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Paradoxical Man

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Paradoxical Milestones

How Paradoxical Challenges Initiate Developmental Changes

Posted 1/2/2018

Revised 2/19/2020

Newborn Development


Infants and children are cephalocaudal meaning that growth emanates from the top down. It also refers to the fact that they look top-heavy until their legs and hips catch-up in size to their head and trunk.[1]

From observing his own children, Jean Piaget (1896 – 1980) developed a list of Cognitive Developmental stages that are listed below, which point to several developmental milestones in a person's life. His stages of development have been amended somewhat in the chart below in order to agree with the paradoxical concepts of the Vortex Model. Because the Vortex Model suggests that the timing of challenge determines when the development change occurs, children may or may not be biologically capable of achieving some of these at earlier times of life.

Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development
(Amended to Agree with the Vortex Model)

Stage
Approximate Age
  Characteristics
Sensorimotor
  Birth to 2 years

An infant’s primary challenges are based on its senses and developing motor skills to solve the paradoxical situations in which it finds itself. By the end of the period, it learns to convert sounds, facial cues, body language, etc. into symbols of meaning.

Preoperational thought
  2 - 6 years

The child uses symbols such as words and numbers to represent aspects of the world, but has not been posed with a need to consider the viewpoints of others yet and views the world only through his or her own perspective. This is a lifelong struggle for many people who never seem to develop emapthy or compassion for others.

Concrete operational thought
 7 years to early adolescence
The child understands and applies logical operations to experiences, but has not yet been challenged to consider something from more than one angle or from multiple perspectives simultaneously. Things at this stage tend to be more black or white.
Formal operational thought
Adolescence and beyond

From being challenged to think more abstractly, adolescents and adults become capabale of dealing with hypothetical situations, and able to speculate about what may be possible.

Adapted from: Human Development: A Lifespan View, 2nd Edition, Robert V. Kail & John C. Cavanaugh, United States, Wadsworth, 2000, (p. 18).

As you can see, Piaget’s first stage of development, called Sensorimotor, relies on the senses to provide cues that introduce a child to its first paradoxes. These paradoxes then prompt the child to solve them physiologically by developing certain motor skills. These skills are predicated on neurological capabilities in the brain and tend to be retained and expounded upon once learned. Unless a person experiences a stroke later in life, chances are that once they been acquired (like learning to ride a bicycle), they never have to be faced again or relearned.


Infancy Neurology and the Prefrontal Cortex


An important first step in a child’s ability to solve the sensorimotor paradoxes it will face, is activation of the prefrontal cortex part of its brain. PET Scan studies reveal little activity in the prefrontal cortex of a five-day-old infant. Activity increases significantly by 11 weeks even though activity does not reach adult levels until 7-8 months have passed.[2] The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that allows an infant to be able to make itself do something difficult and able to overcome its limbic system’s goal of seeking pleasure, or of remediating discomfort. Called the “Executive,” the prefrontal cortex is where our “deliberateness” originates and what allows us to choose goal-oriented behaviors. Without development of this part of the brain, we could not choose to tackle any life challenge or paradox posed to us.


Another important function of the prefrontal cortex is its ability to override old outmoded behaviors and responses that are no longer correct or appropriate.[3] The child will need this function in order to progress through the Levels of Transformation that will take it from an incongruent infant, who knows very little about its world, to a congruent adult, full of wisdom. The prefrontal cortex begins overriding such inappropriate behaviors, and reforming its beliefs and responses from the paradoxes presented to it by a child's first birthday and gradually achieves greater self-control through preschool and school years.[4] The ability to be deliberate is based on a person being able to compare two facets of outcome. The two facets are “Is something good or is it bad” and “Which one should I prefer?” Piaget’s theory might suggest that a child is not capable of this until achieving Concrete Operational Thinking sometime after age 7. Evidence suggests however, that this ability is in place much earlier. Because choosing to do something difficult creates negative emotion, another essential feature of the prefrontal cortex would suggest that it must also be able to regulate the feelings of happiness, sadness and fear, which is exactly what it does. [5] In contradiction with Piaget’s belief that children do not achieve Concrete Operational Thinking until after age 7, it appears that children have this mental capability in the first days of life as their prefrontal cortex is able to suspend pleasure; in deference to a difficult struggle; in order to achieve some goal important to their development. Someone once said, “When the pain of staying the same is stronger than the pain of change, then a person will choose change.” One important observation to make here is that pain and struggle is inherent in either choice―and, in a paradox―it cannot be escaped.


