Chapter 1 Child Growth and Development
Humans are not static beings. During their lives, they change in size, appearance and psychological makeup. However, the way they change differs from individual to individual. But the fundamental patterns of growth and development remain more or less the same and take place in an orderly way. Each individual, with his unique heredity and environment determines the way he traverses the broad path of his life at his rate of progress. The knowledge of the pattern of human development helps teachers know what to expect of children. It also helps them to know approximately at what age behavioural changes take place, and when these patterns are generally replaced by more mature patterns. This is significant since, if too much is expected of children, they develop a feeling of inadequacy. On the other hand if too little is expected of them, they do not have an incentive to realize their potential.
Before understanding child development, it is imperative to understand the term ‘growth’. The terms growth and development are often used interchangeably. But they are conceptually different and complement each other. Human growth deals with just the physical aspects of development whereas human development includes not only human growth but also takes into consideration the psycho-social aspects of development.
Growth is an increase in the size of the body as a whole or the size attained by different parts of the body by multiplication of cells during the period starting from fertilization to physical maturity. It is a fundamental characteristic of all living organisms. The physical size is measured in terms of centimeters and kilograms or metabolic balance that is retention of hydrogen and calcium in the body.
Stages of Growth
The stages or phases of growth have been classified differently by different researchers.
Prenatal Period : The prenatal period comprises, on the average, about 9 calendar months or 40 weeks. A fertilized egg of a multi-cellular animal is transformed into an embryo by cell division, growth and differentiation. This formation into the embryo is called prenatal growth. In the prenatal period (before birth) the embryo is formed with rudiments of all organs and systems.
Prenatal growth has three distinct stages:
• the fertilized ovum (egg) (first 2 weeks)
• the embryo (from 2 to 8 weeks) and the
• the foetus (from 2 to 10 lunar months)
The human ovum during the first part of this period it is like a homogeneous mass. During the embryonic stage, though the rate of growth is slow, yet the differentiation process to form various regions which later on give rise to different parts like head, arm, leg, etc. begins. By the eighth week the embryo becomes child-like in appearance. During foetus stage the rate of growth in length as well as weight is quite high.
Postnatal growth is commonly divided into the following age periods.
(a) Infancy : Infancy comprises the first year of life. This is a period of rapid growth in most bodily systems and dimensions and rapid development of the neuromuscular system. The growth is mostly by addition of more cells or increase in the protoplasm. The rate of growth increases after birth and there is an increase in size, shape and weight. In case of weight, the peak is reached at two months after birth. The cells become larger in size. The cervical and lumber curvatures of the spine show up as the baby starts to straighten the head and tries to sit up and stand.
(b) Childhood : Childhood spans from the end of infancy (the first birthday) to the start of adolescence. This period is often divided into early childhood, middle childhood and late childhood. The early childhood is the period of eruption of milk teeth. The middle childhood (7 to 10 years) is the period of eruption of permanent teeth, though not all erupt. The late childhood starts from the pre-pubertal period and continues up to the time of puberty. Childhood is a period of relatively steady progress in growth and maturation and rapid progress in neuromuscular or development.
(c) Adolescence : Adolescence follows childhood. In this period the hormonal influences play a leading role in order to attain sexual maturity. During this period there is a marked acceleration of the adolescence growth spurt. The adolescence spurt is a constant phenomenon and occurs in all children, though it varies in intensity and duration from one child to another. In boys it takes place, on an average from age 12 to 15. In girls the spurt begins about two years earlier than in boys. Differentiation in primary and secondary sexual characteristics marks the adolescence period. There are changes in the reproductive organs, in body size and shape, in the relative proportions of muscle, fat and bone and in a variety of physiological functions.
(d) Maturity or Adulthood : The endocrine glands under the direction of pituitary hormones prepare the body for adulthood. An important sign of maturity is reproductive maturity. During adolescence, reproductive maturity begins but not completed. The active reproductive period extends up to 40 or 45 years of age in the human beings. The end of growth of height is also regarded as a sign of maturity .
The term development refers to certain changes that occur in human beings between birth and death. The term is not applied to all changes but rather to those that remain for a reasonably long period of time. A temporary change caused by a brief illness, for example, is not considered a part of development. Some developmental psychologists prefer to restrict the notion of development only to changes which lead to qualitative changes in the structure of behaviour, skill or ability. For example, Heinz Werner, a developmental psychologist believed that development consisted of two processes: integration and differentiation . According to him, development “proceeds from a state of relative lack of differentiation to a state of increasing differentiation and hierarchic integration” at all levels of the person.
Integration refers to the idea that development consists of the integration of more basic, previously acquired behaviours into new, higher level structures. For example, according to Piaget, the baby who learns to successfully reach for objects has learned to coordinate a variety of skills such as keeping an upright posture, moving the arm, visually coordinating the position of the hand and the object, and grasping the object under an integrated structure called a scheme. New developments build on and incorporate what has come before.
