A lot have been said about how hereditary and environmental factors influence the individuality of each person.
There are also plenty who argue on the importance of heredity over environment, and vice versa, in terms of the degree of influence they have on an individual’s physical, cognitive, and psychological aspects, to name a few. However, much emphasis is given on the importance of the interaction of heredity and environment in the production of individual differences.
Although many human characteristics are obviously influenced by heredity, these predispositions may lead to a number of developmental outcomes depending on the environment in which the person grows up in. Rather than thinking about it as nature versus nurture, more emphasis must be given on the ways in which these influences combine or interact to promote developmental change and eventually the individual differences that distinguish one person from another.
The development of an individual can be better understood when one considers the several determinants of development. Heredity-wise, there are biological factors believed to be the inherited general biological code passed on to infants from their parents. There are general inheritances or those which make up any species; there are also specific attributes that are transmitted from one family from one’s family or ancestors to the next which distinguishes them from others.
Aside from biological determinants, there are also environmental determinants that play a powerful role in individual development. There are physical determinants that include essential yet mundane features; there are also social determinants that include all the effects that people have on others.
Prior to infancy, heredity already plays an important role in the individual’s development. This is evident as early as pregnancy when chromosomes and genes, also the hereditary basis of life, combine during conception which then determine the traits that make each individual unique. Other factors that affect the mother during pregnancy such as genetic, environmental, and interaction factors, and maternal-fetal blood incompatibility also affect human development later on.
Infant’s physical development is first noted by the infant’s weight and height, the latter being already one-third of the individual’s final adult height. Different body parts and bones also grow at different rates; the gradual progress is also evident in the growth and development of the infant’s muscles and bones.
Although generally, an infant’s physical development is regarded as highly biological in nature, one cannot attest that the environmental influences such as a clean and health environment, nutritious and sufficient milk supplements, and a warm and caring environment also affect the child’s physical growth.
Parents and families who can provide proper nutrition and a safe dwelling are believed to play a role in the physical progress of infants. One’s hereditary make-up can be enhanced by the proper environmental atmosphere for optimal physical growth.
An individual’s cognitive development is marked by changes that occur in the person’s mental skills and abilities between birth and early adulthood, which is believed to be the period when cognitive growth is completed. Piaget, a popular psychologist , espouses that intelligence is a biologically oriented perspective; this means that imbalances between one’s mental abilities and the environment stimulate cognitive activity and intellectual growth. During early infancy, cognitive development is marked by certain reflexive reactions which are primarily reactions in terms of the infant’s reflexes.
These reactions then progress into active searching, not present during birth, to allow groping and discovery. Between 1 to 4 months, infants learn to alter reflexive behavior and active searching into more coordinated hand-mouth, eye, and eye-ear movements.
From the 4th to the 8th month, the most significant and observable cognitive response manifested by infants is their ability to repeat events that they deem interesting. As the infant approaches his/her 1st birthday, more significant cognitive milestones become more apparent such as the ability to adapt to new situations and eventually solve small problems on his/her own.
Developmental experts agree that an individual’s social and emotional developments begin early in life. It is believed that the kinds of emotional relationships that infants develop with their close companions affect the ways they relate to other people and also the way they handle these relationships later in life. It is believed that the major social and emotional milestone of infancy is the development of ties between infants and their closest companions.
Further, it is believed that infants pass through several stages as they develop close ties with their caregivers. Very young infants are largely asocial, but as they move towards their 6th month, they begin to prefer human company no matter who these people may be. Later on, infants develop specific attachments, evidenced by protests when separated from particular individuals.
These initial specific attachments then give rise to multiple attachments; and each attachment may serve slightly different functions from the other.