Critique of Infant Determinism
Do experiences during early years solely determine later development? In the second chapter of his book "Three Seductive Ideas" (1998), Kagan questions the overemphasis on the first two years of an individual's life. While not doubting its importance, Kagan suggests that perhaps more crucial to human development is the construction of experience, perception, and comparison of ourselves to others which begins during the fifth or sixth year of life. His argument is a valid one, regarding the fact that infant determinism overrates the importance of first two years in a person’s whole lifetime. As Kagan argues, infant determinism is rather a political theory that conceals the effect of social class on development (Kagan, 1998, p.89).
People who advocate infant determinism says that interactive play and secure attachment between a mother and a baby during the very early years are what lead to well-being in adulthood (Waters and Cummings, 2000, p.164). By assuming that the first two years determine the rest of the development, infant determinism blocks the possibility of society being the major influence on human development. It puts less emphasis on the impact of social interactions that a person goes through for his or her lifetime. However, human is a social animal: how can the first two years, such a mere amount of time for any perceptive socialization, be accounted for the rest of the life? Kagan argues it is not until five to seven years old when a child starts to learn some social responsibilities (Kagan, 1998, p.109). Moreover, our brain and mind are not a closed system: Kagan says, “the brain is still growing for the first two years of life” (Kagan, 1998, p.115). It is influenced constantly by various outside factors and is shaped gradually. Therefore it is the interpretation of on-going experiences that affects the development. By interpretation it means learning about social environment, broadening perception toward the world and recognizing one’s identity, which all will greatly influence the development. According to Kagan, children begin to interpret their experiences in the third or fourth years (Kagan, 1998, p.113). From that time the memories are likely to last: experiences in the first two years are hardly recallable in adulthood (Kagan, 1998, p.115).
Yet the reason that infant determinism is popular is because it covers up the problems that come from social class membership (Kagan, 1998, p.147). Kagan points out, “Those who favor...