Operant conditioning is a behavioral theory that discusses how occurrences of a behavior can be affected by the consequences of that behavior. In other words, the operant conditioning theory believes that behaviors are shaped by events that follow them. Two kinds of influential consequences within the context of operant conditioning are reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement is a consequence that increases the probability of recurrence of the behavior it is caused by. Positive reinforcement is one that encourages certain behaviors by giving rewards whereas negative reinforcement is all about rewarding by taking away something unpleasant. Punishment is an aversive consequence that decreases the probability of recurrence of the behavior it follows. Punishment discourages a behavior by withholding a pleasant event or by causing something unpleasant to occur.
Continuity vs. Discontinuity: The theme of Continuity views development as a continuous process stating that later development is solely based on early development. The topic of Discontinuity does not view any relationship between the later development and the early development and therefore, it does not view development as a continuous process. Neither of these views are completely accurate. Early development is probably the most direct route toward later development but not necessarily a requirement for it. Therefore, early development is not perfectly related to later development; hence, influential factors, i.e. environmental factors, play a significant role in development.
Malnourishment is defined as lack of adequate nutrition. Children who suffer from hunger or experience hunger intermittently in their life are considered malnourished. On the other hand, children who receive enough food on a regular basis but experience deficiency in certain minerals, vitamins, etc., are also considered malnourished. While malnourishment is a widespread problem in developing countries, it is also seen in North American children. Being too small for age can be an indication of a child’s malnourishment, but this is not necessarily the case in all types of malnourishment. Research shows that malnutrition during rapid periods of growth, i.e. infancy, damages the brain impacting child's intelligence and ability to pay attention. This can be the case even for children with history of malnourishment during infancy who are now just as tall and weighed as children with no history of malnourishment. A symptom of malnourishment is often listlessness of the child. Lack of energy and enthusiasm to be active causes a self-perpetuating cycle in which the malnourished child lacks both the nutrients and the cognitive stimulation for physical growth. Treatment of malnourishment may seem to only involve providing food with adequate nutrition, but in order to break the negative self-perpetuating cycle, children need more than a better diet. Fostering development combined with dietary supplements often help malnourished children catch up with their peers in physical and intellectual growth. Therefore, the best way to treat malnourishment is by addressing both biological and socio-cultural factors.