’s even the slightest possibility that you may fall asleep, feed your baby on your bed, rather than a sofa or cushioned chair. If you do fall asleep, as soon as you wake up be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed.”

“If you are feeding your baby and think that there’s even the slightest possibility that you may fall asleep, feed your baby on your bed, rather than a sofa or cushioned chair. If you do fall asleep, as soon as you wake up be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed.”- Lori Feldman- Winter

Other recommendations include:

  • Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
  • Do not use home monitors or commercial devices, including wedges or positioners, marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Infants should receive all recommended vaccinations.
  • Supervised, awake tummy time is recommended daily to facilitate development.

References

American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Announces-New-Safe-Sleep-Recommendations-to-Protect-Against-SIDS. (n.d.).

Canapari, C. (2015, November 10). How To Stop Co-sleeping. Retrieved July 24, 2018, from https://drcraigcanapari.com/want-to-stop-cosleeping-heres-how/

Goldberg, W. A., & Keller, M. A. (2007). Parent-infant co-sleeping: why the interest and concern?.Infant & Child Development, 16(4), 331-339.

Hayes, M. J., Fukumizu, M., Troese, M., Sallinen, B. A., & Gilles, A. A. (2007). Social experiences in infancy and early childhood co-sleeping. Infant & Child Development, 16(4), 403-416. ( Study)

Is Sleeping With Your Baby As Dangerous As Doctors Say?. (2018). Morning Edition

Piaget Theory: Childhood cognitive developmental stages

Piaget theory. How can I tell if my child is developing properly for his age? How do children think, and what are the stages of their cognitive development? Is it normal for my daughter to make mistakes when she talks or tries to reason? The Piaget Theory explains the different developmental stages of children. Find out if your child is developing properly for their age. We’ll help you find the answers!

Piaget theory

Piaget is one of the most well-known psychologists of our time because to his discoveries about childhood development and intelligence. Piaget dedicated his life to investigating the different stages of development and to understanding how learning and thought patterns developed throughout childhood, as well as cognitive development. This article explains the Piaget Theory and offers an explanation for the different childhood development stages.

Piaget Theory

The Piaget Theory affirms that children go through specific stages according to their intellect and ability to perceive mature relationships. These childhood stages occur in the same order in all children, across all cultures and backgrounds. However, the age at which the stage comes may vary slightly from child to child.

Piaget theory started out with two main concepts, accommodation, and assimilation.

  • Accommodation is the process of taking new information in one’s environment and altering pre-existing information in order to fit in the new information. This is important because it establishes how people are going to take in new concepts, schemas, knowledge, etc.
  • Assimilation, on the other hand, is how humans perceive and adapt to new information. It is when we are faced with new information but we look the old information we have stored in order to interpret the new one.

Both of these concepts Piaget said were essential and couldn’t exist without the other. To assimilate an object into an existing mental schema, one first needs to take into account or accommodate to the particularities of this object to a certain extent.

Parting from these concepts on how the world is processed, he decided to explore how do children develop cognitively.

It’s quite common for young children to have trouble empathizing as an adult might, and they will likely have egocentric thinking depending on their age and abilities, just like it’s normal for them to make mistakes.

During childhood, children will have a natural cognitive development stage where the child “learns to think”, or interact in the world in which they live. Doing this requires a series of evolutionary changes in the child’s life, marked by stages throughout all of their childhood, from the time they’re born until pre-adolescence. These stages, where certain cognitive abilities will be developed, are known to be divided according to the Piaget stages.

What is the Piaget Theory? Jean Piaget (Swiss psychologist and biologist) conducted a number of studies about childhood, dividing it into stages called Stages. Piaget Theory classifies the stages during the cognitive development of a child into different ages.

Piaget stages are a set of stages in the human development process that occurs in time. For example, the type of language that children use will depend on their age (cooing, made-up words, pseudowords, using the third person, echolalia, etc.), as well as their thinking (self-centered, in that everything happening in the world is happening in front of him or her), or physical skills (mimic, crawling, walking, running, etc.). All of this cognitive process development happens continuously and progressively in the Piaget stages, depending on the approximate age.

Will every developmental stage happen at the exact same time, according to the Piaget Theory?

No, not all children will hit the same stages at exactly the same age, but there are “sensitive periods” for all ages, where it is more probable that a child will develop certain cognitive skills. Developmentally, it is easier to learn a determined skill at a specific age, like learning the beginning of language at about age one and perfecting it at about age 7.

Cognitive development stages in children according to Piaget Theory

Piaget proposed four childhood development stages: 1- Sensorimotor Period (0-2 years), 2- Preoperational Period (2-7 years). 3- Concrete Operational Period (7-11), 4- Formal Operational Period (11 and older, until about 19 years old). We will look at these stages in depth below.

1-Piaget Theory: Sensorimotor Stage (children 0-2)

This developmental stage is characterized by how the child understands the world, bringing together sensory experience with the physical activity. This is the period where the child improves innate reflexes.

  • Children at this age like bright, shiny, moving stimuli with lots of contrast.
  • They construct schemes by trying to repeat an action with their own body, like making noise by hitting their toy, throwing something, or moving a blanket to get something that’s on top of it. At this age, children repeat actions randomly, experimenting with their own bodies.
  • First contact with language: The first time the baby has contact with language is when it is still in the mother’s womb when it starts getting familiar with the parents’ voices. Research shows that during the baby’s first few months of life, they prefer the sound of human voices to any other sound. It’s surprising how used to the language they are since from when the baby is born, they have an exceptional ability to distinguish spoken language. Research from DeCasper and Spence show that children are especially attracted to their mother’s voice, which they can recognize better than the voice of a stranger.
  • How do children age 0-2 years communicate? After a baby is born, its main form of communication is crying, as they’re still not able to produce other sounds. During the first few months of life, their communication will be primarily pre-linguistic, using smiles and crying involuntarily. These actions will later become voluntary when they learn to use them in a communicative manner. However, the parents are able to understand a cry or a smile from their baby, making it an unintentional form of communication. At about 6 months, the baby will learn to babble and make consonant-vocal sounds like “da da da”. The first appearance of words is at about 12 months.

Piaget Theory during this stage establishes six sub-stages that are:

  1. Simple reflexes: From birth to 6 weeks the baby will have three primary reflexes (sucking of objects in the mouth, following moving or interesting objects with the eyes, and closing of the hand when an object makes contact with the palm) As time goes by the reflexes will become voluntary actions.
  2. First habits and primary circular reactions: From 6 weeks to 4 months the child is now starting to be more aware and classical and operant conditioning begins in this phase. Imitation or reproduction of certain reactions with his own body begin.
  3. Secondary circular reactions:  From 4 to 8 months the child starts to develop habits, they are more object-oriented, repeating actions with a purpose that bring pleasurable results. He can now reproduce certain reactions but with external objects.
  4. Coordination of secondary circular reactions: From 8-12 months the child consolidates hand-eye coordination and intentionality. His actions are now goal-oriented.
  5. Tertiary circular reactions, novelty, and curiosity: From 12-18 months, the infant start exploring and investigating objects that intrigue them. It’s the stage of discovery to meet new goals. Piaget called this stage the young scientist.
  6. Internalization of schemas: From 18-24 months the infant can now use primitive symbols to form lasting mental representations. It is when the creativity stage begins and gives passage to the preoperational stage.
Piaget Theory What can we do to promote the cognitive development of the child in the sensory-motor stage (from 0 to 2 years old)?
  1. Boost circular reactions: Have you noticed your baby sucking his thumb? Or the sounds it makes when it wants to sleep? That he/she shakes the rattle and repeats this action over and over again? When a baby repeats the same behavior over and over, we are faced with circular reactions. When a baby shakes his rattle over and over again, it’s because he likes the sound and wants to hear it again. At this point you can, for example, take the rattle and shake it on another surface to make a different sound. This way the baby learns that by modifying the stimulus the sound changes and this will lead to exploring.
  2. Let the baby play and explore different objects and toys: This way the child will explore beyond himself.
  3. From 1.5+ years you can play at hiding objects:  Play Peek-a-boo where you show her a toy/your face/any object and then hide it and “find it again”.  Repeat the procedure but let the child attempt to find it.

2- Piaget Theory- Preoperational Stage (2-7 years-old)

  • This the second stage of Piaget Theory. Schooling generally starts at about 3 years-old, which brings about an important social change and causes significant social development.
  • The child will start relating to other children and people, especially peers. Before this age, the interaction was generally with family.
  • How do children aged 2-7 communicate? While between the ages 3-7 the child will largely expand their vocabulary, they are still guided by an “egocentric thinking”, meaning that the child will think according to their individual experiences, which makes their thinking and thoughts starts, intuitive, and lacking logic. This is why children until the age of about 6 will misunderstand events and will have trouble expressing them.
  • Talking in the third person is very common in this stage because children still don’t fully understand the concept of “I” or “me” that separates them from the rest of the world.
  • Children between 2-7 will be curious and want to learn, which is why they so often as “why”.
  • Children of this stage often give human characteristics or feelings to objects. This is called personification.

“Egocentric” thinking, according to Piaget Theory: Why do children in this stage have such a hard time putting themselves in other people’s position? This may be related to the “Theory of the Mind”, which refers to the ability to put yourself in someone else’s mind or in “someone else’s shoes”. Children won’t be able to do this until about 4-5 years old, which is why until they reach this age, children will think that others think how they do. This theory helps explain why children don’t know how to lie or use irony until about 5 years-old.

Each of these limitations of the pre-logical stage will be overcome at about 6 or 7 years-old, in the next cognitive developmental stage, and will consolidate until about 14 or 15 years-old.

Piaget Theory What can we do to help the cognitive development of the child in the pre-operational stage (from 2 to 7 years old)?
  1. Adjust to your child’s cognitive development: Keep in mind your child’s development stage and adapt to their thinking.
    2. Put symbolic play into practice: Through this activity, many of your children’s skills are developed and they allow them to form an inner picture of the world. Through play you can learn the roles and situations of the world around you: pretend to eat or drink, pretend to drive, pretend to be a doctor and help someone else, etc. You can practice any activity that helps your child expand his or her language, develop empathy, and strengthen his or her mental representations of the world around you.
    3. Encourage exploration and experimentation: Let him discover colors and their classification, tell him how some things happen, plants or animals, convey curiosity to learn.

3- Piaget Theory: Concrete Operational Stage (7-11 years-old)

The second-to-last stage of Piaget Theory is when children start to use logic thinking, but only in concrete situations. It is at this stage that the child will be able to do more difficult and complex tasks that require logic, like math problems. However, while their ability to use logical thinking has advanced, their logic may have certain limitations during this period: the “here and now” will always be easy. Children at this age will still not use abstract thinking. In other words, they will be able to apply their knowledge to a subject that they don’t know, but it’s still difficult at this age.