Infant Neurology and Brain Lateralization


In the beginning, both hemispheres of an infant’s brain are involved in understanding spatial relationships, identifying faces and perceiving nonspeech sounds such as music.[6] Not until preschool years does the right hemisphere assume control of this.[7] Furthermore, language processing generally specializes to the left hemisphere. Since what is heard in the left ear travels to the right hemisphere and what is heard in the right ear travels to the left hemisphere, we would expect that what a person hears in their right ear to be processed more efficiently as it goes directly to the left hemisphere. This phenomenon is referred to as Right Ear Preference. The fact that infants do not exercise right ear preference until they are able to walk indicates that they are initially adept at processing sounds regardless of where the source comes from. Other studies indicate that within the first three months of life, infants respond by turning their head toward sounds.[8] From the Vortex Model perspective, it would suggest that the child had been posed with a paradox. The dilemma posed to it is; shall I remain still and succumb to the noise or strain and struggle to see where the noise is coming from? Overtime, the straining and struggling builds neck and body core muscles in preparation for being able to turn over and actually see the source of the sounds it hears. That can happen as early as one month later or usually by 6-7 months.[9]


As an aside, a parent could theoretically, accelerate their child’s development by recognizing the paradox it faces, and then intensifying the paradox somewhat, but definitely short of exasperating the child. If the child becomes exasperated, it could succumb to the paradox and stop working on it altogether leaving the child stuck in an early stage of development. Of course Scripture would be against this as it states in Ephesians 4:6, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.


Complacency versus Progress


Freud took a little different track than Piaget in his Psychosexual Stages of Development by pointing out the body region of focus at a given stage of development. Furthermore, he believed that development proceeds best when a child’s psychosexual needs are met but not exceeded. For example, if a child’s needs are not met adequately, they may become frustrated and succumb to the paradox thus causing them to give up thus preventing them from moving to other, more mature levels of development. Conversely, if children find one level of development too satisfying, they see little need to progress to more advanced stages. In Freud’s view, parents have the difficult task of satisfying children’s needs without indulging them. Therefore, people are moved along by manageable challenges otherwise, they may become either complacent or too frustrated to grow, thus causing them to remain at immature levels. [1]


Scaffolding Developmental Growth


Following the milestone of being able to roll over, children begin to sit up by themselves at around 7 months and crawl around 10 months. The likely paradox that motivates a child to crawl is, “Do I stay in the same place or, do I explore my world like I see mom and dad doing?” Children are eager to explore and Piaget argued that cognitive growth occurs as children construct their own understanding of the world, such that the teacher’s role is to create environments where children can discover for themselves how the world works.[10] Of course, doing someone’s work for them potentially sends the negative message that they are incapable of doing it on their own or that they needn’t do so. Discovering is uplifting and empowering as well as putting into place a system for solving other paradoxes, as well as a desire to accomplish more. A parent or teacher shouldn’t simply tell children how to solve a problem but should provide children with materials so that they can discover the solution themselves.[11] Jesus demonstrated this with his use of parables. He told metaphorical stories that put people into a paradox of having to figure out what He meant, on their own. Rarely did He explain the meaning of a parable.


Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934), a Russian psychologist, proposed that development is like an apprenticeship, in which children make advancements when they collaborate with others who are more skilled. According to Vygotsky, children rarely make much headway on the developmental path when they walk alone; they progress when they walk hand in hand with an expert partner. [12] Explained from the perspective of the Vortex Model, the reason that Vygotsky’s ideas would work, is because more skilled persons place less skilled people in smaller paradoxical situations where they must learn new things, but also have the benefit of being corrected if they make mistakes.


