The environmental impacts on one’s behavior can often determine factors that will shape future behaviors. During critical and sensitive periods development can be greatly affected. Critical periods occur when the existence of certain types of environmental stimuli become necessary for development to continue conventionally. It is theorized that development during the critical period is easily influenced, specifically in the area of personality and social development. On the other hand, during sensitive periods the organism becomes particularly vulnerable to certain types of stimuli in their environment. Unlike critical periods, the absence of stimuli in a sensitive period does not always result in immutable consequences.
Societal influences are believed to play a large role on the environmental impacts of development. The way we have been socialized or conditioned is a response to environmental stimuli. For instance, gender is something socially constructed and society places expectations on individuals according to their gender, which will determine the roles they will later fulfill in society. A publication from U.C. Santa Cruz states the following of gender acquisition and the societal influences that are perpetuated around them. Gender stereotypes in infants are perpetuated by society’s expectations and perceptions. Societal influences, preconceived notions and expectations enforce already existing gender stereotypes…
In the study of forty-eight children, their mothers, and 16 college students, gender based stereotypes influenced interaction with infants which in turn socialized the infants to conform to their respective gender role. Ratings of the female infants centered on their small size and beauty. Male infants are judged usually according to their ability and intelligence. While evidence of gender stereotyping in infant ratings are becoming less dominant after adolescence, sex stereotyping in adults’ behavior towards infants has changed little. Obviously, society shapes the gender stereotypes that both children and adults hold. (Rivera, 1996)
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