Piaget considered the concrete stage a major turning point in the child’s cognitive development because it marks the beginning of logical or operational thought. The child is now mature enough to use logical thought or operations but can only apply logic to physical objects. He established a series of operations pertinent to the concrete stage.

Conservation: it is the understanding that something stays the same quantity even though its appearance changes. Watch the following video for examples on how to test conservation.

Classification: It is the ability to identify the properties of categories, to relate categories or classes to one another, and use the categorical information to solve problems.  For example, group objects according to some dimension they share.

Seriation: The ability to mentally arrange items along with a quantifiable dimension, such as height or weight.

Reversibility: The ability to recognize that numbers or objects can be changed and returned to their original condition. For example, during this stage, a child understands that a favorite ball that deflates is not gone but can be filled with air again and put back into play.

Transitivity: The ability to recognize relationships among various things in a serial order. For example, when told to put away his books according to height, the child recognizes that he starts with placing the tallest one on one end of the bookshelf and the shortest one ends up at the other end.

Decentering: The ability to consider multiple aspects of a situation. For example, a child is given the chance to choose between two candies, he chooses one according to his favorite flavor regardless of the fact they were both the same size and color.

Piaget Theory What can we do to help cognitive development in the specific period (7 to 11 years)?
  1. Help strengthen your reversible thinking: Practicing these exercises can help you develop your logical and reasoning skills. Important for the management of numbers and mathematics, but also for the development of their adult life. For example, ask what is the result of adding two numbers together. If the result is 8, we can ask them to help us find two numbers that add up to 8. Reversible thinking can be exercised in almost any situation of everyday life. For example, when you are in the supermarket and you estimate the price of what the purchase will cost you. Or when you do it the other way around, and you estimate how much each food you are about to buy costs to get to you with the money you carry.
    2. Ask him or her to help you answer questions and ask questions: For example, how would you help a lost animal find its owner? How do we keep the food from getting cold? How do we get to Grandma’s house if the car’s in the shop?
    3. Help him understand the relationships between the phenomena that happen in nature or social life: Why do you think your grandfather might be sad if we don’t go to visit him, what do you think will happen if it doesn’t rain this winter?
    4. Strengthens his reasoning capacity: Help him to question concrete facts.
    5. Use validated Brain Games or cognitive stimulation programs for children: CogniFit is the leading program for brain enhancement in childhood. It takes advantage of the great neuroplasticity that happens in the early years of development to stimulate and enhance intellectual performance in childhood and adolescence. The brain exercises proposed by CogniFit consist of attractive therapeutic activities, rehabilitation and learning techniques aimed at helping retrain and improve the cognitive skills. With this program we will also be able to compare the child’s results with those of other children of his or her age. How to start using it? It’s very easy, you just have to register.

4- Piaget Theory: Formal Operational (11 years and older)

  • This last period is characterized by the acquisition of logical reasoning under all circumstances, including abstract reasoning.
  • The new aspect of this last period in relation to intelligence is, as Piaget mentions, the ability to hypothesize about something that they haven’t learned specifically.
  • This is where learning starts to take place as a “whole”, rather than a concrete form like in the previous stage.
Piaget Theory What can we do to help the cognitive development of children and adolescents 11 years and older?
  1. Try to motivate them to ask questions: Use everyday facts and try to get them to reason about the factors that have caused a certain outcome. Help him to consider deductions or hypotheses.
    2. Discuss with the child or adolescent: Try to help him/her express him/herself and explain his/her way of thinking to you when faced with different issues. Expose your way of seeing things and find the positive and negative points of each point of view. You can also address ethical issues.

Developmental theory- Piaget

Piaget Theory: Should you be worried about a delay in your child’s development?

  • First, be patient. It’s true that some periods or stages are more sensitive to learning language, as well as other skills like motor skills, cognitive development, attention, reading, etc., but according to Piaget Theory, you have to keep in mind that it’s a continuous process that may take some child more time to reach, while others hit their milestones ahead of time. Sometimes children will take longer to reach a certain stage, and that’s OK.
  • If, for example, when the child is starting school, the child shows noticeable delays in either communication or another area (playing, learning, trouble fitting in with other kids), you may want to think about bringing them to see a specialist (either a school counselor or pediatrician can give you some answers).
  • If the child doesn’t have any type of developmental or learning problem, if they are delayed, or if they have difficulties in any specific area, it’s important to reinforce skills at home and at school. Remember that a slight delay isn’t a cause for panic, and just because a child takes longer to learn something doesn’t mean that there is any problem. Not following the timeline of Piaget Theory doesn’t mean that the child won’t later develop their cognitive skills properly with the help of support and patience.
  • Remember that a 3-year-old can’t lie (that’s where the saying “kids always tell the truth” comes from), they can only talk about the small part of the world that they know. As such, you have to remember that they’re not adults and that they are learning to develop in a world where they will be more independent in the future.

Piaget Theory of Moral Development

Piaget not only studied children’s developmental stages, he also recognized that cognitive development is closely tied to moral development and was particularly interested in the way children’s thoughts about morality changed over time.

Piaget established that morality is one’s ability to distinguish between wrong and right and to be able to act on this distinction. He established that there are three stages of moral development in children.

Piaget Theory Pre-Moral Stage (0-5 years of age)

In this stage, children have little to no understanding of rules. It’s difficult for them to carry out mental operations, therefore, the behavior is regulated from outside the child, by a parent, caretaker, etc. This stage happens simultaneously with the Sensorimotor and Pre-operational stage.

Piaget Theory Heteronomous Morality Stage/ Moral Realism (5-9 years of age)

In this stage, rules are rigid and are made by adults. Rules will determine what is right and what is wrong. Children in this stage are completely obedient to authority. The rules are inflexible to these children. They also judge how wrong something might be by its immediate consequence or punishment not by intention. Adults tend to feel more comfortable during this stage since the rules are handed down to the children without discussion. This stage happens during the preoperational and concrete operational developmental stages.

Piaget Theory Autonomous Morality/Moral Relativism (10+ years of age)

Here the emphasis is more towards cooperation. Rules are changeable under certain circumstances and with mutual consent. Piaget states that children learn to critically evaluate rules and apply them based on cooperation and respect for others. Different from the previous stage, now the intention is an important concept. They judge how wrong an action might be by the intention of the person and the punishment is adjusted accordingly. They also begin to understand that the difference between right and wrong is not an absolute but instead must take into account changing variables such as context, motivation, abilities, and intentions.

As they grow, children begin to realize that when situations are handled in a manner that seems fair, reasonable, and beneficial to all, it becomes easier for people to accept and honor the decision. This concept of fairness is called reciprocity. They later switch to ideal reciprocity which refers to a type of fairness beyond simple reciprocity and includes a consideration of another person’s best interests and feelings, applying a bit of emotional intelligence.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

It’s the best description of putting yourself in another person’s shoes. According to Piaget, once ideal reciprocity has been reached moral development has been completed.

Piaget Theory, aside from explaining the different stages of development in children, also talks about the magic of children, which their egocentric thinking, their curiosity for the works, and their innocence, which can help us, as adults, reflect and understand how the child sees the world.

This article was originally written in Spanish and translated into English.

References

Hughes, M. (1975). Egocentrism in preschool children. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Edinburgh University.

Rathus, S. A. (2011). Childhood and Adolescence: Voyages in Development. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Santrock, J. W. (2004). Life-Span Development (9th Ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill College.

Sigelman, C. K., & Rider, E. A. (2012). Life-Span Human Development. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Pica Disorder: What is is? Discover everything about this eating disorder

Pica disorder also called “pica” is not well known but has serious health implications. It is a type of eating disorder in which there is an irresistible desire to eat or lick non-nutritive substances such as toothpaste, cigarette butts, detergent, mud, hair, plaster, chalk, condoms, paper, things that have no food value. It is a strange food illness in which the person is affected physically, mentally and even culturally. We explain more about this curious and unknown eating disorder that affects not only children but also adults.

What is Pica Disorder?

Pica Disorder is characterized by the urgent desire to eat non-nutritive substances without nutritional value in a compulsive way.

Usually, if we think about this disorder we associate it with children. There is a stage in the development of the child whose curiosity leads him to put objects in his mouth. However, when it occurs in children who are older than 5 years old, the alarms should set off.

When we talk about adults with Pica disorder they often have intellectual disabilities. This disorder is also associated with people who have some kind of nutritional deficiency, such as a lack of iron, and pregnant women or individuals with other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, anxious patients or as a way to attract attention.

It is closely related to obsessive-compulsive disorder since individuals suffering from OCD as well as those suffering from pica disorder are often aware of their behavior but can’t stop even though it is unhealthy and unreasonable.

History of Pica Disorder

The term “pica” comes from the Latin word that means “magpie”. The magpie does not show a preference for food or non-food substances.

In some modern cultures, the pica behavior happens in a ritualistic way. In the nineteenth century in the southern United States, this behavior was common among slaves and this practice is still accepted in some cultures. It has been part of religious ceremonies, magical beliefs, and healing attempts. In many cultures, the clay ingestion is used for its medicinal properties.

Risk Factors in Pica Disorder

It is not known exactly what are the causes of this alteration, but there are a series of risk factors that make it more likely to suffer from this disorder:

  • Stressful and Chaotic Family Environments
  • Having addictive behaviors or an addiction
  • Lack of a social support
  • Parental negligence
  • Mother-child separation
  • Epilepsy
  • Brain damage
  • Culture: In African countries, pica is more common among women and children. In a study conducted in Nigeria, the incidence of pica in adolescents and boys was between 25% and 46%.

Hypothesis on Pica Disorder

The causes of this eating disorder are unknown. To explain pica disorder experts have proposed some hypotheses that include cultural factors, low socioeconomic status, psychological disorders and other diseases.

1. Nutritional Facts

Nutrition deficiencies are the most common theories to explain why Pica Disorder appears. Lack of minerals such as iron and zinc are common. Although malnutrition is often diagnosed at the same time as pica, a link has not been established.

2. Sensory and physiological

These theories are based on the opinions of patients who claim to enjoy the taste, texture or odor of the substance they are ingesting. It has been discovered that people with this disorder have a reduced activity of their dopaminergic system in the brain. Low or abnormal levels of dopamine may be related to this disorder.

3. Neuropsychiatric

There is evidence that certain brain lesions are associated with abnormal feeding behaviors.

4. Psychosocial

As previously stated one of the risk factors for the development of this eating disorder is the existence of a pattern of behavior similar to anxiety disorders. In this disorder eating non-food substances relieves the stress they feel.

Symptoms and Complications of Pica Disorder

Pica disorder symptoms may vary according to the non-food substance ingested. Often individuals with pica disorder suffer from the same symptoms as anorexia such as mineral deficiency, unhealthy nails, hair and weight loss. Symptoms due to ingestion of non-food substances are as follows:

  • Sand/soil consumption produces gastric pain symptoms and occasional bleeding.
  • Biting ice causes teeth decay.
  • Clay ingestion leads to constipation.
  • Swallowing metal objects causes intestinal perforation.
  • Eating fecal material causes infectious diseases.
  • Lead intake causes kidney damage and mental retardation.