Differentiation is the idea that development also involves the progressive ability to make more distinctions among things, for example, learning to adjust one’s grasp to pick up small objects (which requires the use of the fingers) versus larger objects (which only require closing the hand around the object and less motor control). Werner defined development as a combination of these two processes of integration and differentiation.
Human development can be divided into a number of different domains:
Physical Domain : Physical domain consists of development of body structure including muscles, bones and organ systems. It includes:
(a) Gross motor development using large muscles for example legs and arms.
(b) Fine motor development or precise use of muscles, for example hands and fingers.
(c) Sensory development which is development of vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch.
Physical domain also includes
(a) Cephalo-caudal development which means that a child starts with development from head to toe. According to this principle, the child first gains control of the head, then the arms, then the legs. Infants gain control of head and face movements within the first two months after birth.
(b) Proximo-distal starts in the centre (like our chests) then moves to periphery. Accordingly, the spinal cord develops before other parts of the body. The child’s arms develop before the hands, and the hands and feet develop before the fingers and toes. Fingers and toes are the last to develop .
C ognitive Domain : Referred to as intellectual or mental development, includes thinking, perception, memory, reasoning, concept development, problem-solving and abstract thinking. Language is one of the most important and complicated cognitive activities. Understanding and formulating language is a complex cognitive activity. Speaking, however, is a motor activity. Language and speech are controlled by different parts of the brain. Jean Piaget was a significant influence in this domain because of his ‘theory of cognitive development’.
Moral Domain : Moral domain consists of development of character, right attitudes and behaviour towards other people in society, based on social and cultural norms, rules and laws. Understanding the difference between right and wrong is the essence of moral development. Piaget believed in two basic principles relating to moral education:
• Children develop moral ideas in stages and
• Children create their conceptions of the world.
According to Piaget, “the child is someone who constructs his own moral world view and forms ideas about right and wrong. Piaget believed that children made moral judgments based on their own observations of the world.
Kohlberg proposed a detailed sequence of stages of moral reasoning or judgments about right or wrong. He divided moral development into three levels:
• Pre conventional
• Post conventional
Social and Emotional Domain : Social development includes the child’s interactions with other people and the child’s involvement in social groups. It includes
• relationships with adults and peers,
• social roles,
• adoption of group values and norms,
• adoption of a moral system, and
• productive role in society
Learning to live with others in both our family and society is one of the most important tasks, the one in which family and friends play an important role. Socialization is all about learning to cope in the family and society we live in. The socialization process varies in different societies and from family to family.
• Primary socialization takes place within the family, in the first years of a child’s life. It helps children to learn how to interact with others, sense of right and wrong, what is acceptable and what is not.
• Secondary socialization starts when children come into regular contact with people and settings outside their home. This includes playgroup, school and neighborhood and continues throughout life. Secondary socialization teaches children how to interact with adults, friends and others who are not family .
Emotional Development Includes
• the development of personal traits and characteristics, including a personal identity, self-esteem,
• ability to enter into reciprocal emotional relationships,
• feelings and emotions that are appropriate for one’s age and situation.
Important Aspects of Emotional Development are:
(a) Attachment and bonding : The development of the deep bonds of attachment between parents or care givers and their children comes about through day to day interaction. This attachment is helped in the early months by a number of things including: skin contact, talks, parents’ voices, feeding, bathing, play, eye-to-eye contact, etc. Children who develop close bonds with several important people will be far more secure than children who have not done so. If a child has a strong sense of security, he is less likely to face emotional traumas and turmoil in life.
(b) Self-concept and personal identity : A child’s self-concept and personal identity are closely linked to the quality of parenting in early years. Quite often, adults who harm others or carry out serious crimes have had very negative experiences as children and have a very poor self-concept.
GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF DEVELOPMENT
Development is an Ongoing Process : Development begins before birth, since the genetic basis for any individual’s development is present in the reproductive cells of that individual’s parents, and development continues until death. Earlier theories suggested that all important developmental milestones were achieved before adulthood. But it is known know, that development is an ongoing process with important milestones and stages occurring throughout life.
People develop at different rates : While the rate of growth may vary at different times in the life cycle and among individuals, it is always a continuous process. In your own classroom, you will have a whole range of examples of different developmental rates.
Development is directional : Development typically proceeds from simple to complex. For example, we all began as a single cell and developed into a complex organism with millions of cells that are highly differentiated by both structure and function. These cells are organized into more and more complex, interacting structures as development proceeds. The same basic pattern is repeated in the progression of motor development. The rudimentary and uncoordinated motor movements of a newborn infant become increasingly complicated and efficient as the child grows .
Development is relatively orderly and may involve stages : At certain predictable times in the developmental process, particular tasks or activities emerge often referred to as “stages.”Stages represent a qualitative change in development, which results in the emergence of an ability or trait. After the emergence of a new skill or behaviour, there is usually a period of “leveling off,” when the new skills or abilities are practiced, mastered, and integrated into the child’s behaviour. For example, after an infant has learned to walk, he may spend several months perfecting balance, coordination, and stability. Stages represent the emergence of more complex behaviour patterns that often replace earlier, less effective ones. A four-year old with well developed language and good social skill is less likely to respond to frustration by having a tantrum than a two-year old in the same situation.