Vygotsky also proposed a Scaffolding style in which teachers gauge the amount of assistance they offer to match the learners needs. Early in learning a new task, children know little, so teachers give much direct instruction about how to do all the different elements of a task. As the child catches on, teachers need to provide much less direct instruction; they are more likely at that point to be giving reminders. [13]


In contradiction to a heavy-handed approach to paradoxical parenting, research indicates that youngsters neither learn readily when they are constantly told what to do nor when they are simply left to struggle through a problem unaided. Conversely, children learn most effectively when parents and teachers scaffold a task for them, which allows them to take on more and more of a task as they master its different elements and less difficult paradoxes.[14] & [15] Not to mention, that effective scaffolding demonstrates another principle called the Zone of Proximal Development, whereby children can learn to do much more with skilled guidance than when left to their own devices. Thus, scaffolding is an important element in transferring the control of cognitive skills from others to the child. [16]


After children develop the skill of solving paradoxes which include rolling over, sitting up, crawling and walking, there are still other paradoxes that the subconscious has processed  generally outside of their awareness. A psychologist named Eric Ericson identified several paradoxes that people face during their life which he referred to as Psychosocial Stages of Development. I dare say that most people are aware of these or actively think much about them but face them. See if you agree.

Ericson's 8 Stages of Psychosocial Development
(Amended to Agree with the Vortex Model)

Psychosocial Stage
 Age
  Life Challenge [Paradox]
Basic trust vs. mistrust
Birth to 1 year
The challenge is to develop a sense that people can be trusted to meet needs versus succumbing to a cynicism of people.
Autonomy vs. shame and doubt
1-3 years
The challenge is to realize that one can become an independent person who can make decisions on their own versus succumbing to doubts of self-competence.            
Initiative vs. guilt
3-6 years
The challenge is to develop the self-confidence needed to try new things and learn how to handle failure versus succumbing to self-denigration and feelings of failure and guilt.
Industry vs. inferiority
6 years-adolescence
The challenge is to learn how to care for one's self versus relying on others and succumbing to incompetence.
Identity vs. identity confusion
  adolescence
The challenge is to develop a lasting, integrated sense of self versus succumbing to the influence of others by allowing them to determine who you are. 
Intimacy vs. isolation
Young adulthood
The challenge is to allow another person to know your thoughts and feelings versus succumbing to hiding self in isolation.
Generativity vs. stagnation
Middle adulthood
The challenge is to continue to contribute to younger people, through child rearing, child care, or other productive work versus succumbing to the aging process and doing nothing.
Integrity vs. despair
Late life
The challenge is to view one’s life as satisfactory and worth living versus succumbing to regrets.

Adapted from: Human Development: A Lifespan View, 2nd Edition, Robert V. Kail & John C. Cavanaugh, United States, Wadsworth, 2000, (p. 18).


New Developmental Challenges for Gen-Yer’s, Millennial's, and Those That Follow


Because of family fragmentation that began with the initiation of no fault divorce that skyrocketed in the 1970s, a significant number of children beginning in the late seventies known as the Gen-Yer’s, (born 1978-1990) and the Millennials (born 1980-200) along with those following, have faced paradoxical challenges that most previous generations have not. Watching the angry conflicts that precede family fragmentation and the ensuing narcissism that develops as a consequence of single parenting, children have learned to distract themselves and shield themselves from parental neglect by turning to a digital world. They have learned to turn themselves inward in order to shut out an ugly and boring world. For boys, that primarily means video games; for girls, that primarily means social media and texting. Consequently, through continuous or even addictive use of these devices, both have lost what could be gained from playing outdoors and exploring the created world. In addition, being enticed to a digital world in order to escape emotional pain, they lose personal interactions with others along with the ability to learn interpersonal skills such as self-correction (see redeeming paradoxical man) and interpersonal communication skills, especially in being able to read another person’s body language. This makes connecting with other people a real challenge. Furthermore, most of them have grown up in a home with religious training but are rejecting the church in droves believing that it is irrelevant. Probably due to watching their parents claim that "Jesus Saves" but are finding that their families have been destroyed regardless of church claims. 