The complications associated with pica can be divided into five groups:

  1. Inherent toxicity.
  2. Obstruction.
  3. Excessive calorie intake.
  4. Nutritional deprivation.
  5. Others (parasites and teeth damage).

The clinical consequences of pica disorder may have wide and very serious implications. Lead poisoning in children can lead to serious impairment of intellectual and physical development. Individuals with pica disorder also have a higher risk of developing very serious health problems such as abdominal pain, intestinal and colon obstruction.

The most extraordinary and serious case is the Rapunzel Syndrome (a mass of hair anchored in the stomach) has been observed in children, in people with mental retardation, people with malnutrition and halitosis.

Pica Disorder Diagnosis

For this disorder to be diagnosed by an expert the person has to meet a number of requirements that are included in the DSM-5 (diagnostic manual developed by the American Psychiatric Association). The criteria for diagnosing Pica Disorder are:

  1. Persistent eating of non-nutritive, nonfood substances for a period of at least one month.
  2. The eating of nonnutritive, nonfood substances is inappropriate to the developmental level of the individual.
  3. The eating behavior is not part of a culturally supported or socially normative practice.
  4. If occurring with another mental disorder, or during a medical condition, it is severe enough to warrant independent clinical attention.
Pica Disorder

It can be difficult to recognize a person who is suffering from this disorder because sometimes they feel embarrassed to tell you what is going on. It is necessary for the doctor to ask directly about eating habits and pica disorder behaviors.

If you believe or suspect that your child is suffering from this disorder, contact your doctor immediately. 

Treatment for Pica Disorder

There is no standard treatment. A multi-professional team of experts should take into account biological, psychological and social factors. Behavior modification has shown some effectiveness in some cases and in short follow-up. As a type of eating disorder, clinical intervention is focused on cognitive-behavioral therapy and family therapy.

  • Behavioral interventions have proven effective in treating children with a developmental disorder. Re-education therapies are conducted for parents to see how they supervise their children while playing and to guide certain behaviors in the home such as avoiding any type of toy that can be toxic, avoid play dough, lead-based paints or if they have pets at home pick up the feces so the little one can’t access them. Although the sporadic appearance of symptoms in young children may be normal, when it persists in time, appropriate measures must be taken.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy is very effective and is applied in people with intellectual disabilities, behavioral problems, individuals with autism and other disorders. This type of therapy teaches new behaviors through the reinforcement of positive behaviors and the punishment of unwanted behaviors.
Pica Disorder- CBT therapy

If it is due to a nutritional deficiency due to a lack of minerals, a blood test will be carried out, and transfusion therapy will restore its levels back to normal as well as a cognitive-behavioral intervention will be performed with follow-up sessions.

Few studies have attempted to examine the efficacy of pharmaceutical treatments, so psychopharmacology experts believe there is no specific drug to treat pica. Doctors don’t have any particular medicine but do advise opting for serotonin inhibitors.

This article is originally written in Spanish by Noemí Vega Ruiz, translated by Alejandra Salazar.

Anger management for kids: Teach your child to deal with frustration

Anger management for kids is one of the most daunting parent tasks. In the following article, we will explain what is frustration and anger and how to teach children to manage it.

Anger Management for Kids

Anger Management for Kids: Frustration

When we speak about anger management for kids it’s important to know what is frustration.  Frustration can be defined as a psychic state that we often experience in life when we are deprived or unable to satisfy a desire right at that moment. It is often accompanied by feelings such as sadness, or, in the worst case, anger.

From the moment we are born, our brains are engineered to meet our needs and seek survival. Thus, a baby cries, to capture the caregiver’s attention so that they can meet their needs.

At the beginning, the baby only demands the satisfaction of his most basic needs (he cries when he is hungry, when he is uncomfortable with his diaper, when he is sleepy and when he feels unprotected). But as his nervous system matures and brain structures unfold, the child acquires new achievements such as intentionality in his actions, thinking, language and greater autonomy.

Behavior then becomes more complex. He now shows anger and frustration when there is something he dislikes.

Anger Management for Kids: Tolerating Frustration

Teach children to tolerate frustration. Tolerating frustration means learning to delay gratification or desire. In our culture, it is important to understand that you can’t always have what you want whenever you want. We are limited by the functioning of a social structure, which determines how we should proceed to be and have what we want.

You can’t buy a car if you can’t afford it, nor can you be an engineer if you don’t get your degree, you will have to pay taxes and sometimes even fines you might deem unfair. This is how society works, things happen that are not always going to make us feel comfortable. 

Therefore, do not doubt that an indispensable tool to ensure the good future is to teach anger management for kids. This will help them deal appropriately with frustration and anger when faced with unfair situations. Let us not forget that childhood is when kids must prepare themselves so that they can function successfully and autonomously in our society when they become adults. Therefore, we must make childhood a simulacrum of real adult life, adapted to the needs of each evolutionary stage, where there is room for happiness and joy, but also for sadness and dissatisfaction.

During child development, children must prepare themselves so that they can function successfully and autonomously in our society when they become adults. Therefore, we must adapt childhood where there is room for happiness and joy, but also for sadness and dissatisfaction.

Anger management for kids is teaching them to postpone some of their desire and help them feel integrated into their peer group. This gives them more realistic expectations about reality and when they become adults they will be able to follow a logical sequence that will allow them to achieve greater success than those who have not achieved a good anger management for kids. Imagine all the future problems we can avoid if by anger management for kids we avoid impulsive behavior and manage to deal with frustration.

Anger Management for Kids: Overcoming frustration

Anger management for kids is no easy task so do not despair in the attempt, because sometimes results are not immediate or might not be noticed until some time. Try not to frustrate yourself in the process.

I dare say that educating is probably the most difficult tasks that human beings can face, so let’s get air and try to decipher with our son what he is feeling.

  • First thing is to help him name what he feels maybe even help him detect his discomfort somewhere in the body.
  • With emotion, usually, other symptoms can appear like chest tightness, tummy ache, etc. So a good way to begin to understand what he might be going through could be to help locate his discomfort in some part of the body.
  • We have to learn to contain his emotions and frustration. We must not forget that when our son behaves in anger, we continue to be, without realizing it, models that he will learn to imitate. Therefore, if we want our kids to learn self-control, we must show it ourselves. We must behave firmly without forgetting that he is not an adult and that his behavior escapes all intentionality. Empathy,
  • Empathy, firmness, and affection are three basic qualities for anger management for kids.
    • Empathy: to try to put ourselves in the skin of our son, to understand, to see and to feel like he does.
    • Firmness: educating is always being aware that an inappropriate behavior is followed by a consequence. 
    • Affection: even when we reprimand him, we must manage to make him feel wanted and accepted.
  • We want to convey that this particular behavior is unacceptable and not that he or she is unacceptable or misunderstood. We don’t need to raise our voices or punish, but rather keep consequences simple, always explaining why.  
  • We should remember to fulfill their desires or needs in the appropriate amount of time. We want to show him that there is room for desire fulfillment but at the right time. The values that they obtain during childhood should be seen as the foundation for adulthood.  
  • Each time we help our child to determine what happens to him, we help him overcome child frustration and teach him other ways to express anger. By helping with anger management for kids we contribute to his emotional intelligence and help him self-regulate (to understand what happens to him and to use an appropriate solution to the overflowing emotion). 

Anger Management for Kids

Anger management for kids: An example

Perhaps a real example of child frustration can guide us through the process of anger management for kids:

Anna is the mother of Christina, a 7-year-old girl, whom her mother defines as charming but irritable when something is denied to her. Christina is an only child and her mother says they have tried to give her as much affection as possible. However, Christina gets angry easily and doesn’t tolerate frustration well.

Often, parents tend to fear scolding or reprimanding their children when they see their kids having an angry tantrum. Therefore, they use other strategies such as giving them what they want. This is a mistake since life rarely gives you want immediately and children must be exposed to these elements to learn how to tolerate frustration.

Anna: “I was in the supermarket with Christina when she, who was walking around, took a doll and asked me to buy it. I told her that it was not possible, that we were in a hurry and that we would buy her another day. Christina began to shout that she wanted the doll while I insisted that we weren’t buying her today. People started staring and I felt so mortified I agreed to buy her the doll.”

Without realizing it, Anna rewarded Christina’s behavior, so once again, the child learned that by screaming she will get what she asks for.

What can Anna do to stop Christina from acting like this? Here are some tips:

1- The fact that Christina hasn’t yet learned how to express her emotions properly doesn’t mean that Anna is bad at parenting. Children will learn how to express their feelings better with our help. Anna, regardless of Christina’s actions, should’ve continued to deny buying the doll. Her attitude should be firm, without raising her voice but maintaining our position.  

2- Give an alternative option. In this case, Anna should suggest another day to purchase the doll and inform Christina: “Next week is your birthday and we will come back and buy it” or “this afternoon if you do your homework, tomorrow we will come back and buy it.” Always keep in mind: If you say it, you have to do it. Otherwise, I am teaching kids that words don’t mean much.

3 – If Christina is out of control and does not listen to Anna’s words: a simple and firm “no, come on we are leaving!” Should be enough. Let us not waste so much effort in gaining our son’s understanding when he is frustrated because he won’t be able to calm down. Anna might have to walk without him for a few feet, or go back and pick her up while she continues crying.  

4 – When anger dissipates then both Anna and Christina can speak about what happened. 

Anna: “I am angry at how you behaved, I understand that you want the doll, and I have already said that (tomorrow, next week, …) we will come back to buy it. But I do not like you crying and shouting like that “. Also, Anna should reassure Christina of her feelings ” I know you’re angry because you wanted the doll, but that is not the way to behave. Next time, calmly try telling me you what you want and I will see what we can do.”

Remember that you are dealing with a child and that sometimes their words don’t have bad intentions but rather they are trying to express something. Empathy is very important in this case, instead of paying attention excessively to the words.

To phrases like “I don’t love you mom, you’re not nice“, should follow expressions that convey acceptance and affection at all times. Being angry at how he behaved should not mean a withdrawal of affection.

The message that should always be: “I’m angry about how you’ve behaved, but I still love you and there are many reasons why I’m still proud of you because there are so many things you do well.”

5 – Making an agreement should always be followed through with what we promised. Therefore, always try to agree to things that are 100% sure to happen. If the agreement between mother and child was that for her birthday they would come back to buy the doll, then on her birthday make sure to make that desire come true. If the child notices that when he behaves correctly and waits she will get what she wanted or a positive consequence then that behavior will be reinforced and it will continue throughout development.

Anger management for kids means establishing age-appropriate limits, negotiating and granting what is promised. It also means being firm but empathic to our child’s needs and keeping in mind that affection must always be present.

This article is originally in Spanish written by Samuel Fascius Cruz, translated by Alejandra Salazar. 

