Physical, Cognitive and Intellectual Development


Physical and cognitive development is a complicated process that plays an integral role in an individual’s wellbeing. In this regard, people, especially parents and scholars, should be aware of different aspects of this development since the knowledge of it facilitates designing and selecting the right practices that promote the learning process. In addition, it helps to consider inclinations and deviations of a particular individual or a group at different points of people’s growth. Therefore, this presentation aims at performing an analysis of physical and cognitive development stages from birth to adolescence. In addition, the presentation will explain the effect of physical development on social life in school and describe intelligence and the methods of its measurement. Finally, it will analyze the impact of testing and intelligence on learning.

The Developmental Stages

Physical development usually consists of many stages, the primary of which are early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence. Early childhood lasts from the birth of an individual to six years, the time during which an individual manages to acquire all fundamental skills and knowledge required for normal human activity. It generally includes other periods, such as infancy (1-12 months), toddler (1-3 years), and preschooler (3-6 years). The second phase usually proceeds from six to twelve years, the period in the life of a person when he or she begins to attend school and gets acquainted with the social environment. The last stage starts from twelve to eighteen years, and it is the period when the main bodily and psychological characteristics and traits are entirely formed.

An Analysis of Early Childhood

Early childhood is the time characterized by the tremendous and, perhaps, fastest development of cognitive, emotional, and psychological capabilities of a person. In particular, in the first month, a newborn can only display active but uncoordinated movements that mostly are the response to external irritants, such as pain or tickling, and basic needs, including hunger and thirst. Besides, he or she starts to see objects that are in direct proximity to the eyes. When individuals step into infancy, they begin to display an interest in human faces and other objects, react to their names, and even may get tedious with the repeated activity. In addition, between 5-9 months, they may learn how to sit up, roll in both directions, communicate with gestures, or what “no” means. A toddler learns the fundamental movements, including drinking from a cup, holding a spoon, walking, jump, among others. Moreover, he or she can scribble, perform simple several-step instructions, play simple games. Preschooler development is characterized by a more apparent refinement of motor skills and possessing the sufficient vocabulary needed to hold long conversations.

An Analysis of Middle Childhood

The second phase, which is sometimes called school-age development, is slower but steadier and determined by active interaction between an individual and society. At this age, a child begins to develop the skills acquired in early childhood and gain more complicated skills such as reading, writing, classification, and reasoning. Regarding physical development, the school-age child gradually receives secondary sexual characteristics such as voice changes or armpit hair and enters the age of puberty. Overall, in this period, an individual becomes independent, capable, and responsible and begins to have emotions, feelings, and thoughts, as well as directs his or her will to reach the simplest social and personal objectives.

An Analysis of Adolescence

The last stage implies the process of an individual’s self-identification through understanding cultural and ideological notions and his or her social and national affiliation. Concerning the physical aspect, the secondary sex characteristics of both girls and boys become apparent. It is worth noting that, at this stage, girls are physically mature, while the maturing of boys may continue. Specifically, boys develop physical strength, their shoulders become rounded, and their voice turns rougher, while many females begin to have menstruation. Cognitive development is complicated since it is the time when adolescents develop their own views and tastes, and they can explain their choices and positions. Moreover, they begin to understand that adults are not always right concerning their judgments and decisions, and their interest in the representatives of the other sex becomes rather strong.

Effect of Physical Development on Social life

Physical development has an immense impact on a child’s social life and cognitive capabilities, especially at school. In particular, when individuals have the right physical development, they can actively interact with their peers. On the contrary, the presence of any deviations or defects, including overweight, acne, or disability, can be a cause for mocking, bullying, and other forms of abuse from peers. Moreover, people with bodily disorders or peculiarities experience difficulties in communication with the representatives of another sex since they can be avoided because of the absence of appealing traits. In this regard, as it has been evidenced by many scholars, including Sami et al. (2015) and Harvey et al. (2018), physical activity, especially sports, can considerably help to improve self-esteem and promote establishing social links with peers

Effect of Physical Development on Cognitive Functioning

Many cognitive abilities, such as concentration, short and long-term memory, reasoning, and logic, significantly depend on the right physical development. Any deviations from sustainable development result in significant problems and inabilities to remember, make logical decisions, or resolve even the simplest tasks. Many conditions, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Down Syndrome, are the consequence of the wrong physical development. Special schools are created for children with cognitive disorders to help them develop appropriately. These disorders can even cause a delay in motor development, a weak or inadequate expression of emotional reactions, or manifestations of egocentric behavior.