Another paradox revolves around gender assignment. Young people who have been taught that homosexuality is more genetic than developmental, are being challenged to question their genotype. Consequently gender confusion abounds for them even though research indicates that it comes primarily from either father absence or male sexual abuse.

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Works Cited:

[1] Human Development: A Lifespan View, 2nd edition, Robert V. Kail & John C. Cavanaugh, United States, Wadsworth, 2000, (p.132).

[2] Maturational changes in cerebral function in infants determined by 18FDG positron emission tomography, H. T. Chugani & M. E. Phelps, Science, 231, 1986, (pp. 840-843)., In Robert V. Kail & John C. Cavanaugh, (Eds.), Human Development: A Lifespan View, 2nd edition, United States, Wadsworth, 2000, (p.97).

[3] Human Development: A Lifespan View, 2nd edition, Robert V. Kail & John C. Cavanaugh, United States, Wadsworth, 2000, (p.97).

[4] Welsh (Eds.), Human Development: A Lifespan View, 2nd edition, United States, Wadsworth, 2000, (p.97).

[5] Maturational changes in cerebral function in infants determined by 18FDG positron emission tomography, H. T. Chugani & M. E. Phelps, Science, 231, 1986, (pp. 840-843)., In Robert V. Kail & John C. Cavanaugh, (Eds.), Human Development: A Lifespan View, 2nd edition, United States, Wadsworth, 2000, (p.97).

[6] Mechanisms and development of hemisphere specialization in children, In C. R. Reynolds & E. Fletcer-Janzen (Eds.), Handbook of clinical child neuropsychology, M. Kinsbourne Plenum New York, 1989., In Robert V. Kail & John C. Cavanaugh, (Eds.), Human Development: A Lifespan View, 2nd edition, United States, Wadsworth, 2000, (p.96).

[7] Cerebral lateralization of function: From infancy through childhood, W. Hahn, Psychological Bulletin, 101, (pp. 376-392), 1987., In Robert V. Kail & John C. Cavanaugh, (Eds.) Human Development: A Lifespan View, 2nd edition, United States, Wadsworth, 2000, (p.96).

[8] Language Development Milestones, N. Sax & E. Weston, University of Alberta, 2007., Retrieved: 01/01/2018 from: www.rehabmed.ualberta.ca/spa/phonology/milestones.pdf.

[9] Baby milestone: Rolling over, Retrieved: 01/01/2018 from: https://www.babycenter.com/0_baby-milestone-rolling-over_6504.bc.

[10] Human Development: A Lifespan View, 2nd edition, Robert V. Kail & John C. Cavanaugh, United States, Wadsworth, 2000, (p.16).

[11] Human Development: A Lifespan View, 2nd edition, Robert V. Kail & John C. Cavanaugh, United States, Wadsworth, 2000, (p.92).

[12] Human Development: A Lifespan View, 2nd edition, Robert V. Kail & John C. Cavanaugh, United States, Wadsworth, 2000, (p.144).

[13] Human Development: A Lifespan View, 2nd edition, Robert V. Kail & John C. Cavanaugh, United States, Wadsworth, 2000, (p.141).

[14] Human Development: A Lifespan View, 2nd edition, Robert V. Kail & John C. Cavanaugh, United States, Wadsworth, 2000, (p.141).

[15] Pacifici & Bearison, 1991., In Robert V. Kail & John C. Cavanaugh, (Eds.) Human Development: A Lifespan View, 2nd edition, United States, Wadsworth, 2000, (p.144).

[16] Plumert & Nichols-Whitehead, 1996., In Robert V. Kail & John C. Cavanaugh, (Eds.) Human Development: A Lifespan View, 2nd edition, United States, Wadsworth, 2000, (p.144).

[17] Human Development: A Lifespan View, 2nd edition, Robert V. Kail & John C. Cavanaugh, United States, Wadsworth, 2000, (p.141).