Sensory Processing Disorder: What is it? What are the symptoms, treatments and does my child exhibit any signs? Take the mini quiz!

“Sometimes the noise in my life bothers me. It hurts my ears.” These are common things people with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or Sensory Integration Disorder tend to say when describing what is happening to them. Find out more about what is sensory processing disorder, its signs, symptoms, treatments and take a mini quiz on different signs of over responsive sensory processing disorder.

Sensory processing disorder

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder or sensory integration disorder is a condition in which the brain has difficulty receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. Some experts like A. Jean Ayres, PhD, linked SPD to a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents the brain from receiving signals or information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. Whether if you are biting into your favorite New York style pizza, driving a car, or simply texting, the completion of the activity requires precise processing of sensation and attention.

Sensory processing disorder may affect one or more of the senses like hearing, touch (tactile), smell or taste, movement (vestibular) and body awareness (proprioceptive sense). Some children may even seem unresponsive to the things they have difficulties with. For example, the sounds of a lawn mower may cause a child to experience headaches, then nausea, dizziness, confusion, trembling or panic. They may scream when touched or shy away from certain textures of foods. However, others may also seem unresponsive to anything around them. They may fail to respond to extreme heat, cold or even pain. This is very common among children with autism.

Sensory Processing Disorder- Symptoms 

Symptoms may range from mild to severe. Common symptoms include:

  • Hypersensitivity: Hypersensitive (or oversensitive) children may notice sounds that others do not, or have an extreme response to loud noises. They may be fearful of large crowds, unwilling to play on playground equipment or worried about their safety (falling).
  • Hypo-sensitive: Hypo-sensitive (or under sensitive) children, as mentioned above, may lack sensitivity to their surroundings. For example, because they might have a high tolerance for pain, they are known to be “sensory seeking” meaning they have a constant need to touch people or things, even when it’s not appropriate. Some may be gustatory/oral seeking (crave certain textures and flavors excessively), olfactory seeking (crave certain smells excessively), auditory seeking (often speak louder than necessary), and visual seeking (crave bright lights). 

Often, children with sensory processing disorder show signs of both hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity. They may reach in one of both ways:

  • Extreme response to change in environment: Kids may be fine in settings they are familiar with, however, in crowded environments like a wedding, they may experience a sensory meltdown such as throwing a tantrum and screaming.
  • Fleeing from stimulation: children who are undersensitive might get a fight or flight response from something that is too stimulating. For example, if a child flees from a playground or parking lot, oblivious to the danger, this indicates they may be heading away from something upsetting.

Sensory Processing Disorder-Skills Affected

  • Resistance to change and inattention: they may be struggling with adapting to change and new surroundings. Some cognitive skills might be affected by this.
  • Problems with motor skills: the child may seem awkward and clumsy, an activity such as running or jumping may be hard for kids who may have difficulty knowing the orientation of their body. They may either move slowly or avoid activities they find challenging.
  • Lack social skills: oversensitive kids will most likely get anxious around other children and will avoid playing, making it hard for the child to be socially friendly. Under sensitive kids also lack social skills because they may be too rough which in turn may lead other kids to avoid them and exclude them from activities.

Sensory Processing Disorder-Diagnosis and Causes

There have been many assumptions and speculations about the causes of sensory processing disorder or sensory integration disorder; nothing concrete has been identified just yet. However, many researchers say some causes of SPD could be:

  • Coded into the child’s genetic material
  • Prenatal and birth complications (low birth weight or prematurity, etc.)
  • Environmental factors (an adopted child who was might have had poor prenatal care)

Sensory processing disorder has yet to be classified as an illness in the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), which is often used by psychiatrists and many other clinical professionals such as pediatricians and psychologists in diagnosis. However, it is identified as part of the assessment in the Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood-Revised in the first clinical axis. Sensory processing disorder was first identified by occupational therapists as a source of distress for many children and for inexplicable behaviors. Sensory integration disorder can be often misdiagnosed due to its confusion with autistic children and their problematic sensory responses.

Below is a small quiz with common situations that may happen when a child has a over-response to sensory stimuli and may have sensory processing disorder.

1. We have to avoid public loud spaces such as malls, parks, etc. because the noise seems to hurt my child's ears.
  • A red X indicates that your child may have this symptom of sensory processing disorder. A green checkmark indicates that your child does not have this symptom

2. My child doesn't like to be hugged or kissed and when I do it seems like it hurts (not to be confused with shyness or social difficulties)
  • A red X indicates that your child may have this symptom of sensory processing disorder. A green checkmark indicates that your child does not have this symptom

3. My child has a hard time falling asleep and wakes up crying to any noise, change in temperature or minimal stimuli with high level of discomfort and it's difficult to comfort him back to sleep
  • A red X indicates that your child may have this symptom of sensory processing disorder. A green checkmark indicates that your child does not have this symptom

4. When we buy clothes we have to take all of the tags off because my child can't stand the touch on his skin (not to be confused with normal discomfort).
  • A red X indicates that your child may have this symptom of sensory processing disorder. A green checkmark indicates that your child does not have this symptom

5. Sounds, lights, movements, smells, tastes and any other sense seems to be heightened to the point where my child feels great discomfort or even pain while being exposed to these stimuli
  • A red X indicates that your child may have this symptom of sensory processing disorder. A green checkmark indicates that your child does not have this symptom

*IMPORTANT: While this mini quiz can’t diagnose a child with sensory integration disorder, it can be a helpful guide to see if additional testing should be done. 

Sensory processing disorder symptoms

Sensory Processing Disorder-Treatment

For diagnosis and treatment, it’s generally recommended to see an occupational therapist. The therapeutic approach for occupational therapy, in this case, includes the use of sensory integration, which was originally created by A. Jean Ayres, PhD, and is formally known as Ayres Sensory Integration (ASI).

An occupational therapy session using the Ayres Sensory Integration system begins with an evaluation, and once it’s complete, the therapist will develop a plan aimed at enhancing the child’s ability to utilize their sensations. When the occupational therapist is using ASI intervention techniques, some core elements include:

  • An ASI intervention will challenge the child to develop ideas about what to do, allow the child to plan out these ideas and then successfully carry out the plans
  • The environment is rich in tactile, proprioceptive, and vestibular opportunities and that creates both physical and emotional safety for the child
  • Many therapeutic activities will promote postural control and balance, which may include the use of special equipment such as suspended apparatus, scooters, and balls.

Sensory processing disorder- treatment

Tips and Creative Forms of Therapy

There are also many creative ways to help your child manage SPD in their daily life. The Ayres Sensory Integration system has created something called “Sensory Diet”, which refers to an individualized set of sensory based activities in which the child will participate throughout the day. Think of a “sensory diet” in the same way that healthy eating habits are distinguished by feeding our bodies the nutrients we need; a sensory diet “feeds” the child the right sensory needs of the child. A sensory diet allows the child to re-train the brain to process sensory information, which will then promote self-control. An example of a sensory diet would be:

  • A child who is an avoider and under-sensitive may be overwhelmed by loud sounds and stressful stimuli. In this case, the child would need breaks from distressing sounds, unpleasant tactile stimulation, etc.
  • A child who is not as aware of their body would need to incorporate lifting, pushing and pulling heaving objects as an activity into their everyday life. These activities will help the child gain an understanding of their body.
  • For children who have tactile issues, it is sometimes recommended to have the child drink seltzer water to experience bubbles in their mouth.

Overall, there are many forms of sensory diets that are individualized based on the child’s needs. You can create a sensory diet by working alongside your occupational therapist that will provide the correct form of activities to help the child.

Now that you know how to identify Sensory Processing Disorder and how to treat it, I hope you find this article useful and can become more aware of your child’s behavior. Feel free to leave a message below.

 

References:

Impact and Treatment of SPD. Retrieved from https://www.spdstar.org/basic/impact-and-treatment-of-spd

Understanding Sensory Processing Issues. Retrieved from  https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/sensory-processing-issues/understanding-sensory-processing-issues#item2

Dr. A. Jean Ayres, PhD. (1972). Ayres Sensory Integration. Retrieved from https://www.siglobalnetwork.org/ayres-sensory-integration

Child Vaccinations – The Facts: Keeping Our Children Healthy

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) list vaccination as the greatest, and most cost-effective, public health achievement of the 20th century. The WHO estimates that immunization and child vaccinations currently avert an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths every year, but if global vaccination rates improve, an additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided. However, the rate of global child vaccinations coverage, which is the proportion of the world’s children who receive recommended vaccines, has remained constant for the past few years.

Child vaccinations have saved many lives all over the world

Child vaccinations

In 2015, about 116 million children worldwide under the age of 1 received their recommended doses of the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine. This and other vaccines protect these children against serious illnesses or disabilities, with some diseases even being fatal. Vaccination is one of the best ways parents can protect infants, children, and teens from serious, and potentially harmful diseases. Vaccines basically work by helping the body’s natural defenses to help it safely develop immunity to disease, and reducing the risk of infection. Vaccines help the body develop that immunity by imitating the bacteria or virus, without causing actual illness. The vaccine causes the immune system to develop the same response as it does to a real infection so the body can recognize and fight the germs in the future.

Child vaccinations: What is a vaccine?

A vaccine is a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease. A vaccine is made from or contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism. This agent is made from weakened or killed form of the microbe, its toxins, or one of its surface proteins. The active agent stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it, and then “remember” it, so that the immune system can easily recognize and destroy any of these microorganisms that may enter the body later.
The CDC and other physicians work to update the vaccine recommendations and schedules every year based on the latest research and science. Immunizations have had a very large impact on improving the health of everyone in the United States. Vaccine-preventable diseases can be very serious, or even deadly, especially in infants and young children.

Child vaccinations: What is the purpose of a vaccine?

Child vaccination rates are holding steady globally

Every year, thousands of Americans get sick from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines. Some of these people are hospitalized, or may even die. However, vaccines have greatly reduced the occurrence of diseases that once infected or killed many infants, children, and adults regularly, and with severe consequences. And, since the germs that cause this vaccine-preventable disease still exist, and can be spread to people who are not protected by vaccines, getting immunized is the best protection against these diseases. The recommended vaccines and the vaccine schedules for children, teens, and adults are based on factors such as age, previous health conditions, lifestyle, jobs, and travel.
Recently, there have been measles outbreaks in several states. The number of measles cases in 2008 nearly tripled to a total of 140 cases. Most of these cases were linked to a just few unvaccinated children who had traveled out of the United States. The number of measles outbreaks continues to rise, and this brings up another point: unvaccinated children can put others, even vaccinated children at risk for getting a vaccine-preventable disease. This can be because they were too young to receive the vaccination, could not be vaccinated, or because the vaccine they received did not work. Vaccination is important because it protects not only the person or child who gets the vaccine, but it also helps to keep diseases, like measles, from spreading to other children and adults.