Human intelligence implies mental quality that includes the ability of understanding, logic, self-awareness, planning, reasoning, and critical thinking among others. In a more profound sense, it can be defined as the capacity to learn from experience, perceive or deduce information, adapt to new situations and conditions, and comprehend abstract concepts. Additionally, cognitive abilities, such as sensation, memory, representation, thinking, imagination, attention, will, and reflection, are also attributed to intelligence.

Intelligence Measurement

The first attempts to measure intelligence appeared in the 19th century, and the pioneers in this field were Alfred Binet, Francis Galton, and their followers. Galton assumed that psychophysical capacities were the framework of intelligence and, therefore, there is a need for specific tests that measure intelligence. However, the first formal intelligence tests only required an individual, for instance, to compare and identify the weights of two objects with relatively high accuracy. The most widely used and influential test was the Stanford-Binet test developed by Galton and Terman that suggested calling the correlation of mental age to chronological an intelligence quotient (IQ) (Sternberg, 2017). Later, intelligence testing started to be applied to evaluate a set of abilities, such as attention, planning, and processing, that is, problem-solving. Finally, there is a determined intelligence scale, implying that IQs of 130 or over are assigned to gifted people,100 to 120 – medium, 70 to 84 – borderline retarded, and 25 to 39 – severely retarded (Sternberg, 2017).

The Affect of Intelligence on Learning

As has been indicated above, intelligence is the ability to memorize, perceive, and reproduce information, and think logically and abstractly. At the same time, learning is the process of the deliberate gaining of new knowledge, skills, and concepts to implement them in a daily routine or attain specific objectives. Thus, intelligence has a substantial and direct impact on learning since individuals with average or high intelligence can remember better and process incoming information faster, and deduce it when needed, unlike mentally disabled individuals. In this regard, education systems use various testing methods to assess learners’ knowledge and also programs allowing for enhancing intelligence levels. However, it should be indicated that despite the crucial role of intelligence, there are other critical factors, especially motivation, interest, and methods of presenting information, which contributes to the performance of students not less.

The Effect of Testing

Initially, learning was limited to the acquaintance with new information or skills provided in classrooms through reading, listening, observing, or training in order to memorize and master them. Nevertheless, scholars began to be interested in other, more useful techniques of learning since the results of using conventional methods were not satisfactory. In this context, testing, sometimes called retrieval practice, finds practical application in many educational establishments because it can promote better memorization of the material and positively affect cognitive qualities, especially long-term memory. For example, as dozens of studies display, testing helps students to recall 50% more of learned information compared to spending the same time studying materials (Akresh-Gonzales, 2015. In addition, testing facilitates the transformation of knowledge from passive to active learning.


In summary, this presentation has observed and described three stages of physical development, namely, early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence, with the analysis of the effect of physical development on social and school activities. In addition, the presentation defined the meaning of intelligence and the ways of its measurement. Finally, it has examined the impact of intelligence and testing on the learning process. Overall, it is worth noting that physical development and intelligence are interrelated, and they play a profound role in the performance of students and in the general wellbeing of people.


Akresh-Gonzales, J. (2015) What is the testing effect, and how does it affect learning, knowledge, and retention? NEJM Knowledge+. Web.

Harvey, S. P., Lambourne, K., Greene, J. L., Gibson, C. A., Lee, J., & Donnelly, J. E. (2018). The effects of physical activity on learning behaviors in elementary school children: A randomized controlled trial. Contemporary School Psychology, 22(3), 303-312.

Sami, S., Mahmoudi, S., & Aghaei, S. (2015). Social development of students participating in physical activity and computer games. Annals of Applied Sport Science, 3(2), 51-56.

Sternberg, R. J. (2017) Human intelligence. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. "Physical, Cognitive and Intellectual Development." September 15, 2023.