What is Development?

Development can be defined as the orderly changes of an individual from conception to death. From a biological point of view, development can be identified as a growth from early life, stability in early and middle adulthood, and decline in later life. This is the “gain-stability-loss” model. Life-span development does not necessarily follow this model. Change at any age can involve gains and losses and continues at each phase of the development cycle. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a person improves or worsens but develops differently than what they were at an earlier stage of development.

Development is also influenced by age grades and norms which are handled differently among many cultures. It is a lifelong process that we can break down into three general domains of development: physical, cognitive, and psychosocial. These areas are different but influential of one another. Physical development encompasses growth of the body and organs, the physical signs of aging, functioning of the brain, or the decrease or increase of motor skills in an individual. A decrease of brain function can be decreased due to injury or sickness.

Cognitive development incorporates mental processes such as memory, language, perceptions, problem solving and learning. For instance, compare a simple question between a child and an adult. An adult’s answer could be more complex and defined as compared to a child’s answer which would be simple because of the difference in language development. Psychosocial development deals with areas in personal and social aspects such as emotions, personality traits, relationships and roles of individuals as they pertain to the family or society in general. Self esteem is an example of this development domain.

Some school age children may have negative self esteem issues due to bullying at school or abusive parenting at home. Through positive reinforcement, coaching and mentoring a child can develop positive self esteem. Development is characterized as multidirectional, multiple influenced, and characterized by lifelong plasticity. Human development can depend on multiple interactions throughout the lifespan. Development is multidirectional. Different development capacities can show change over time. For example, cognitive skills can decline or improve faster through ater stages of adulthood. Senior adults who have been showing declines in cognitive abilities can remedy the situation, or slow down the decline, with learning exercises, such as memory games, that promote brain function. Development is multiply influenced. Development can be influenced by biological, environmental, and historical events that are both positive and negative. These influences can be experienced by individuals, people within a generation, or those of similar age. Development characterized by lifelong plasticity deals with influences of negative or positive experiences.

It is believed that child development can be altered by a poor or enriched environment. Plasticity is extended later into an individual’s lifespan. The aging process can be influenced through an individual’s experiences. Through physical exercise and mental stimulation, senior adults can maintain or even enhance their cognitive functioning, possibly putting them in better health, physically and mentally, as compared to their inactive peers.