PSY 104: Child and Adolescent Development

Week 3 - Instructor Guidance


Timeline of Critical Brain Development

Learning Outcomes

This week students will:

  • Assess typical patterns of brain development in children and adolescents.
  • Appraise typical patterns of motor development in children and adolescents.
  • Appraise effects of physical disabilities on development.
  • Integrate cultural, nutritional, and national aspects of child and adolescent mortality.


In this section you will find my own thoughts and teaching on the subject matter. This does not substitute for the assigned and suggested course readings and other materials.

Brain Development

Click HERE to download an interesting PDF regarding brain development and the types of activities you can engage your child in to encourage the development!

Neurological development in the early brain is one of the most fascinating and mysterious processes! A number of processes occur that collectively determine what will become the adult brain:

Neuron Proliferation

  • Neurons develop at a mind-boggling high rate.
  • We are born with about 100 billion nerve cells, most of which are in the brain.

Neuron Migration

  • Neuron migration involves the actual traveling of neurons from the center of the early developing brain to their genetically determined place in the brain.
  • The neurons actually travel along fibers in cranial cavity and mysteriously stop and specialize into whatever type of brain neuron they are meant to be!
  • Click HERE for some interesting Wikipedia information

This is a video on a lecture regarding neuron migration


This video actually portrays a neuron travelling!

Dendrification and Synaptogenesis

  • Over time the connections between neurons grow in number and complexity.
  • Eventually BILLIONS of connections are formed.

Synaptic Pruning

  • Over time there is actually a sort of use-it-or-lose-it that happens in the brain.
  • If a pathway through the brain is not used, the dendritic connections can atrophy and disappear.


  • Myelination is a fatty tissue that builds up around the axons of neurons.
  • Myelin increases the electrical conductivity and efficiency of the neuron allowing the neuron impulse to travel faster.
  • Myelination is critical to the development of coordinated motor movement.
  • Click HERE for an article from Science Week on Myelination.

Motor Development

One of the more profound, and noticeable, areas of development in young children is motor development.

  • Gross Motor Development - this involves the use of large muscles and parts of the body such as legs, arms, and the trunk.
  • Fine Motor Development - this involves smaller muscles such as those in the hands

Click HERE to download a guide to fine- and gross-motor development in infants and young children.

Effects of Disability

In the first week's Instructor Guidance I introduced you to the notion of the "Developmental Perspective"...this entailed the perspective that if something (such as a disability) came along in someone's life, the age of the person would be an important factor in understanding the impact of that "something".

So, if a child is born blind they will learn to navigate the world and read braille books. However, a child who BECOMES blind at age 4 will have a very different experience having already learned how to navigate the world and read.

One example might be how would a child achieve mobility of they have a motor would they adapt and how would they develop?

Click HERE to view a VERY EXTENSIVE examination of this question.

Factors in Brain Health

We all know that there are many factors that contribut to brain health:

  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Stress Management
  • Genetics

There is a great book out that really drives home the exercise piece, particularly for those in school! Here is the citation to the book and a link to Amazon.

Ratey, J.J. (2013). Spark: The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain. Little, Brown, and Co.
Amazon Link


In this section you will find any specific instructions or ideas I may have for you to support your graded work. Please read the instructions for each task in the course as well as the information I have here.

Discussion - Nutrition and Youth

This discussion leads you to explore healthy lifestyles...these are the factors related to your health and development that you have direct control over. To modify this discussion a bit, select ONE important health fact that you could communicate to your community/family and then, focusing on the SAME fact, provide a plan as to how you would implement a change in your family to bring this about.


One of the areas of health that I am most interested in is exercise. However, getting motivated to exercise is always a problem with the busy schedule that I keep. According to the CDC website ( regular exercise and physical activity provides a number of benefit. These include:

  • weight control
  • reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • strengthen bones and muscles
  • improved mental health

In fact, according to Duesser (2013) "acute physical activity (also) has been repeatedly shown to improve various cognitive functions" (p. 1). So exercise is ALSO important to my cognitive abilites...which I use every day.

