Human development involves change. This change occurs at various stages of development and the development pattern at each stage has predictable characteristics. You might have observed that development is a product of maturity and learning. Maturity is mere or less automatic, unfolding biological potential. It is an irreversible sequence and entails biological changes.Such changes are relatively independent of environmental factors as long as environmental factors remain normal.


The Principles of Growth and Development


Following are the fundamental principles of growth and development.


(i) Development follows a pattern or a sequence:

Development tends to proceed from the head downward. This is called the cephalocaudal principle. 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. In the next few months, they are able to lift themselves up using their arms. By 6 to 12 months of age, infants start to gain leg control and may be able to crawl, stand, or walk.
Development also proceeds from the center of the body outward according to the proximodistal principle. 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.

(ii) Development proceeds from general to specific responses:

It moves from a generalized to localized behaviour. The newborn infant moves its whole body at one time instead of moving only one part of it. It makes random kicking with its legs before it can coordinate the leg muscles well enough to crawl or to walk.

(iii) Development is a continuous process:

Development does not occur in spurts. Growth continues from the moments of conception until the individual reaches maturity. It takes place at slow regular pace rather than by ‘leaps and bounds’. Although development is a continuous process, yet the tempo of growth is not even, during infancy and early years growth moves swiftly and later it slacken.

(iv) Different aspects of growth develop at different rates

Neither all parts of the body grow at the same rate nor do all aspects of mental growth proceed equally. They reach maturity at different times. Development also depends on maturation. Maturation refers to the sequence of biological changes in children. These orderly changes give children new abilities. Much of the maturation depends on changes in the brain and the nervous system. These changes assist children to improve their thinking abilities and motor skills. A rich learning environment helps children develop to their potential.
Children must mature to a certain point before they can gain some skills. For instance, the brain of a four-month-old has not matured enough to allow the child to use words. A four-month-old will babble and coo. However, by two years of age, with the help of others, the child will be able to say and understand many words. This is an example of how cognitive development occurs from simple tasks to more tasks that are complex. Likewise, physical skills develop from general to specific movements. For example, think about the way an infant waves its arms and legs. In a young infant, these movements are random. In several months, the infant will likely be able to grab a block with his or her whole hand. In a little more time, the same infant will grasp a block with the thumb and forefinger.

(v) Most traits are correlated in development:

Generally, it is seen that the child whose intellectual development is above average is so in health size, sociability and special aptitudes.

(vi) Growth is complex:

All of its aspects are closely interrelated. The child’s mental development is intimately related to his physical growth and its needs.

(vii) Growth is a product of the interaction of the organism and environment:

Among the environmental factors one can mention nutrition, climate the conditions in the home, the type of social organization in which individual moves and lives.

(viii) There are wide individual differences in growth:

Individual differences in growth are caused by differences in heredity and environment.

(ix) Growth is both quantitative and qualitative:

These two aspects are inseparable. The child not only grows in ‘size’; he grows up or matures in structure and function too.

(x) Development is predictable:

It is possible for us to predict at an early age the range within which the mature development of the child is likely to fall. However, mental development cannot be predicted with the same degree of accuracy

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