"How Did I Get Here?"—Appreciating “Normal” Child Development
Laura M. Prager (Harvard Medical School)
Freshman Seminar 24U 4 credits (spring term) Enrollment: Limited to 12
Understanding "normal" growth and development may seem like a relatively easy task at first. We take the nuances of developmental differences for granted because we're so accustomed to experiencing them. Nevertheless, defining normal (versus abnormal) development is a complex and controversial task. Development involves a tricky intermingling of environmental stimuli, cultural and social expectations, rapid and not always intuitive changes in brain development, temperamental differences, genetic inheritance, and mind-boggling brain plasticity. The course will start with a consideration of general themes and then move to a chronologic perspective. First, we approach child development as a dynamic force, one which simultaneously engages multiple domains: social/relational, cognitive, physical, moral. We will then switch to examine stages of development in sequence, using our understanding of neurobiological, physical, cultural, and psychological factors to inform our assessment of how children change over time. Readings will include classic papers on development, textbook chapters that provide overviews of specific developmental stages, recently published research articles on genetic inheritance, selected contemporary children's and young adult literature, personal memoirs, and short stories written about childhood.