Child vaccination schedule

According to the CDC, these are the vaccines that are routinely given to children up to 18 years old, which are all on the latest immunization schedule to protect them against 15 vaccine-preventable illnesses. Unlike diseases such as smallpox, none of these illnesses has been eradicated, even with the available vaccines against these viruses and bacteria:

  • Hepatitis B1 (HepB) – Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver.
    Rotavirus – Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhoeal disease in young children in the world.
  • Diphtheria, tetanus, & acellular pertussis (DTaP) – Diphtheria produces a toxin when in the respiratory system, and produces a toxin that destroys the healthy tissues and may spread to the bloodstream and affect the heart, kidney, and nerves. Tetanus is caused by a bacteria that also produces a toxin in the body that causes painful muscle contractions and lockjaw. Pertussis, or whooping cough, causes uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe.
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) – Haemophilus influenzae causes meningitis and pneumonia.
  • Pneumococcal conjugate – This vaccine protects against Streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes pneumonia and meningitis, and other types of pneumococcal infections. This includes bronchitis, rhinitis, acute sinusitis, conjunctivitis, sepsis, septic arthritis, endocarditis, pericarditis, and brain abscess.
  • Inactivated poliovirus – Polio is highly contagious and can cause irreversible paralysis.
  • Influenza – The flu is caused by a rapidly evolving virus, and so the vaccine must evolve right along with it.
  • Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) – Measles usually results in a high fever and rash and can lead to blindness, encephalitis or death. Mumps causes painful swelling at the side of the face under the ears (the parotid glands), fever, headache, and muscle aches, and can lead to viral meningitis. Rubella can lead to defects of the brain, heart, eyes and ears.
  • Varicella (VAR) – Varicella, otherwise known as chickenpox, can cause complications such as pneumonia, inflammation of the brain, or bacterial infections of the skin. It is more severe in adults.
  • Hepatitis A (HepA) – Hepatitis A is an infectious disease of the liver caused by a virus and causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, fever, and abdominal pain.
  • Meningococcal A – Meningitis is an acute inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It can cause permanent severe brain damage and is often deadly.
  • Tetanus, diphtheria, & acellular pertussis (Tdap) – This vaccine is similar to the DTaP vaccine, but has different concentrations of the dosage.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) – the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract, and can cause cervical cancer, other types of cancer, and genital warts in both men and women.
  • Meningococcal B – This vaccine protects against serotype B meningococcal disease, a different form of meningitis.
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide (PPSV23) – This vaccine is recommended for children and adults in high-risk groups, such as those with heart conditions, lung conditions, HIV, or some cancers.

Although not a part of the routine child vaccination schedule, vaccines are available to protect against a number of other vaccine-preventable diseases, including cholera, yellow fever, typhoid, rabies, and tuberculosis.
There has been so much progress made in vaccine research and development during recent years, and also in several countries. Just last year in 2016, WHO declared that the world is closer than ever to eradicating polio, and the virus is restricted to just a few areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. The Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) is working to provide more equitable access to vaccines and aiming to achieve adult and child vaccinations coverage of at least 90% nationally and at least 80% in every district by 2020. It also works to stimulate research and development for the next generation of vaccines. Currently, more than 80 vaccines are in the late stages of clinical testing, including vaccines for malaria and dengue fever.
With new research and information emerging constantly, educating yourself and avoiding vaccine misinformation can help make sure that you and your children are fully vaccinated and safe from vaccine-preventable diseases.

If you have any questions, leave me a comment below and I’ll answer as quickly as possible 🙂

References:

CDC. Recommended Immunization Schedule for Children and Adolescents Aged 18 Years or Younger, UNITED STATES, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/child-adolescent.html.

American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. Recommended Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Schedule. Pediatrics. 2011;127;387-388.

American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. Increasing Immunization Coverage, 2011. Pediatrics. 2010;125(6);1295-1304.

WHO. Immunization Coverage. 2017. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs378/en/

Intrinsic Motivation: When You Love Doing What You’re Doing

What drives us to join a dance class or paint a picture? What makes some people choose a certain career path knowing that their economic stability will be challenged? What is it that gives us the energy to strive to reach our goals? The leading force behind all of these decisions is intrinsic motivation. In this article, we’ll talk about how to stay strong and meet your goals when you’re faced with challenges.

Intrinsic motivation

What is intrinsic motivation?

Motivation is a psychological process that helps us carry out and complete determined actions. We can be motivated to do anything, from taking a nap to running from danger. Motivation makes it possible to better adapt to the challenges and situations that we face on a daily basis.

The causes behind motivational processes vary significantly from person to person, and can even change for a single person depending on the circumstances. It’s possible to distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation depending on the reasons behind the action.

Intrinsic motivation comes from the inside and happens when you are truly interested in something, without seeking a reward in return. One example of intrinsic motivation may be working at or spending time volunteering at an NGO, knowing that you won’t receive any type of economic compensation.

Extrinsic motivation, however, is driven by the rewards or benefits that we receive in exchange (or avoiding a punishment) for doing something. Think about when someone works extra hard to get a raise at work. In this case, they aren’t working hard for an internal desire to succeed, but rather to receive an economic benefit. There are a number of differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, but the main difference is the expectation of receiving benefits or avoiding punishment.

The same task or action can be extrinsically motivated for some and intrinsically motivated for others. For example, there are some people who go to the gym to get something out of it: to lose weight, while others work out for the exercise itself.

This article will focus on intrinsic motivation. Find out its essential aspects and how to improve it.

Intrinsic motivation: Characteristics

  • You can influence intrinsic motivation: You may find that sometimes it’s hard to figure out what challenges will help you get the most from yourself. However, there is always time to find activities that pique your interest.
  • Rewards can make intrinsic motivation disappear: It’s been shown in a number of experiments and cultures that paying for certain tasks may cause a decrease in performance. How can this be possible? According to the theory of overjustification, interest in a job decreases if we are rewarded extrinsically. For example, if you like to draw and you are paid for your word as an illustrator, you may find that your passion starts to feel like an obligation.
  • There are also rewards that strengthen intrinsic motivation: What we said in the previous point is true (reward can have a negative effect on motivation), it’s also true that receiving gratification from people we care about can help strengthen motivation.
  • The difficult of a task affects intrinsic motivation: Challenges teach us to be perseverant and develop our skills as well as possible.We need to be able to believe that it’s possible to overcome any challenge that we’re presented with. On the other hand, tasks that are too easy will be boring and might not be interesting to us. Once you find the perfect balance, you can enjoy the task and get “into the swing of things”, as Csikszentmihalyi says (we’ll talk more about him in the last section).

Intrinsic Motivation: Application and Examples

Intrinsic motivation at schools

Learning, especially at school, is made up of a variety of subjects, some of which may seem more interesting than others. Facing these more challenging subjects can be difficult, and even the subjects that you like can make you feel unmotivated sometimes. What can you do you keep yourself from feeling this lack of motivation?

First, it’s important to reinforce good, productive behavior and reward studying and other activities that are beneficial to learning. Rather than threats and punishment, using positive reinforcement will help associate studying with positive experiences, helping to improve motivation. It’s important to try to make learning a fun activity, rather than a means to an end. The importance of motivation in learning is endless.

It’s easier to learn effectively if you value what you’re learning, spark a curiosity for the information, create good study habits, connect to the content, and find a way to make it relevant to your daily life.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation at work

Intrinsic motivation at work is one of the keys to success in a work environment. We all know the familiar sensation of watching the clock move minute by minute until you can finally start the weekend. However, you’ve probably also realized that when this happens, your productivity drops and you have poorer results. These situations can make you feel even less motivated to work.

Having the job of your dreams may not be as easy as you thought, but luckily there are ways to help you become more motivated at work like taking breaks, being friendly with co-workers, keeping yourself from falling into a rut, and changing up your daily tasks.

Taking some time to dedicate to altruistic activities or activities that help others and not yourself, can also improve motivation in the office. Corporate social responsibility can benefit not only those who are receiving the direct benefits but also those who offer the help.

There are other techniques that many companies use to improve motivation among their workers, like giving them an opportunity to develop personal projects, paying for educational or advancement opportunities, and recognizing a job well-done. Happy, smiling workers are more productive and useful than employees who race out the door at the end of the day.

Intrinsic motivation in daily life

There are a number of situations that we come across in our daily lives that we could do easier and better if we had intrinsic motivation. For example, maybe you would spend more time cooking and creating healthy masterpieces if you enjoyed it, rather than cooking just to eat the next day.

Personal relationships also play a large role in our intrinsic motivation. Creating bonds with other people motivates us to take up new activities or do something you’ve never done. Going out with friends to eat or see a movie are powerful motivators that will help you get to an art exhibit or other show that you’ve never seen before.

Intrinsic motivation: Benefits

  • Improves productivity: Intrinsic motivation helps us have more original ideas and be more creative in our decision making. Because of this, we tend to get less tired when working on tasks with a positive attitude.
  • Improves well-being: Knowing which activities makes you happy means that you can spend more time doing them, rather than doing something that you dread. Working on tasks that you enjoy can become an endless fountain of personal and professional satisfaction.
  • Raises self-esteem and self-efficiency: The amount of effort that you spend on tasks that motivated you are usually reinforced by significant progress and can make you feel competent and satisfied with your work. Who doesn’t like seeing progress being made on their work?
  • Makes you more independent: Intrinsic motivation pushes you to learn more about the areas and activities that you enjoy and are interested in, which means working without anyone telling you to and taking initiative when starting something new.
  • It’s longer lasting than extrinsic motivation: It’s common for motivation to subside once you’ve reached your initial goal. If your motivation extrinsic, you might not feel the need to continue working hard after you finish your last final. However, if you actually enjoy learning the material, you’ll be able to get more out of every class, even when your exams have finished for the semester.

All this talk of intrinsic motivation shouldn’t overlook the importance of extrinsic motivation! For example, a company can’t lower the wages of its employees because they would probably find work elsewhere.

It’s also possible to have both types of motivation. You can start an activity like yoga with the hopes of feeling more relaxed and less anxious, but end up going because you really love it. The best way to achieve this is to stay away from making external or separate rewards your main goal.

How can you develop intrinsic motivation? 5 tips

1. Avoid routine

Monotony causes boredom and can make you tired and lazy. For example, if you like to go running in the morning to wake up and get ready for the day, try to take a new route and explore the area! Adding an extra challenge can help keep you interested in running (not to mention that it’s a great way to train your brain in the city! -along with brain games, of course-)

2. Keep a positive attitude

It’s important to work to reach your goals without putting too much pressure on yourself to be the best. Trusting yourself is crucial to your overall wellbeing. It is also important remember that the key to intrinsic motivation is enjoying the activity itself, not the potential outcome that it may bring. Try to do what you need to do without any negativity or pressure.

3. Set realistic goals

Trying to reach unrealistic goals will end up being counterproductive and can cause you to lose your intrinsic motivation. Be critical of your goals and evaluate whether or not is a realistic goal that you’ll be able to accomplish. It’s better to focus on what you can improve and activities that will help you improve than to get stuck on things that went wrong.

