(Emphases mine.) This is a passage from Torkel Klingberg’s The Learning Brain: Memory and Brain Development in Children. It’s a very accessible (and very simple, which isn’t to say simplistic) overview on children’s cognitive and other mental development, with a bias toward the impact of working memory (the author’s area of study).
I’ll add something about his thoughts about AD(H)D and its connection to working memory in a subsequent post, but for now this is just one of those metaphors that blindsides with its seeming obviousness after the fact, especially since many assumptions about childhood brain and cognitive development are (necessarily) drawn from controlled animal studies. Another area where this has been really fascinating is the account of flaws in “inborn gender characteristic” research in the seemingly essential (but unfinished by me before it was due back to the library) Brain Storm by Rebecca Jordan-Young. This book, like Brain Storm finds no gender differences in most of its explorations of working memory and other brain and cognitive research.
To get back to the “deprivation” vs. “stimulation” debate, it’s interesting that much of the original research in this book was done in Sweden, where issues like childhood poverty aren’t nearly as much of a problem as they are in the States. (Later in the book, he very directly discusses studies of American poverty that show how poverty conditions increase stress levels and reduce working memory and cognitive function, etc.) It’s instructive to think of how institutionalized poverty creates a de facto deprivation environment for so many children born into it. I’m reminded again of the conceptual inability to consider poor families meaningfully alongside working class and middle class ones in Annette Lareau’s Unequal Childhoods (with its theories of “accomplishment of natural growth,” among working class kids, and “concerted cultivation,” among middle class kids) — Lareau boggles at the cruelty of life in poverty without “theorizing” much about it.