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What cognitive and social factors contribute to high-risk sexual behavior in some adolescents?

What cognitive and social factors contribute to high-risk sexual behavior in some adolescents?

What cognitive and social factors contribute to high-risk sexual behavior in some adolescents? Full Description

Sexual behavior in adolescence can have a wide variety of consequences. In estimation, nearly half of all U.S. high school students have had sexual intercourse; the average age of first intercourse for boys and girls is 15. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of 40,000-80,000 new cases of HIV are reported each year; approximately half of the new infections are among people younger than 25. On average, 12 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) being reported each year and adolescents have among the highest-reported rates of gonorrhea and Chlamydia. Drawing on material from the course, respond to the following questions:

1.)  What cognitive and social factors contribute to high-risk sexual behavior in some adolescents?

2.)  Should schools have sexual education programs in which they can inform and advise teens about sexual behavior, risk factors, and prevention? Why or why not?

Use the link below to help guide your discussion.


This lesson will explore the developmental journey of newborn infants, children and adolescents. We will look at newborn reflexes and infant states, or patterns of sleeping and waking, which includes crying. Next, we will look at infant sensory and perceptual capabilities, which include the auditory, visual, taste, smell and touch functions. We will also discuss how these capabilities are coordinated in intermodal perception. This will lead us to investigate how learning and memory develop. The lesson will then explore the development of children, and we will look at the basic functioning of the brain, motor development and physical growth. We will cover the importance of good nutrition and lifestyle habits in the context of healthy physical and psychological development. We will also investigate the important role of the family and social environment in this area. The last section of the lesson will continue focusing on the importance of family relationships, and will concentrate on adolescent development and the adjustments that teenagers grapple with in this stage of development.


Reflexes are among the newborn’s first behaviors. All reflexes are involuntary and serve to promote survival. Some are permanent, such as blinking, while others are impermanent and are replaced by voluntary behaviors. Sucking for example, gets replaced by eating. Newborn reflexes that are too weak, too strong, absent or out of place can be used to predict visual, hearing, neurological and other abnormalities that may not present until years later.

The Brazelton Neonatal Assessment Scale is widely used to assess motor, learning and sensory capabilities. Interestingly, Nugent, Lester and Brazelton (1991) found that babies who are carried on their mothers’ backs in slings, as in African traditions, have better motor abilities because they use their muscles to grip onto the mother.

Watch this video to see how the reflexes of a newborn can be tested.

Infant States


Infant states are the patterns of sleeping and waking. While behavior does occur as a response to the environment, patterns or biorhythms indicate that behavior is also organized, predictable and governed by internal forces. Newborns nap throughout the day and night, but by about eight weeks they begin to sleep more through the night and less in the day. Infants learn to control their states of wakefulness so that by the end of the first year most infants have adapted their patterns to the external world and sleep through the night (Ikonomov, Stoynev, & Shisheva, 1998).


Infants cry to communicate their needs to caregivers. Pediatricians use cries to identify illnesses. Three patterns of crying have been identified by (Schaffer, 1971). Basic crying is primarily linked to hunger, gets progressively louder and has a rhythmic sequence of cry, rest, inhale, rest. Angry crying may be caused when something the infant wants is removed, such as a pacifier. It is not as rhythmic as the basic cry, and crying segments are longer than the basic cry. When babies cry from pain or discomfort, it starts off loud, has long crying segments and long silences in which the infant gasps or holds its breath. A higher pitch may indicate colic, while delayed crying to pain stimulus may indicate brain damage.


Most mothers know what their babies’ cries mean, and as infants get older their communication becomes less about their physical needs and more about their psychological needs (Kopp, 1994). Therefore, if a parent can accurately identify the meaning of their baby’s cries, they can respond promptly when the infant is distressed, but delay their response when the infant is fussing about a minor issue, and thereby bolster their infant’s self-sufficiency and decrease its fussiness (Park & Gauvain, 2009). However, ignoring a distressed cry can have severely negative consequences.

Infants learn how to relieve distress by soothing themselves. Sucking reduces infant stress especially if it is accompanied by eye contact from the caregiver (Zeifman, Delaney, & Blass, 1996).