4. Reward yourself

We’ve already said that intrinsic motivation isn’t about the rewards, but recognizing when you’ve done a good job and letting yourself feel good about it is essential to continuing to have the intrinsic motivation that allowed you to get there. You can even think about indulging every once in awhile as a little reward.

5. Spend time with like-minded people

If you love dancing, find a group of friends who you can dance with and make new choreography. It’s important to share your experiences with other people who enjoy the same activities. Luckily, we live in a time where it’s easy to find groups for any type of activity.

Intrinsic Motivation: Authors

-Abraham Maslow

Maslow is one of the most relevant theories when it comes to motivation. This humanist psychologist is especially known for having created Maslow’s Pyramid that provides a hierarchy of human needs. Intrinsic motivation is particularly linked to the top of the pyramid, based on the necessities of self-realization. This is where we are able to reach maximum existence and develop our potential.

Albert Bandura

This psychologist created the theory of self-efficacy, which is the idea that a person’s opinion about the execution of a task depends on their expectations of success, perseverance, and how much they dedicate to it. For example, if you see that after spending time and working to improve, your Spanish or French improves, you’ll feel proud and able to perfect the language at some point.

Eduard Deci and Richard Ryan

These two psychologists worked together to create the theory of self-determination, which is the idea that we do activities that we enjoy, rather than those that we don’t enjoy and aren’t interested in. This theory is especially relevant and applied to athletics. It is important to be independent when making decisions.

-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

This specialist in positive psychology is dedicated to studying the state of flow that takes place when we focus on a task that is neither too easy nor too difficult. In these situations, you tend to lose the sense of time and can spend hours on a single task. A common example of this is when a painter is completely absorbed in their work and they lose track of time.

Csikszentmihalyi is an expert in creativity and has interviewed a number of experts in order to better understand their flow. In this video, he will explain part of his discoveries and the importance of intrinsic motivation.

Thanks for writing! If you have any questions, leave me a comment below 🙂

This article was originally written in Spanish and translated to English.

Attachment styles: How to appropriately connect with others?

How many attachment styles are there, how are they developed, what consequences do they have in adulthood, why is it important to build an appropriate emotional bond as soon as we are born? Here you will find answers to those questions, advice for parents and so much more. Discover this useful guide about different attachment types.

Attachment styles: complete guide

Attachment style theory has uncovered humanity’s need to establish profound and long-lasting bonds with our peers in order to ensure our survival. Bowlby explained the qualities a caregiver should have to establish a healthy bond with an infant, child or dependent person these being:

  • Empathy: the ability to put oneself in another persons shoes and feel what they are feeling, however with enough distance to know its not their own problem or emotion.
  • Sensitivity: ability to detect even the smallest signs of a basic or non basic need in a child.
  • Availability: in order to satisfy the child’s needs adequately the caregiver has to be available.

The presence and absence of these elements in the set of interactions between the child and the caregiver are key to establish internal models for future relationships of the child, or attachment style in which the child will build its relationship with others.

Following J. Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth and her coworkers in Baltimore, were able to establish three attachment styles included into two main categories: secure attachment (type B) and insecure attachment which she divided into avoidant (type A) and ambivalent/resistant (type C). They did this by exposing the child to an unfamiliar place with the aim of seeing their reaction when the mother left the room and the child was left with a stranger. They observed the behavior before and after the mother came back. Finally, thanks to another research group insecure attachment got another category called disorganized/disoriented attachment.

Finally the attachments styles defined were:

What color does he see the world?- I question myself every time I’m in front of a patient and I’m trying to navigate his brain in order to give some sense to how he feels.  What does he think of others? Does he protect himself by avoiding, or is he outgoing and open to life?- These are other questions I wonder about when he is telling me his life story and I try to figure out what attachment style he might be.

Attachment Styles: Secure Attachment

“It’s living with the feeling that people have my back. That whenever I need someone, they will encourage me to continue with a smile or will get sad if I’m crying. No matter what, I know they will be there, offering me comfort”.

Ainsworth defined secure attachment as the absence of concern of the availability of the caregiver. In a unfamiliar situation, children that had a secure attachment with their caregiver would explore the world with curiosity and joyfulness. When their parents left, children would cry and exhibit signs of angst, however they were easily calmed when they came back.

Children with secure attachments are happier and have parents who have been able to satisfy their needs in the different developmental stages. They have made the children felt loved and part of the family, through empathy, availability and sensitivity. In each encounter between the parent and the child, the parent has been capable with love and unconditional acceptance to regulate the child’s emotion even if before the child was crying or uncomfortable. The well being for one is the satisfaction of the other.

Thus, with every interaction, the child has modulated his representation of others as predictable and optimistic. He defines himself as: worthy to be loved, with positive self-esteem, confident in his abilities and self-worth as well as capable of expressing and communicating his emotions.

Therefore, they grow with the idea that the world is a safe and trustworthy place, living each life experience as a challenge and an opportunity to learn new things.

Children that developed a secure attachment tend to become emotional steady and coherent adults, with well integrated life narratives, confidence in themselves and others and have long lasting bonds with others. They use empathy and interpret their experiences with optimism and positivism.

In my opinion, people with secure attachments are the people we meet in life that make us feel comfortable, happy and filled with optimism.

Attachment styles: secure attachment

Attachment Styles: Insecure Attachments

What happens with parenting is not satisfactory or when one of the essential elements is missing in order to create a secure bond? Then is when insecure attachments are usually formed. These are distinguished by profound significant ties that generate great discomfort, due to lack of empathy and sensitivity that turn into an unreliable and unpredictable view of the world. 

At best in this category are children whose parents did a their job raising them with empathy and concern but failed understanding their needs or offering solutions. For each time they searched emotional warmth, security and understanding they might have failed, leading to pain and feelings of confusion towards the world.

Imagine we just landed in a new unknown and strange planet and around us the people can’t read our facial expressions, let alone the fear we feel by being there. Some might even out of curiosity get close to examine us while others just ignore our presence. We might be so scared we won’t have any idea of where to go, our brain will be trying to figure out an infinite number of unknown stimuli, leading us to be bewildered and mistrusting towards that world.

Children with insecure attachments have lived their relationship with others as unsatisfying, be it because they felt ignored or because their parents have tried inconsistent educational guidelines usually relying on their mood or their own needs. These are parents that seem genuinely worried about their children, however when analysed its discovered that the motivation for being worried is an egocentric one, more based on their personal needs than the children.

Hence, these children grow up with a negative emotional model that generates high levels of anxiety.  Their interactions have taught them that there is nothing beneficial from them but great amount of disappointment and pain. Thus, they develop defensive strategies such as isolation, avoidance, in an attempt to lessen the pain. Likewise, they develop a lack of understanding, ignorance and undervalue that has in turn lead to a non-defined fragmented identity, coated with sadness and high levels of loneliness. 

As adults, they have low self-esteem and expect very little from life. In any interaction they seem restrained, withdrawn and suspicious of good actions. They tend to be deep-rooted in security, fearing independence, occasionally having anxiety symptoms when they feel their safety is being threatened.

Some of them spend their lifetime avoiding relationships, meanwhile others manage to establish random relationships with different people however not rooted in a meaningful profound connections.

Attachment styles: insecure attachment

Ainsworth was able to give specific characteristics to the different attachment styles:

  • Avoidant attachment style: children that don’t show any type of negative emotion with their mother’s absence. When the mother returns, the child avoids all contact with her not showing any emotions towards her, foreseeing his needs won’t be satisfied.
  • Ambivalent attachment style: children with doubtful and inconclusive feelings, on one hand they search for their mother’s comfort but at the same time they feel a deep pain displayed as rage, irritability and it becomes very difficult to comfort them.
  • Disoriented/Disorganized: this is the most serious one out of all three. They are traumatized children from young age. They don’t have a defined specific behavior established, therefore they swap from showing a strong attachment to avoidance or even remain paralyzed. They swing from anguish, to searching for comfort in the mother, to anger, to fear and avoidance. They think of their parents as scary and unpredictable because the latter have unpredictable educational guidelines. Thus, the child has a chaotic and disorganized view of the world, and in an attempt to protect himself a series of erratic behaviors are developed. Children with this attachment style have difficulty regulating their emotions and keeping healthy relationships. This attachment style is related to many psychological disorders.

Advice: How to build a secure attachment?

Attachment styles are very difficult to keep in mind when raising a child, however its possible build a secure attachment. What do we have to do to build a healthy bond and create a secure attachment? As caregivers, we have to ensure our child’s healthy development. As you may have been already understanding with this article, the bond or link between caregivers and the child are the key to our future relationships. Thus, I don’t want to conclude without giving some advice on how to build a secure attachment:

  • Establish well-defined rules and limits. Children need rules because they will face a world filled with rules and norms. Its important that within our educational scheme we include specific rules making some negotiable with our children.
  • Maintain high levels of communication. Answers such as “do it cause I say so” should not be used to get children to do something. Its important to first explain the motivations behind the rule or norm. This helps children develop a critical thought process about their behavior and how he feels about it. We can always help the process with words and expressions he may not know. Communication is an essential part of educating, particularly education values. Even when the behavior is not the most appropriate, its important to find a place where to speak and think about what happened and how it can change. This exchange in point of views between a parent and his child leads to better understanding of each other. A good communication requires active listening. We need to let the other person speak and we listen intently to what they are trying to transmit even if we don’t initially agree. Its not about who is wrong and who is right but rather help the child have introspection.

“There are no irrefutable truths, just stories, then, Why not listen to his story? And in case parts of his story include us, give our fragment of his story to complete it. “

  • Let your child know you love them. It’s an essential part of childhood, more than food, is receiving lots of affection. A good emotional development will help them create relationships, develop empathy, communicate and understand others. Even when explaining the rules or scolding it should be done with warmth and care.
  • “Sanction behaviors not people”. The child must be aware of the wrong behavior without it interfering or having a negative connotation with his identity. We have to explain clearly what exactly was the behavior didn’t like and measure our words in order not to hurt the child. Its very different for example if I said with a firm tone: “I didn’t like the way you threw that ball at your sister” than “you are a bad child for throwing the ball at your sister”. The second option is packed with negative emotions and brands the child a “bad person”.
  • Heal your own wounds. We have to let the past go in order to focus on the present. Attachment styles tend to be intergenerational, that is, they are transmitted from parents to children through imitation, modeling, etc. A child that grew up without empathy, as a parent may not have that tool to teach his or her own children. The same happens with irrational fears, they can be passed from parents to children, thus it’s important for parents to let their past behind and apply new strategies with their children.

Remember to always keep in mind the three essentials elements: empathy, sensitivity and disposition. These elements are the key to developing a secure attachment and will allow us to understand our child’s point of view and way of looking at life.