In order to incorporate this into my family lifestyle I need to come up with some fun, non-stressful ways to get everyone involved! Again, according to the CDC website there are all kinds of ways I can get my family moving. One way is through walking! I have to find ways to avoid all the excuses for walking...even when the weather is bad! We can implement an "After Dinner Walk" program at home and if it is stormy we can just go walking around Walmart! My wife LOVES to shop so there will be no problem there!


Schmidt-Kassow, M., Deusser, M., Thiel, C., Otterbein, S., Montag, C., Reuter, M., Banzer, W., & Kaiser, J. (2013). Physical exercise during encoding improves vocabulary learning in young female adults: A neuroedocrinological study. PLoS ONE. 8(5). 1-11.

Discussion - Physical Disabilities

In this particular discussion you are asked to find an article (or interview someone) about a child or adolescent with a disability (brain or motor). Discuss how development is impacted by this person's disability and answer at least 2 of the questions in the instructions.


I actually have a friend who was born with spina bifida. Enoch has not been able to use his legs to walk every since he was a born. I can assume that due to mobility issues and dependence on others to get around, Enoch was challenged to develop a sense of autonomy (see Erikson). According to Freidman, et al (2009) children with spina bifida actually do have challenges in developing a sense of autonomy as they transition from childhood to adolescence. However, there is a great variety in how well they do depending on the type of development (emotional vs. behavioral) and context (school vs. family).

My friend's personal experience has been one of extreme compensation for his disability. Enoch is a thrill-seeking, extreme sport enthusiast! He participates in wheelchair basketball, rock climbing, piloting, and downhill off-road wheelchair racing!

Additionally, in Freidman (2009) it was reported that people with spina bifida were found to be remarkably resilient in their development!

While he is still dependent on his wheelchair, and on others to help him in certain circumstances, he has very much compensated for his disability with his determination to do as much as he can!


Friedman, D., Holmbeck, G.N, DeLucis, C., Jandasek, B, & Zebracki, K. (2009). Trajectories of autonomy development across the adolescent transition in children with spina bifida. Rehabilitation Psychology, 54(1). 16-27.

Journal - Childhood Obesity Epidemic

In this assignment you are going to move away from using peer-reviewed sources and out into the public media domain! You can use Google to search for a news article about the current state of the obesity problem in the US.

I put in the search terms "news obesity in America" and got a LOT of hits! Let's limit our search to articles published in 2013. Report on what the article says about WHY we have an obesity issue in America (and in other parts of the world if you want to research that as well).

Then, reflect on your own thoughts regarding this issue. are learning to be understanding of the real barriers (motivation, financial, physical, cultural, etc.) that individuals may face when dealing with a problem like this. This is not a time to be punitive to those who are not "doing what they should be doing" but a time to reflect on the challenges that some people may face.

You will need to write this paper up in MS Word and send it to the drop box in the course. Be sure that you adhere to the following expectations:

  • The first page of the document is a title page with sufficient identifying information on it.
  • Make sure you talk about the content of the article in the paper.
  • Review your writing to ensure you are telling a well thought out story.
  • Spell check
  • Read it out loud to ensure that it flows
  • Cite your article in APA format (you will need to review the Purdue OWL web resource and/or the Ashford Writing center on how to cite a web-based news article).

Final Paper Outline and Annotated Bibliography

Interestingly, by the time you have completed the outline of your paper and bibliography, you are practically done all the work! So your paper is nearly done by the time this assignment is done.

Review the expectations of the final paper itself so you can put this material together well.

Click HERE to view a sample OUTLINE from the Purdue OWL

Click HERE to view samples and instructions for an ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY from the Purdue OWL

Each of these is combined into a single document (with a title page as the first page, and must be submitted to the online drop box.

THIS assignment is the real WORK associated with your final spend the time to do a quality job.

Remember, the resources that you use have to be PEER REVIEWED and/or must come from reliable web resources (WebMD, ASK, and are NOT reliable sources for this kind of assignment...the CDC, and NAMI are reliable websites.)