Early Experiences and Later Life

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Eleonora Bass, PsyD

The idea of primacy, where early experiences shape later development, resonates in the quotation, “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree,” pointing to the notion that bending a twig (an early experience), will affect the way the tree will grow (later development). The transactional approach more accurately relates to this quote by explaining that characteristics of the child and the characteristics of the child’s environment both interact across time to determine a developmental outcome. The way a child will develop depends on the child’s biology and genetics, or nature, as well as the child’s environmental factors, meaning psychological, social, and behavioral experiences, or nurture; over time, experiences of nature and nurture influence the child (factors influencing the way a twig is bent), affecting the developmental outcome (the growth of the tree). The timing of the child’s experiences greatly influences the developmental outcome, as can be seen with the unfortunate cases of children who were raised in isolation in a resource deprived environment; since socialization did not occur until much later in life, they may never able to develop speech and remained socially impaired. However, orphan children who grew up in deprived environments but were adopted into loving families at a young age were able to significantly improve in functioning, resulting in normal development. Also, a tree may grow just fine until one day someone sets fire to it, it gets split in two by lightening, or it is affected in some way by a natural disaster. The same is true for a developing child; a sudden traumatic experience may alter a child’s development affecting the developmental outcome.

Eleonora Bass, PsyD

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