People can develop secure relationships with some people and insecure with others, or even a secure relationship can turn into insecure in a different moment in time. What is assured is that young experiences play an important role in our brain development and from there how we relate to others and ourselves.

Maybe by reading this article you are now aware of your attachment style. Maybe you might even adventure in asking yourself what color do you see the world? What style do I have? What relationships are secure for me and which aren’t?.

Thank you so much for reading. If you have comments feel free to leave them below.

 

This article is originally in Spanish written by Samuel Facius Cruz, translated by Alejandra Salazar.

 

Monogamy: Is it Natural for Humans?

Even though Western society insists that monogamy is necessary for healthy relationships, there are a lot of people who think that monogamy does not work. They claim that humans are genetically wired to not actually be with just one person and one person only, but with as many people as possible, and that it’s just human nature. There are several examples of successful relationships where the people have intimate relations with people other than their primary partner, with their partner’s knowledge and consent, and with the agreement being applicable to both partners. Even in our modern society, those kinds of relationships are seen as unconventional, but are successful and fulfilling to the people in those relationships. However, many other people believe that a relationship can only work if it is monogamous.

Is monogamy meant to be?

What is monogamy?

Monogamy can have a few different meanings. The definition of social monogamy refers to two people living together, having only sexual relations with each other, and cooperating in acquiring resources such as shelter, food, and money. Marital monogamy refers to a marriage of only two people to each other. Marital monogamy can be further dissected into two distinctions: either one marriage over a lifetime, or a marriage with only one person at a time. Biologists use monogamy in the sexual sense, as in having sex with only one partner. Genetic monogamy refers to sexually monogamous relationships, and if there is a child, there is definite genetic evidence of paternity of that child. When we use the term every day or when cultural or social scientists use the term monogamy, they are usually referring to social or marital monogamy.

Are humans made to have monogamous relationships?

Only 3 to 5 percent of the roughly 5,000 known species of mammals, which includes humans, are known to form lifelong, monogamous bonds. The animals most known to stick with one partner throughout their lifetimes are beavers, wolves and some bats. Evolutionary psychologists and anthropologists have suggested that human males are more likely to have sex outside of their primary partnership, partially due to the male’s urge to spread his genes by producing offspring with as many women as possible. However, monogamy has evolved in humans in order to raise a child with a solid bond between the parents. Humans are also distinct from many other mammalian species because the males are usually involved and invested in the raising of their children with their partner.

Parts of the brain

Only 17 percent of human cultures are strictly monogamous, and 80 percent of early human societies were polygamous. Most of the human societies now and throughout history have embraced a mixture of marriages, with some people practicing monogamy and others polygamy in the same society. However, the majority of people in these cultures are in monogamous marriages. Anthropologists state that only 1 in 6 societies enforces monogamy as a rule, and several polygamist societies still uphold those practices today. Some anthropologists adhere to the thought that humans weren’t necessarily meant to be either monogamous or polyamorous, but we have impulses towards both. The one thing that dictates our ultimate decisions is the culture we live in, and our biology and genetics do not determine our sexual behavior as much as we think.  

Even though monogamy works in our society, it also opens up couples to cheating and infidelity, neither of which would be issues or affect non-monogamous societies in the same way. About 90 percent of Americans think cheating is morally wrong, but somehow 70 percent have just thought about cheating, and 40 percent have actually cheated. The perceived costs and benefits of cheating determine whether or not the married or otherwise committed individuals stray for sex. Males seem to have less to lose by engaging in extramarital sex, and therefore it is easier for them to cheat. Females have the threat of losing their male partner’s resources, and so they are less likely to cheat, in order to ensure the wellbeing of their child.

Monogamy versus Polygamy

Polygamy is a marriage with more than one spouse and is actually widely accepted among different societies worldwide. Polygamy can be further divided into two categories: polygyny is when a man has more than one wife, and polyandry is when a woman has more than one husband. There can also be group marriages, which is when the family consists of multiple husbands and multiple wives, and all of the couples share parental responsibility for any children arising from the marriage. Most polygamous marriages are polygynous. Polyandry is much less popular and is illegal in every state in the world. It occurs only in remote communities with sparse resources since it is believed to limit human population growth and enhance child survival.

Monogamy

Serial monogamy

Serial monogamy is when someone remarries after the death of their spouse from a monogamous marriage, or after a divorce. It basically means having a series of monogamous relationships, or multiple marriages but only one legal spouse at a time. Some anthropologists actually call serial monogamy, especially when the relationships end in divorce, a form of polygamy. This is because a series of households are established by a person that continue to be connected by shared paternity and shared income. Effectively, some men are able to utilize more than one woman’s reproductive lifespan through repeated marriages. One theory about serial monogamy is called the Male Compromise Theory. This is when the pattern of divorce and remarriage satisfies the more evolutionary elite men and equalizes reproductive success.

Another pattern of serial monogamy that is common among people in Western cultures is the pattern of sequential sexual relationships, regardless of their marital status. Couples remain monogamous until the relationship has ended and then each goes on to form a new monogamous relationship with a different partner.

Being monogamous or non-monogamous is not about being better or worse than other couples. It’s about what is best for you as an individual and as a couple. The answer to whether humans are supposed to be monogamous can be somewhere in the middle of monogamy and polygamy. Regardless of laws or societal standards, what actually matters in a relationship is that there is honest, open, consistent communication of what both people expect.

References:

Balon, R. (2016). Is Infidelity Biologically Determined?. Current Sexual Health Reports, 8(3), 176-180.

Bryner, J. (2012).  Are humans meant to be monogamous? LiveScience. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/32146-are-humans-meant-to-be-monogamous.html

de Waal, F. B., & Gavrilets, S. (2013). Monogamy with a purpose. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(38), 15167-15168.

Fisher, Helen (2000). The First Sex. Ballantine Books. pp. 271–72, 276.

Low BS. (2003) Ecological and social complexities in human monogamy. Monogamy: Mating Strategies and Partnerships in Birds, Humans and Other Mammals:161–176.

Lukas, D., & Clutton-Brock, T. H. (2013). The evolution of social monogamy in mammals. Science, 341(6145), 526-530.

Reichard, Ulrich H. (2003). “Monogamy: past and present”. In Reichard, Ulrich H.; Boesch, Christophe. Monogamy: Mating Strategies and Partnerships in Birds, Humans and Other Mammals. Cambridge University Press. pp. 3–25.

Simpson, Bob (1998). Changing Families: An Ethnographic Approach to Divorce and Separation. Oxford: Berg.

Zeitzen, Miriam Koktvedgaard (2008). Polygamy: A Cross-Cultural Analysis. Oxford: Berg.

Caregiver And Child Relationship: Attachment

Caregiver And Child Relationship: Attachment

A relationship between a child and their respective caregiver is a very special one. Because of its specialty it has been investigated by many researchers and scientists. They try to figure out how does that relationship form and how it’s maintained, what reasons are there for that attachment of the child and the person that takes care of them? What they have figured out so far is that it is very important for the child and their caregiver to form that relationship. The critical period of development of every human being is, not surprisingly, in early childhood and caregivers play a crucial role in helping the child develop properly and hit all the vital developmental milestones. The caregiver and the child form an emotional bond with one another, an attachment of sorts. It develops very early on but it is not present when the baby is born. At such an early stage of a child’s development he cannot talk, however, that doesn’t stop him from communicating. Children at an early age communicate and share their emotions and needs in various ways and that communication is crucial in the development of the attachment bond between them and their caregiver(s).

How Do Children Express Their Needs?

  • Interactional Synchrony: infants will coordinate their body movements according to their caregiver’s language.
  • Bodily contact: of course any type of physical contact helps to form the attachment between the caregiver and the infant. This is especially vital in the periods right after birth.
  • Reciprocity: the way caregivers and infants produce similar behaviors and responses to one another.
  • Mimicking: imitation of facial expressions
  • Caregiverese: a ‘language’ of the infants that adults used which includes high-pitched sounds.

All of these form and strengthen the attachment bond between the caregiver and the child. Children are able to form attachments with multiple people but do experience stranger anxiety which is one of the most crucial things scientists study when they try to research attachment. Stranger anxiety includes the distress that the infants show when they are in the presence of people they do not know.

So why does attachment form?

Caregiver And Child Relationship: Attachment

There have been a lot of theories trying to decipher the origin of attachment and why do infants need the attachment bond? Many scientists say that it is due to the fact that children cannot provide for themselves so they use their caregivers as their primary providers and as a result develop an attachment bond with them.

Because the caregivers are able to provide children with food which the children cannot obtain themselves, these theorists believe that the infants are conditioned to attach themselves to their caregivers in order to get their reward, in this case it being the food. The theory does make a lot of sense, however, there has been a lot of dispute about it and many scientists argue that there must be something more to it than just the provision of food. In fact, studies have been done to show that the attachment between the children and the caregivers goes way beyond the food factor.

In one popular study done by Harry Harlow (a highly unethical study), he tested rhesus monkeys (infant monkeys that were separated from their mothers and they were raised in isolation and in cages) who were presented with a ‘surrogate mother’ that was made purely of wire and another one that was made with a soft blanket. He found out that the monkeys preferred the ‘mother’ with the blanket to the wired one when the blanketed mother was available and if not, the monkeys showed very serious signs of distress. This experiment showed that food is not the only reason infants (monkey infants in this case) form attachments with their caregivers.

11 Tips For Developing Emotional Intelligence In Your Kids

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and control our emotions. It allows us to interpret our own feelings, as well as the feelings of those around us. It’s important to learn how to use emotional intelligence from a young age, so we can interact with others with confidence, and be comfortable with ourselves. To help your kids develop and improve emotional intelligence, we’re going to give you a list of 11 tips to help your child develop their emotional intelligence.

Tips for developing emotional intelligence in your kids

Tips for developing emotional intelligence

1. Help them express their emotions

Many times, children don’t know how to control their emotions and they end up lashing out and yelling. It’s important that we teach them other ways to express their emotions, and that it is better to talk things through than to throw a tantrum.

Help them learn how to better express themselves. Maybe have them write in a journal, sing a song, hit a pillow, or draw. If they’re able to express their emotions, they’ll have a better possibility of understanding other people’s emotions.

2. Show them how to set goals

Help your children make their own goals and teach them to be responsible to be able to reach them.

3. Cultivate empathy

Doing this requires lots of questions on your part. Make them think about other people’s feelings. Ask them things like “why do you think your sister is sad?” or, “Do you think this would make mom happy?”

4. Develop good communication

It’s important to teach children to express themselves and ask when they don’t understand something. Learning to talk about things is a basic pillar in childhood education.

5. Control their anger

Children need love and affection until they reach 18 months. This will give them a sense of safety and help them adapt to their environment, control themselves and their fears. You should know, however, that after 6 months they will start developing emotions like rage, which is why it is so important to teach them to control their actions and correct their bad behavior. It is important to establish limits and talk to your child about how to control their anger.

