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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 1, Lesson 1

Quantitative and Qualitative Differences in Child Development

When assessing child development, it is important to note that as a child grows, there are both quantitative and qualitative differences. Quantitative differences in child development refer to the changes children encounter as they acquire more knowledge and grow physically larger and stronger. An example of quantitative differences would be a child who, after two years, has grown two inches and gained 10 pounds. Growth in height and weight indicates a quantitative difference.

Qualitative differences focus on changes in the way children think, behave, and perceive the world differently as they mature. An example of qualitative differences would be a child that at a young age has difficulty understanding the perspectives of others (otherwise known as egocentrism). Children's perceptions in thinking change as they get older and evolve into the ability to see things from others' perspectives. This change in perception represents a qualitative difference.

Considering Child Development from a Culturally Relevant Perspective

As a society, we are becoming more and more diverse. Underrepresented groups--minorities (African-Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans) who represent 1/3 of the U. S. population now will account for more than one half of the population within twenty years (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000).

The table below displays the estimated and projected percentages of children under the age of 18 in the United States by race/origin.

Race/Origin 1980 1990 Estimated Statistics
1995 1998 2000
Projected Statistics
2010 2020
Caucasian / non-Hispanic 74 69 67 65 64 59 55
African-American, non-Hispanic 15 15 15 15 15 14 14
Hispanic 9 12 14 15 16 21 23
Asian / Pacific Islander 2 3 4 4 5 5 6
American Indian / Alaska Native 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

The above population figures for the year 2000 are estimates based on the 1990 Census, not the 2000 Census.

As noted above, in 2000, 64 percent of the children in this country were Caucasian; 16 percent were Hispanic; 15 percent were African-American, 4 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander; and 1 percent was American Indian/Alaska Native. Since 1900, the percentage of Caucasian children has decreased, whereas the percentages of African-American and American Indian/Alaska Native children have remained stable. The percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander children doubled over the past twenty years (1980 - 2000) and is projected to continue to increase to 6 percent by the year 2020. The fastest growing racial/ethnic group of the child population is Hispanic. The percentage of Hispanic children increased from that of 9 percent in 1980 to 16 percent in 2000. Projected statistics reflect a continued increase of Hispanic children to 23 percent by 2020 (America's Children: 2001). The learner may wish to reference the Resource Bank (left menu) for details from the original source of this information.

Asian baby looking at bearAs our society becomes more multiculturally diverse, the Infant Toddler Developmental Specialist (ITDS) needs to be prepared to meet the unique needs of diverse families and children. It is important to note that many variations in child development may be explained by cultural life experiences (cultural differences). Parental beliefs and child-rearing practices also vary across cultures. Even though child behaviors may vary from those of children in the mainstream society, the behaviors may be very normal (or typical) within the child's own culture. Therefore, it is extremely important for the ITDS to differentiate between developmental delays and cultural differences.


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