Describe the process by which genes and environment operate together to influence development.

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Describe the process by which genes and environment operate together to influence development. Discuss the significance of these processes for our understanding of child development.
This essay will give a detailed account of the process by which genes and the environment operate together to influence development. Looking at Physical development and Language development and the perspectives of Natavism, Behaviourism. Constructivism and Social Constructivism it will explain the role of these perspectives in understanding child development. It is argued that the genetic blueprint can interact with the environment to encourage development. The process of genes and environment working together is often referred to as epigenetics and shows how environmental factors which can affect a parent can change the types of genes passed onto their children.

Looking at Physical Development it can be seen if the process of genes and environment operating together influence development. As the environment is constantly changing humankind needs to have changeable characteristics, some of which are physical, this is known as “Developmental Plasticity”. Piaget studied water snails and found that shape of the snails shell varied depending on its habitat. Pond snails had longer shells than lake snails who had shorter shells to suit the water turbulence. Suggesting that cells have the properties to change and become “self-organising”, cells can change the way they are developing in response to environmental stimuli. It is argued that genes can be switched “on” or “off” in response to this environmental stimuli and can alter the characteristics they produce.

“Piaget called this process “Epigenetic Development”, Epigenetic information is constantly being acquired throughout development, giving the environment an active role in influencing development. The environment is shaping information in our genes and changing our physical development. Humankind standing on two legs and walking was a response to environmental changes. This has had a significant effect on our genetic makeup from the shape of our pelvis to the size of our skull.

Epigenetic systems can only change things during the period of maturation and once a characteristic is adapted it can not change back. Richardson, 1994, argues in relation to child developmen...

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...agreed with Piaget as his theory ignored the social environment. Vygotsky argued society was essential to child development as it allowed child interaction with others. He argued that language is acquired by the child “internalizing social interactions”. A child learns from another person and after interactions are repeated several times the child internalizes it. Vygotsky argued this can only be achieved with another person and carried out in the child’s “zone of proximal development”. Both Vygotsky and Piaget felt a child was active in the their own development. Vygotsky argues environment and its interactions shape the child, in contrast Piaget’s theory is more biologically linked.

In conclusion it can be seen from looking at physical development and language development that genes and the environment operate together to influence development. In relation to child development the gene-environment perspective is not the only one to be considered. Gene only perspectives, Environment only perspectives and the Transactional model which sees the child as actively shaping its own development all play important roles and help us to understand the process of child development.
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