... newborns which are thought of as innate do not take into account experiences of the environment in the womb. It does not consider the mother, or the how her lifestyle has affected the development of the infant. De casper and Spence, 1986, asked pregnant women to read the same prose to their babies, and again after birth. It was shown babies preferred the prose that had been read to them in the womb over other pieces. This shows that environmental influences can not be ignored.
Bruner, 1983, argues that both innate skills and the environment work together to encourage language acquisition. Bruner argues that language needs an innate programme which helps a child learn language such as a Language Acquisition Device (LAD) as suggested by Chomosky, but Bruner ages this must be supported by a Language Acquisition Support System (LASS). The adults around the child provide support in a variety of ways. By using joint-action formats, the mother creates sequences and repeats them so the baby can learn. Bruner termed this sequence of interactions as scaffolding, the adult controls the situation to allow the child to progress.
One example highlighted by Snow and Ferguson, 1977, in the way in which adults, particularly mothers talk to their babies. They use repetition and a different pitch of voice is called mother ese or baby talk. The interaction a child gets with the mother during baby talk helps provide the baby with an understanding of the social environment and the baby learns that language is part of a social interaction. Fernald, 1985, studied four month olds responses to normal voice tone and mother ese.
He found that the child favoured the mother ese. Bruner argues it is through interactions like this that a child gains an understanding of the world and together with the child's innate language ability a child can learn to follow a conversation. This shows the genes and the environment operating together to influence child development. Chomosky argues environment can not explain the complexity of the mental structures, in particular language.
In Chomosky's study of language development he argues humans are born with a language acquisition device (LAD) which allows us to learn universal grammar language skills. An experiment by Trehub, 1988, confirmed that babies can have the ability for phonemic discrimination. Trehub's study aimed to see if 1-4 moth old babies with English speaking parents could distinguish two sounds used in the Czech language. Trehub could not hear the two phonemes when listening to the tape supplied by a linguistics laboratory. The parents of the babies could not tell, but the babies could tell the phonemes apart easily. Skinner a behaviour ist disagrees with Chomosky, Behaviourists argue child development is based on conditioning and imitation.
Skinner argues children acquire language not innately but through reinforcement. Skinner argues adults try to interpret a child's babbles into words and praise babbles that sound like words. Adults then reinforce the words by repeating them back to the child. The child then imitates the words of the adult and gains more praise for sounding like an adult. "Behaviourists argue language is the result of the environment a child is in, as children do not invent new languages but acquire the language from the environment around them. Chomosky accepts environment does have a role to play in language development, as environment decides which language is learnt, but argues the capacity to learn language is innate.
Another way of looking at language development is the child constructs its own language acquisition. The Transaction Model by Sameroff, 1991, can be applied, this follows the pattern of gene and environment creating development but the child then reacts to the feedback of development and influences its own development. Sameroff argues that as a result of a difficult birth a mother could become anxious, creating a baby that is has irregular patterns of sleeping and feeding and the mother sees the baby as "difficult." The mother will spend less time with the baby and as a result the child may not attain average language development. The child is seen as active in development and creates interactions which lead to development processes. Piaget also sees the child as active in language development. Piaget reflects the constructivism theory of child development, which sees genes and environment working together to influence development.
Piaget argues children do construct their own language acquisition. Piaget accepts maturation and learning are part of language development but argues a child can construct its own knowledge through its environment. Piaget says that children are born with basic actions called sensorimotor schemes and build on these foundations through interaction with environment. Piaget argues in the first two years a child has no need for language. Piaget argues that language develops through shared experiences and knowledge of the world.
Piaget's theory had an impact on the world of education and how teachers viewed learning. If as Piaget argues children are active learners, methods of teaching which involve lecturing students and students taking notes would not be a productive method of teaching. Teaching methods which actively involve the child and encourage exploration and self-knowledge would be more productive. A move away from examination based education and the introduction of more course work based elements is a reflection of this theory in the world of education. In contrast Vygotsky, a social constructivist disagreed 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.