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Why Youth is Not Wasted on the Young: Immaturity in Human Development

ISBN: 978-1-4051-4952-5
288 pages
April 2007, Wiley-Blackwell
Why Youth is Not Wasted on the Young: Immaturity in Human Development (1405149523) cover image
Why Youth is Not Wasted on the Young examines the nature of childhood through an evolutionary lens and argues that childhood is an essential stage of development with its own unique purposes, separate from those of adulthood; a time of growth and discovery that should not be rushed.

  • Written by a renowned developmental psychologist
  • Examines the role that our period of immaturity plays on the social, emotional, and educational needs of today’s children
  • Challenges common perceptions of children as simply “adults in training”
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Preface vii

Acknowledgments xi

1 The Benefits of Youth 1

Rushing through Childhood 3

Views of Development 5

A Darwinian Perspective 14

I Come Not to Praise Immaturity 20

2 The Youngest Species 21

A Brief Look at Human Evolution 23

The Evolution of Childhood 36

Timing is Everything 44

The Youngest Species 52

3 The Slow Rate of Growing Up 55

The Gamble of Delayed Development 56

Big Brains, Social Complexity, and Slow Development 58

Cooperating and Competing 62

Family Matters 63

Slow Growth and Brain Plasticity 65

Developmental Plasticity and Evolution 83

When Slow is Fast Enough 84

4 Adapting to the Niche of Childhood 87

The Benefits of Limitations 89

See Things My Way 93

Learning Language 101

How Do Adults View Children’s Immature Thinking? 106

Adapting to Childhood 109

5 The Advantages of Thinking You’re Better than You Are 111

The Development of Metacognition – Knowing What We Know 113

Some Benefits of Less-Than-Perfect Metacognition 128

When We Deal with Children 135

Know Thyself, But Not Too Well 136

6 Play: The Royal Road through Childhood 139

What is Play? 142

The Adaptive Value of Play 144

Children Playing, Children Learning 147

Play it Again, Kid 161

7 The Most Educable of Animals 163

The Myth of “Earlier is Better” 169

Prenatal Learning 172

Early (Postnatal) Learning 176

Developmentally Appropriate Practices in Early Education 182

Stress in the Schoolhouse 189

Old Brain, New Curriculum 197

8 The Changing Face of Childhood 199

Pushing Children through Childhood 201

A Brief History of Childhood 204

The Costs of Ignoring Immaturity: The Well-being of America’s Children 211

The Independent Human Juvenile: A New View of Childhood? 216

Racing to Adulthood, Prolonging Adolescence 218

Epilogue: Homo Juvenalis 221

Revisiting Childhood 222

Visiting Adulthood 223

Notes 227

References 239

Index 267

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David F. Bjorklund is Professor of Psychology at Florida Atlantic University. His publications include Parents Book of Discipline (with Barbara R. Bjorklund, 1999), The Origins of Human Nature: Evolutionary Developmental Psychology (with Anthony D. Pellegrini, 2002), and Children’s Thinking: Cognitive Development and Individual Differences (fourth edition, 2005).
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  • An engaging and insightful look at the nature of childhood through an
    evolutionary lens
  • Argues that childhood is an essential stage of development with its own unique purposes, separate from those of adulthood; a time of growth and discovery that should not be rushed
  • Written by a renowned developmental psychologist
  • Examines the role that our period of immaturity plays on the social, emotional, and educational needs of today’s children
  • Challenges common perceptions of children as simply “adults in training”
See More
"What is childhood? What is it for? The usual answer is that the purpose of childhood is to set the stage for bigger things to come. Why Youth is Not Wasted on the Young turns this view on its head. In this clear and beautifully written account of the role of immaturity in human development and evolution, Bjorklund argues that children’s minds are qualitatively different from those of adults. Indeed, children have special ways of learning and knowing that enable unique mastery of skills and invention of knowledge. This book should be required reading for anyone who is struggling with the question of how best to structure their children’s lives in today’s frantic world."
Bruce J. Ellis, University of Arizona<!--end-->

"Dave Bjorklund's book is a must read for parents and others who have an interest in kids, families, and schools. Based on current and sound scientific research, Bjorklund explains in very clear and readable, though not simplistic, language the long term importance of childhood qualities, such as play time and being "immature"- qualities that are under siege in many quarters of contemporary society."
Anthony D Pellegrini, University of Minnesota

"In this accessible and provocative work, David Bjorklund argues that childhood is not just a training for adulthood. Rather, it serves important adaptive functions that we need to acknowledge and value."
Michael Rutter, author of "Genes and Behavior"

“A lively, insightful analysis of human behavior from a novel, evolutionary standpoint; this is essential reading for anyone seeking to truly understand childhood and today's children.”
Glenn Weisfeld, Wayne State University

"David Bjorklund, one of the world’s leading developmental psychologists, has provided us with an intriguing and accessible treatment of some of the most important questions in the behavioral sciences today. Why does it take so long for humans to grow up? And, what is the evolutionary function of children’s activities while they are growing up? The book will be of interest to development scientists and to parents and educators wishing to better understand their children"
David C. Geary, University of Missouri

"In short, the answer to the question of who should read this book is a simple one: anyone who has an interest—personal, professional, or both—in how children develop." PsycCRITIQUES



“Bjorklund is a major contributor to the literature on evolutionary approaches to understanding child development. His connections … are original and well supported. Highly recommended.”
Choice Reviews

“That rare sort of science book that will be interesting to researchers as well as to laypeople … . Bjorklund is a beautifully smooth writer.”
American Scientist

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