6. Teach them how to recognize their emotions

Children start to interact more openly when they’re about 2 years old. This is when it becomes really important that they are able to recognize basic emotions, like happiness and anger. To do this, you can show them pictures or drawings of faces, and ask them to identify what emotions each face is showing. This will improve their empathy and help them relate to others.

7. Teach them how to listen

Make your children learn to listen without interrupting when others are talking. Teach them active listening, talking to them calmly and asking them if they understood what you said.

8. Show them secondary actions

Once a child reaches 10, they start to experience secondary emotions, like embarrassment and love. You need to be open and talk about these things to keep an open relationship between parents and children.

9. Try to keep the dialogue democratic

You have to teach your children to suck it up and admit when someone else was right. Learning how to get along with others is very important for both family and adult lives.

10. Try to get them interested in other people

Get them to think about other people and what they may be feeling. Try to make them interested in their family members so that they will learn how to be empathetic.

11. Make sure they are comfortable expressing their emotions

You have to make sure that the children know they can talk about their feelings and what’s bothering them. This will help them do better in school and excel in their adult life.

Challenge Your Child’s Brain: How To Raise Smart Kids

A child’s brain development is very closely related to experience and external stimuli that they receive from birth. The different senses stimulate the connections that exist between neurons, which helps create new connections. The more connections we have, the more intelligent we believe the child to be, which is why it is important to keep their brain stimulated and challenged during their development. We’ll give you some tips on how to challenge your child’s brain so they’ll be more intelligent.

How to raise smart kids

How to raise smart kids: tips and ideas

-Interact with your kid: Children that don’t play and don’t receive enough affection when they are young have more problems when their brain is developing. Interacting and playing with your kids will show them social skills and affection, and help them develop their intelligence.

-Talk to your child: Even though they can’t express themselves well, talk and listen to them. Doing this will motivate them to develop their communication and language skills. It will also help the child express themselves through writing, which will further develop their intelligence.

-Get them used to exercising: Physical activity and exercise don’t only help the child physically, but they also improve blood flow to the brain, which helps create new brain cells.

-Encourage them to listen to music: Music can have positive effects on the brain. It improves memory, concentration, and learning ability. It can also help combat stress, which damages healthy brain cells. Learning to play an instrument can also be very helpful for brain development.

-Be a good example for your child: If they see you reading and being creative, they will also want to read and be creative. Children learn by imitating their parents…for better or for worse.

-Give your child educational games: There are a ton of games to help your child improve their memory and brain abilities. There are also letter, math, spelling, etc. games. Playing these games can help the child stimulate their brain and keep them entertained.

-Make sure they eat well: Giving your child healthy food will help their brain and body develop. Proteins help improve attention, while carbohydrates found in whole-wheat foods and fruit will give their brain energy. Try to avoid processed foods, which can actually reduce attention and brain activity.

-Bring your child to do things outside: Go on trips to see museums, parks, or anything else they may be interested in. Going out and being exposed to new and educative places can be both fun and useful for their development!

A lost native language may have a lasting effect on the brain

A lost native language may have a lasting effect on the brain

If someone asked you to think back to your earliest memory, you might remember something from when you were three or four. However, a study published in the journal Nature Communications shows that our brains remember so much more than we thinkTech Times talks about the lasting effects that a language can have on our brain.

Scientists at McGill University in Canada have shown that monolingual and bilingual children use different parts of their brain. This has been studied and proven through different methods for a while. Being raised in an environment with more than one language causes you to have a bilingual brain, which develops language processes differently from other children who only speak one language.

However, this study went beyond bilingual and monolingual children, and looked at adopted Chinese children who, since their first year of life, have not spoken or been around the Chinese language. Using fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), researchers were able to see that when these children spoke, the didn’t process language as a monolingual as might have been expected, but instead as a bilingual.

What does this mean? Children or babies that were exposed to more than one language in the first few years of life will later process language as a bilingual person. This information is important to know, not just because it’s interesting, but also because it means we can look at brain plasticity to make better teaching plans for learners of one, two, or multiple languages, even if they don’t know it.

Brain changes in kids learning math

Brain changes in kids learning math

Many kids ask their math teacher why learning a particular mathematical concept or skill is important. When helping kids out with their homework, many parents may wonder the same thing. Now scientists are unraveling the earliest building blocks of math — and what children know about numbers as they begin elementary school seems to play a big role in how well they do everyday calculations later on.

The findings from the National Institutes of Health have specialists considering steps that parents might take to spur math abilities, just like they do to try to raise a good reader. This is not only about trying to improve the nation’s math scores and attract kids to become engineers. It is far more basic, such as how rapidly can you calculate a tip? Do the fractions to double a recipe? Know how many quarters and dimes the cashier should hand back as your change?

About 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. lacks the math competence expected of a middle-schooler, meaning they have trouble with those ordinary tasks and are not qualified for many of today’s jobs. “Experience really does matter,” said Dr. Kathy Mann Koepke of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the research.

Healthy children start making that switch between counting to what is called fact retrieval when they are 8 years old to 9 years old, when they are still working on fundamental addition and subtraction. How well kids make that shift to memory-based problem-solving is known to predict their ultimate math achievement. Those who fall behind “are impairing or slowing down their math learning later on,” Mann Koepke says.

But why do some kids make the transition easier than others? To start finding out, Stanford University researchers first peeked into the brains of 28 children as they solved a series of simple addition problems inside a brain-scanning MRI machine.

Kids from seven to nine years old saw a calculation flash on a screen (e.g. 3+4=7) and pushed a button to say if the answer was right or wrong. Scientists recorded how quickly they responded and what regions of their brain became active as they did.

In a separate session, they also tested the kids face to face, watching if they moved their lips or counted on their fingers, for comparison with the brain data. The children were tested twice, approximately a year apart. As the children grew up, their answers relied more on memory and became faster and more accurate, and it showed in the brain. There was less activity in the prefrontal and parietal brain parts associated with counting and more in the hippocampus.

Next, the team put 20 adolescents and 20 adults into the MRI machines and gave them the same simple addition problems. It turns out that adults do not use their memory-crunching hippocampus in the same way. Instead of using a lot of effort, retrieving six plus four equals 10 from long-term storage was almost automatic, the team said.

In other words, over time the brain became increasingly efficient at retrieving facts. Think of it like a bumpy, grassy field, NIH’s Mann Koepke explains. Walk over the same spot enough and a smooth, grass-free path forms, making it easier to get from start to end.

If your brain does not have to work as hard on simple math, it has more working memory free to process the teacher’s brand-new lesson on more complex math.

While schools tend to focus on math problems around third grade, and math learning disabilities often are diagnosed by fifth grade, the new findings suggest “the need to intervene is much earlier than we ever used to think,” Mann Koepke adds and even offers some tips:

Don’t teach your toddler to count solely by reciting numbers. Attach numbers to a noun — “Here are five crayons: One crayon, two crayons…” or say “I need to buy two yogurts” as you pick them from the store shelf — so they’ll absorb the quantity concept.

Talk about distance: How many steps to your ball? The swing is farther away; it takes more steps.

Describe shapes: The ellipse is round like a circle but flatter.

As they grow, show children how math is part of daily life, as you make change, or measure ingredients, or decide how soon to leave for a destination 10 miles away,

“We should be talking to our children about magnitude, numbers, distance, shapes as soon as they’re born,” she contends. “More than likely, this is a positive influence on their brain function.”

CogniFit offers you an online platform to assess and train the cognitive abilities of children such as their concentration, memory and attention: CogniFit for Families. CogniFit personalized brain training program helps boost reading skills and cognitive functions. The program also includes a specific training for mental arithmetic.

For a brain boost, spend time with your grandchildren … but only once in a while

For a brain boost, spend time with your grandchildren … but only once in a while

For a brain boost, spend time with your grandchildren … but only once in a while

Grandparents often say that spending time with their grandchild gives them great joy. What they may not realize is that their brains can actually benefit from the interaction. A new study finds grandchildren keep grandmothers mentally sharp.

The study, published on April 7th, 2014 in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society, finds post-menopausal women who spend time taking care of grandkids lower their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders. However, too much time with the grandchildren – five or more days a week – appeared to make grandma more likely to lose her marbles.

“We know that older women who are socially engaged have better cognitive function and a lower risk of developing dementia later, but too much of a good thing just might be bad,” North American Menopause Society (NAMS) executive director Dr. Margery Gass said.

The research was led by Katherine Burn, BSc, of the University of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. The researchers used information from the Women’s Healthy Aging Project, which involved questionnaires administered by trained field workers in 2004. They asked whether the women, aged 57 to 68, had grandchildren, whether they cared for them, how often they cared for them if they did and whether their children had been particularly demanding of them in the past 12 months.

The women’s cognitive abilities were assessed using the Symbol-Digit Modalities Test (SDMT), California Verbal Learning Test, and Tower of London. In addition to these three different tests of mental sharpness, the women also told the researchers whether or not they felt as if their own children had been especially demanding of them over the past year. Of the 120 grandmothers in the study, those who cared for their grandchildren one day per week performed best on two of those three tests.

However, much to the authors’ surprise, grandmothers who cared for their grandchildren for at least five days per week did significantly worse on a test that measured those women’s mental processing speed and working memory. The investigation also revealed that the more time grandmothers spent taking care of grandkids, they more they felt that their own children had been more demanding of them, suggesting that mood could be a factor in this finding.

The authors say their findings could indicate that highly frequent grandparenting predicts lower mental performance. They are planning to follow up with additional research.

Because grandmothering is such an important and common social role for postmenopausal women, we need to know more about its effects on their future health,“ said Dr. Margery Gass. “This study is a good start.”

This study was small, according to Jim McAleer, MPA, president of the Alzheimer’s Association, but the results did not surprise him. He said in an email that other studies have shown that social engagement and exercise (and it’s assumed there is some exercise involved in caring for children) benefit the mind. “It’s surprising that longer periods of care impacted memory function. Perhaps extend physical exertion in those cases caused other health problems that impacted memory, or increased stress — a known risk factor for memory loss.”

Peter Strong, PhD, of the Boulder Center for Mindfulness Therapy, wrote in an email that he believes the inner feeling of self-worth that comes from being socially engaged with grandchildren is what’s important. As for the negative effect of spending too much time caring for their grandchildren? “Once a week is enough to develop this inner belief; any more than this may create the opposite belief of not being physically or mentally able to fulfill the expectations of extended child minding and this will undermine the positive belief of self-worth.”

As part of your overall brain health training regimen, keep your brain sharp using CogniFit personalized brain training program.

Scientists discover children’s cells living in mothers’ brains.

Scientists discover children’s cells living in mothers’ brains.

The connection between mother and child is ever deeper than thought. The link between a mother and child is profound, and new brain research suggests a physical connection even deeper than anyone thought. The profound psychological and physical bonds shared by the mother and her child begin during gestation when the mother is everything for the developing fetus, supplying warmth and sustenance, while her heartbeat provides a soothing constant rhythm.