Swaddling involves tightly wrapping the baby in a blanket so its arms and legs are immobile. Swaddling is used in many cultures and hospitals around the world to soothe newborns (Valsiner, 1989). Massaging, rocking and particularly holding to the shoulder are effective soothing techniques



Infant Sensory and Perceptual Capacities


· Stimuli

Stimuli are received through sensations detected by the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin, while perceptions interpret the stimuli that have been detected. Infants are particularly tuned in to the social environment whereby infants respond to the familiar faces, voices and smells of caregivers, thus eliciting caregiver interest which promotes infant survival.

The auditory system is fully developed before birth, and studies have determined that babies can hear and learn in utero (DeCasper & Fifer,1980; Kisilevsky & Muir, 1991). Infants are born with good hearing and can identify familiar voices. They respond more to higher pitched and slightly louder than normal sounds, as well as to human voices over other sounds (Saffran, Werker, & Werner, 2006). Motherese is the infant-directed speech that mothers and caregivers tend to naturally adopt when speaking to infants, whereby their voice becomes louder, higher-pitched and more melodic. This forms the basis of speech patterns which are foundational for the development of language.

In the first year, auditory control fluctuates between the cortical and subcortical regions of the brain, causing auditory capacity to fluctuate. After the first year, babies can detect when a sound is approaching them (Morrongiello, Hewitt & Gotowiec 1991). Hearing difficulties are usually only detected after two and a half years of age as this is the period of language acquisition in which hearing difficulty becomes most evident. Ear infections can impair hearing, and it is best to have early and regular checkups to identify problems as early as possible.






Visual acuity is how sharp vision is. While newborns can see at birth, their visual acuity is quite low unless objects are very close. As they grow, their visual acuity improves, and within a year it is within the same range as adults (Banks & Shannon, 1993). Newborn color vision is also limited, and by four months it reaches that of adults (Kellman & Arterberry, 2006). Studies suggest that infants may need to be exposed to colors for normal color vision to develop.

Touch, Taste, and Smell




Touch, taste and smell are also well developed in newborns. Their facial expressions show distaste to foul odors such as rotten eggs, and pleasure towards pleasant odors like fruit (Steiner, 1979). They have similar reactions with pleasant and unpleasant food tastes (Rosenstein & Oster, 1988). The fetus learns about taste and develops taste preferences in utero, and newborns develop preferences for tastes they are familiar with. Therefore, the more varied the mother’s diet, especially if breastfeeding, the more open to varied tastes the child will be (leCanuet, Fifer, Krasnegor, & Smotherman, 1995; Mennella & Beauchamp 1996. This also means that pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should avoid eating sugary and other unhealthy foods to minimize the risk that their babies will learn to prefer these unhealthy foods.

Watch this video on the visual cliff experiment.

Early Learning and Memory

We have been looking at how infants learn by encountering and interacting with properties through their senses. Recall that in the first lesson, we discussed learning theories, and specifically classical and operant conditioning. We will now look at how babies learn through observation, association and imitation, and how babies are able to process different kinds of information with greater efficiency as they develop.





Knowledge Check


Question 1

How can caregivers enhance the development of newborns?


Provide   colorful surroundings, and allow the infant to explore objects,   distances and movement.


Ignore   their crying because they should learn early on that people will not always   be there for them.


Pregnant   and breastfeeding women should stick to a limited diet.


By   talking to them in a mature, matter-of-fact manner.

I don’t know

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Brain Development

While children’s growth rates vary considerably, girls generally develop faster than boys. We will now explore physical development from infancy to childhood.

The cerebrum is the largest part of our brain. It comprises two hemispheres, and controls speech, self-awareness, sensory perception, memory and motor abilities. The cerebral cortex covers the cerebrum, and is connected to thought, speech, emotion, movement, sight and hearing.

Brain growth occurs most rapidly from the prenatal period until the age of three. The brain only stops growing in early adulthood, but studies indicate that adult brains continue to regenerate nerve cells (Gould, Reeves, Graziano, & Gross, 1999; Rosenzweig, Leiman & Breedlove, 1996). Brain plasticity refers to how the brain adapts to the environment, even in adulthood.

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