Sub-topic: Aspects of human growth and development


Physical development refers to the physical changes in the size, structure and proportion of the parts of the body that take place at the moment of conception. Directly physical development determines what children can do at a particular age. Indirectly, it influences their attitude toward self and others. As the child grows physically, the range of his experiences increases. The increase in his experience contributes to the developments in cognitive, emotional, social and moral areas. Studies show that growth comes in cycles. The term ‘cycles’ means that physical growth does not occur at regular rate rather in periods or phases, sometimes rapidly and sometimes slowly. During the early childhood years, growth is slow. Height and weight increase at the lower rate during this period. During early childhood all the parts of the child’s body grow, but at different rates. During early childhood, the forehead area develops faster than the lower part of the face. This is due to rapid growth of the brain. The trunk grows longer and broader in the early years of childhood.

  • Armsgrow much longer between babyhood and age 6. Arms are thin and straight because the muscles grow at a very slow rate. Legs grow at a slower rate than the arms.
  • Teeth – most of the baby teeth have cut through the germs shortly after babyhood ends. The baby teeth will be fall between 5 and 7. The process of loosing baby teeth and replacing them with permanent teeth goes on until the child is 12 or 13 years.
  • Bones – bone development consists of growth in bore size, change in the number of bones, and change in their composition. Bone development is most rapid during the first years of life, then relatively slow up to the time of puberty and one again more rapid.
  • Muscles and Fat – Fatty tissues develop faster than muscle tissue during early childhood. Children who eat too much carbohydrates and too little protein will develop too many fat cells.
  • Nervous System – At birth brain weight is one-eighth of total weight, at 10 years, one-eighteenth, at 15 years, one-thirtieth, and a maturity one fortieth.


Sex Differences

  • At birth girls tend to be shorter than boys.
  • Boys are generally taller than girls at all ages except 10, 11 and 12 years as girls tend to reach puberty earlier.
  • Boys tend to be heavier than girl right through the first nine years. Between ten to fourteen years the girls have a tending to shoot ahead.

Factors Affecting Physical Development:

Heredity and environment are the two main factors that affect physical development. The environment factors include prenatal and birth conditions, socio-economic status, nutrition, physical exercises etc.

Physical development can be defined as the series of anatomic and physiologic changes taking place between the beginning of pre-natal life and senility.

  1. The child begins to assume the body proportions for an adult.
  2. Height: Generally after two and half years the child gains 2-2.5 inches every year up to 12 years. Approximately the height of male child becomes 45 inches and female 43 inches.
  3. Weight: There is steady increase in weight, average growth per year 5 to 6 pounds.
  4. Legs growth is rapid and represent about half of ones total height
  5. The head is slow in growth but the trunk grows a little faster.
  6. Towards puberty girls are a bit lighter and shorter.
  7. At this age muscle develops at rapid speed.


Motor development:

Motor development means the development of control over bodily movements through the co-ordinated activity of the nerve centres, the nerves and the muscles. Motor development is of greater significance for the total development of the child.

  • Good Health which is vital to the child’s development and happiness is partly dependent on exercise.
  • Emotional maturity: Once the child develops his motor skills adequately he starts participating in team games and sports and learn to control his emotions, show sportsmanship etc.
  • Independence: Motor development gives the child a sense of independence and with it a feeling of security since he can learn to tackle things on his own.
  • Self-Entertainment: Motor control enables children to engage in activities which give them enjoyment even in the absence of playmates.
  • Socialization: Good motor development contributes to the child’s acceptance and provides opportunities to learn social skills.
  • Self-Concept: Motor control leads to feelings of physical security, which are soon translated in to psychological security.

Gross and Finer Motor Skills: Motor skills can be roughly divided into two main types.

  • The gross muscular skills like jumping, hopping, running, lifting and climbing.
  • The finer muscular skills like drawing, painting and writing.

