2-1 DEV. Psych

Module Lectures1.html
Prenatal Development: Typical and Atypical Development
The field of mental health has traditionally faced opposition from the medical community, and it has often struggled to be validated as a legitimate science by medicine. The rift between these two fields may result in a bias against the biological and hereditary contributions to development by researchers and professionals in psychology. Many who choose the mental health profession find little interest in the exploration of complex biological processes. However, as the field of medicine continues to evolve, there is increasing evidence of hereditary and biological influences on behavior. For example, positron emission tomography (PET) scan technology has been used to confirm lower dopaminergic activity levels in adults with depression (Moriya et al., 2020). This highlights one of the realistic struggles that present as a nature versus nurture controversy in the field of development. The identification of a clear biological mechanism responsible for these diagnostic mental issues (nature) provides a possible causal explanation, yet the therapeutic interventions will likely continue to require traditional mental health treatment (nurture). As the field continues to evolve, we are witnessing efforts to acknowledge the contributions of nature as well as nurture.
Theoretical efforts to recognize the fact that both nature and nurture make significant contributions to human development have been labeled as hereditary and environmental interaction theories. The heredity versus environment movement represents a key turning point in the nature vs. nurture debate because of its emphasis on how biology sets the limits of our developmental traits and the role of environmental influences in determining how these traits are expressed. While the core controversy of nature versus nurture continues to provide a context for the examination of development, the hereditary and environmental interaction concepts establish that this is really a continuum. Professionals must utilize that continuum to understand the most effective means in which to assess and intervene in support of healthy development. For example, Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects many areas of functioning, and while we acknowledge that a great deal of medical and biological intervention will be necessary, we understand that the ability to function emotionally and socially for the individual and his or her family may require mental health intervention. 
Prenatal development presents as a high-risk phase of development in which many genetic and environmental influences can threaten an individual’s health. The field of teratology is devoted to understanding agents implicated in the causes, mechanisms, and patterns of abnormal development. These agents are referred to as teratogens. Teratogens present as environmental influences that can disrupt development, and they can take the form of illicit drugs (cocaine, heroin), toxic substances in foods or the environment (pesticides, cleaning agents), air pollution, extremes of heat and humidity, and even common viruses and bacteria. Kuther (2023) describes key principles that account for the observed effects of teratogens to include the period of exposure, the amount of exposure, individual differences in susceptibility and the complicated effects of teratogens. Health promotion in regard to the examination of exposure to teratogens may be one of the most influential areas in which psychological professionals can impact development in the earliest phases of life. Even over-the-counter, prescription, and herbal supplements may pose a risk if they are not accounted for during prenatal development.
Module Two presents an opportunity to examine the nature versus nurture controversy at the earliest phases of development. Through increasing our awareness that the nature versus nurture controversy is truly a continuum, we can begin to effectively utilize this continuum to examine developmental concepts for effective assessment and intervention. While understanding prenatal periods sets the foundation for our examination of development, understanding the risks and threats at this early stage of development will assist in defining the role of mental health professionals—a role that is called upon to define the difference between what is considered normal versus abnormal development. The developmental psychologist seeks to determine what is considered normal and healthy to identify when atypical development is present, and this sets the foundation for identifying causes as well as interventions.
Kuther, T. L. (2023). Lifespan development in context: A topical approach (2nd ed.). Sage Publications, Inc.
Moriya, H., Tiger, M., Tateno, A., Sakayori, T., Masuoka, T., Kim, W., Arakawa, R., & Okubo, Y. (2020). Low dopamine transporter binding in the nucleus accumbens in geriatric patients with severe depression. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 74(8), 424–430. https://doi.org/10.1111/pcn.13020


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