Every day, people grow and develop even without them knowing it. Of course, this is more apparent over time. When one has not seen a childhood friend for years, he or she may noticed a lot of remarkable changes in that person and vice versa. Initially, it’s the physical appearance that’s most noticeable, as the friend may have grown taller, bigger or older. As they converse, it may be noticeable how much more mature that friend is than the last time they have been together. He may also exhibit more knowledge and confidence, as the personality may likewise have changed over time.
Development in various fields
The process of growth and maturity of an individual entails development in physical, cognitive, social, emotional and moral areas. Development in one area affects another. In children, this is very obvious, as they are in a stage in life when development occurs rapidly.
Physically, a child’s body grows in accordance to the genetic structure he was born with. Logically, children grow bigger and taller and every year, their growth is obviously apparent in the clothes that don’t fit them anymore from a few months before, and the height and weight that drastically increased from their last doctor’s check up. Heredity plays a great role in their physical development, as they take on physical traits from their parents. The genes they inherit from them dictate their physical developmental path.
Their motor skills also develop in accordance to their developmental needs. This means, the older they get, the more things they are expected to do, so they develop physical skills to be able to do such tasks. Younger children’s fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination and body coordination are much less developed and more awkward than their older counterparts. As they grow, they also gain more control of their fine motor muscles to enable them to do more things with their hands, such as cutting, drawing and writing. With regards to their gross motor development, as children grow older, they are more able to move their large muscles in more well-coordinated movements so they are able to do more challenging things with their bodies such as skipping, running with agility, dancing with flexibility, tumbling and the like.
Intelligence is another area where one grows over time. Jean Piaget, among others, has outlined a remarkable framework in the cognitive development of a person and describes each stage. The initial stage is the Sensorimotor Stage of babies and toddlers. This period is characterized by interactions with the environment based on the child’s reception of sensory input and muscular reactions. The task of this period is to develop the concept of object permanence, the idea that objects exist even when they cannot be seen or heard. (Brewer, 2001). The Preoperational Period (two to seven years) marks the time when a child becomes able to represent objects and knowledge through imitation, symbolic play, drawing, mental images and spoken language.
Lack of conservation skills is also characteristic of this stage. “Conservation is defined as the knowledge that the number, mass, area, length, weight, and volume of objects are not changed by physically rearranging the objects.” (Brewer, 2001) The ages of seven to eleven or twelve years fall under the Concrete Operational Period. Primary school children at this age begin to think more operationally. Piaget and Inhelder (1969) described the operational thinker as one who employs “identity or reversibility by inversion or reciprocity” (p.99) in solving problems. They have moved on from being egocentric and consider that others may come to conclusions that differ from theirs. The Formal Operational Period commences at age 12 and continues on to adulthood. This final stage of cognitive development is characterized by the ability to think abstractly, reason logically and draw conclusions from available data. The young adult at this stage is more capable of understanding things beyond the surface meaning.
Many factors affect a child’s cognitive development. Their intellectual capacity may be inherited from their parents or other blood relatives. Nature and nurture may work together to affect a child’s intellect. Children who are constantly stimulated intellectually with activities that promote creative and critical thinking skills grow up using these skills when the situation calls for it.
Socially, there are children who may be inherently shy or gregarious, as is likewise dictated by their genetic make up or as an effect of exposure to shy or gregarious parents. However, as children get older, they are provided more opportunities to be with other people and learn to deal with different personalities. Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages propose than in each stage of a person’s life, he encounters various conflicts that pertain to their developmental stage. For children aged three to twelve, two Psychosocial stages are concerned. Children aged 3-6 fall under the Initiative vs. Guilt stage. In this stage, preschoolers are so into doing things on their own and showing everyone how much they have grown in many ways. Thus, they initiate help. However, at this stage, children may be awkward, and their good intentions may backfire as in destroying some things in the process. When this happens, they are overcome with guilt. Older children aged 7-12 fall under Industry vs. Inferiority stage. They have gained enough skills that make them perform well in school. They become industrious to make their families and friends proud of their achievements, but if they fail, they may develop a sense of insecurity and inferiority (Brewer, 2001).
Their emotional development is also linked to their moral development.
A man named Kohlberg (1984) even came up with a theory of moral development based on a hypothetical moral situation calling on children’s decision-making skills, and his theories attracted much attention from moral philosophers. It was theorized that young children conceptualize morality in terms of obedience to adults’ rules and regulations. They know that it makes them good children. This is so because they think in concrete, physical, egocentric ways and their social worlds are dominated by adults. On the other hand, older children think of morality in terms of cooperation with peers because they are cognitively able to comprehend the views of others and already understand concepts such as reciprocity and cooperation because their social worlds consist mainly of interactions with peers. Kohlberg based his work on this theory of cognitive development and emphasized reasoning as the key to moral development.
Growth and development is much more complicated than it seems, if one is to analyze all the factors that affect it. Developmental researchers have unearthed a wealth of information on how human beings go through the life span in terms of various developmental aspects, and such research pursuits are currently being used to the advantage of parents, educators and psychologists to understand the process of development of humans and what they may expect in certain stages of growth.
Brewer, J.A. (2001) Introduction to Early Childhood Education. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Kohlberg, L. (1984). Essays in moral development: Vol. 2. The psychology of moral development. New York: Harper & Row.
Piaget, J. & Inhelder, B. (1969) The Psychology of the Child. New York: Basic Books.