Adaptive stress and the development of learning capabilities

Cass, Martha Elizabeth (2011). Adaptive stress and the development of learning capabilities. University of Birmingham. M.Phil.


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This extended literature review considers stress and stress responses in early development which could have an impact on learning capacity. The type of challenge which evokes the responses is termed ‘adaptive stress.’ It arises when, in the course of development, individuals experience for example a nutrient, experience or behaviour that their adaptive systems do not lead them physiologically or consciously to expect. It is also asserted that individuals are differently adaptable; for some, adaptive stress is a more serious issue than for others, and the degree of adjustment required varies with that difference. Adaptive adjustments are made in order that equilibrium be maintained and survival ensured. Survival is the object of adaptation; thus learning, as a subset of capacities in human beings, may take second place and may be compromised where the limit of adaptability has been in some way exceeded. However, survival itself ‘buys time’ for individuals to come to know their child’s or their own adaptive strategies, in theory to learn how to ameliorate the said compromises, and to optimise learning capacity within the learned parameters. The thesis is found to be supported in the published literature and it is concluded that it could form the basis for further research.

Type of Work: Thesis (Masters by Research > M.Phil.)
Award Type: Masters by Research > M.Phil.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: School of Education
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education


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