Development is Cumulative : Early developmental tasks form the foundation for the development of later, more complicated tasks. For example, the ability to engage in reciprocal interpersonal relationships is based on trust, a developmental milestone of the first year of life. A child who fails to master early tasks will have more difficulty mastering the demands of later stages, and without remedial intervention, the child’s development becomes more delayed, or shows increasingly abnormal patterns, over time. The negative effects of early developmental deficits increase as the child grows and as demands become more complex. A deficit such as the inability to recognize letters of the alphabet does not critically affect the life of a 6-year-old. However, an adult who cannot read faces serious difficulties in social and economic functioning.
Development is gradual : Very rarely do changes appear overnight. A student who cannot manipulate a pencil or answer a hypothetical question may well develop this ability, but the change is likely to take time.
FACTORS INFLUENCING GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
Hereditary Factors : Human beings have a common genetic structure that determines the course of their development. This means there are basic similarities in the structure and functions of their bodies and differences between humans and other species. Many traits are inherited, including eye color, hair color, body type, height, and skin color. These are genetically determined.
The pattern of physical development during the first year of life is largely genetically determined. A child will not be able to walk until his physical structure, bones, and muscles, have developed sufficiently to support upright body posture and to bear weight.
Infants in all cultures are biologically ready to walk somewhere between age 9- 15 months, however, environment can influence when a child actually begins to walk. A child carried on his mother’s back for the first three years of life will not walk at a year. However, if that same child is allowed to roam freely on the ground, he would likely have walked around age one. Abilities that result from maturation do not have to be taught in the same way we teach a child to hold a paintbrush or to ride a bicycle. The child will have to practice a maturational skill to be proficient; however, the emergence of the skill is not dependent upon environmental factors .
Environmental Factors : While children are born with different potentials, the capacity for each child to develop healthily is dependent on a nurturing and supportive environment provided to that child. Multiple environments can positively influence the potential for healthy development.
• Prenatal environment: It includes the chemical balance of mother’s body, and the presence of substances or conditions that can enhance or hinder developmental processes (for example, a nutritious diet and vitamins, or conversely, the mother’s use of alcohol or drugs during pregnancy.)
• Physical environment: It includes the quality of air the child breathes, the food the child eats, and exposure to conditions that can cause disease or injury including child abuse and neglect.
• Learning environment: It includes the degree and type of stimulation available to the child.
• Social and cultural environment: This comprises the norms, belief system, values, and standards of behaviour that positively regulate a child’s life. These codes of conduct regulate more or less all aspects of social life including parenting, family life, interacting with outsiders and authority figures and expectations regarding children’s’ development and conduct.
• Emotional Environment: The emotional environment comprises of the child’s interpersonal relationships and the extent of nurturance provided to them. Human relationships are the building blocks of healthy development. Children grow and thrive in close and dependable relationships that provide love and nurturance, developmentally appropriate discipline, security, and encouragement for exploration. The emotional environment shapes personality and affects self-esteem, trust, social responsibility, and resilience.
Maturation versus experience in development: the nature— nurture debate
In developmental psychology’s past, extreme positions have been taken on the nature-nurture debate. Arnold Gesell (1928) was a strong advocate of the position that the course of our development was largely dictated by genetic factors. Our genetic heritage specifies the set of biological processes which determine the patterns of growth that we observe, which Gesell referred to as maturation . Simply put, maturation is the sequence of growth which is specified and controlled by our genes. Gesell used studies of identical twins to study how experience and maturation lead to development
In contrast to Gesell’s maturationist position, John B. Watson (1928) argued for the dominance of the environment on children’s development. Watson believed that genetic factors placed no limits on how environments c ould shape the course of children’s development.
The po sitions and arguments held by Gesell and Watson regarding the relative roles of maturation and environment on development are essentially extremist positions which are no longer supported in light of current research on child development. Today, most developmental psychologists recognise that nature and nurture both play an important role in development. Rather than discussing nature versus nurture, we commonly talk about the interaction between nature and nurture. Given the widespread recognition that both nature and nurture play crucial roles in shaping development, the challenge which lies before us now is to examine the interplay between biological and environmental factory, figuring out how they interact to produce developmental change. The interaction between nature and nurture, referred to as epigenesis , has been characterised as being less of an answer to the nature-nurture debate than as a starting point for the study of development. Elman et al. (1996) point out that the interactionist position is certainly the correct position to take on the nature-nurture debate.
One way we can approach the interaction between nature and nurture is through an examination of the extent to which our biological programming can be altered by environmental influences. The biologist C.H. Waddington (1975) used the term canalization to refer to this phenomenon. In other words, is the genetic influence on a particular development robust across varied environments or does it show susceptibility to change? Highly canalized behaviours are relatively unaltered by changes in the environment. For example, the tendency to acquire a language is a highly canalized development in that it occurs across a wide degree of environmental variation. In contrast, some behaviours are easily modified by environmental factors and are less canalized. Intelligence is a trait which is dramatically altered by environmental variations.