Importance of Motor Development

  1. Stimulates intellectual growth and creativity
  2. Encourages socialization, independence, and self-confidence.
  3. Promotes good mental health
  4. Strengthens self-concept


Factors Affecting Physical and Motor Development

  1. Heredity — determines the rate of growth and maturation, bone age, height etc.
  2. Nutrition – should be balanced and sufficient otherwise will lead to stunted growth, Kwashiorkor, rickets, marasmus obesity etc.
  3. Diseases – prolonged illness interferes with steady growth
  4. Child rearing practices- practice, stimulation
  5. Stress – affects hormonal secretions causing physical dwarfism.


For proper physical and motor development, the following factors need to be considered:

  • Importance of maturation
  • Importance of individual differences
  • Importance of adequate and balanced diet
  • Medical attention and immunization
  • Hygienic conditions
  • Provision of a rich environment
  • Encouragement of play and manipulation of objects.

Cognitive/mental Development

The mental development include the development of intellectual and mental capabilities like sensation, perception, concept formation, attention and interest, development of imagination, memory and problem solving ability and other mental abilities. The teacher’s duty is to assist the child in the development of his abilities. Development of these abilities is the aim of our education. Therefore, mental development means development of mental and intellectual capabilities, which help an individual to adjust his behaviour to the ever-changing environmental conditions or to complete a task that needs complex cognitive capabilities. Intellectual abilities are interrelated, so, the overall development of this abilities can only lead to the development of an individual.

Factors affecting mental development

    1. Hereditary or natural factors
    2. Environmental or natural factors
    3. Influence of family
    4. Neighbourhood influence
    5. Influence of school
    6. Teacher’s behaviour
    7. Method of teaching
    8. Curriculum:
    9. Extra-curricular activities


Areas of Mental Development

  • Sensation: Sensation is the elementary impression gathered through sense organ. The child’s response to a stimulus is influenced not only by the sensory stimulus but also by the effect of past experience. The sensory stimulus separated from the effect of past experience is called sensation.
  • Perception: If the sensory stimuli processed and interpreted by the brain such process is called perception. Perception can never take place in the absence of basic sensation. The sequence of events leading to perception. i.e., Sensation + Meaning = Perception.

Contribution of play to Cognitive Development: –

  • Permits children to practice their competencies in a relaxed and care free way
  • Helps to nurture curiosity object permanence, inner experimentation etc.
  • Helps children to develop additional cognitive and social skills
  • Helps in the resolution of conflicts and in the compensation of unsatisfied needs and the inversion of roles for example, obedience and authority.
  • Enables children to try out roles that other people play while encouraging them to think about the feelings of the individuals who actually live these roles. (Role Taking)

Factors Influencing Cognitive Development

  1. Biological factors — maturation of nervous system.
  2. Socio-cultural factors social interaction, educational factors/schooling, and cultural factors.
  3. Experiences in the physical environment- rich and poor environments, mental stimulation.


Social Development

Social development is the ability to adjust the individual to his present social circumstances and to behave in accordance with the wishes and desires of other people i.e., Social development is a process of development by which a child acquires the necessary attitudes, values and skills that makes him an acceptable member of the group, which he belongs. According to Crow and Crow social development as the acquisition of the ability to conform to group standard. In the words of Elizabeth Hurlock, Social development means the attaining of maturity in social setting. In defining social development, Sorenson has written, by social growth and development we mean the increasing ability to get along well with one and others. In short socialization is the process of the development of such qualities, which bring desirable changes in social behaviour of the child. It is the process whereby the biological individual is converted into a human person. An individual, mature from the social stand point, is one who co-operate with all those with whom he come into contact, and contradict them only when such a course of action becomes inevitable.

Characteristics of social development

  1. Early social response
  2. Response to other children
  3. Group activities
  4. Social perception
  5. Resistant behaviour
  6. Sympathy
  7. Fights and quarrels
  8. Cooperation
  9. Competition


Agents of Socialization

The following are the main agents of socialization.

The Family

Parents train their children in the following areas: eating, toilet training, sex modesty, dressing and tidiness, respect for adults and those in authority and cultural inhibitions. Children are trained through rewards and punishments and by imitation of role models. 

The school

Children learn how to relate to others formally and informally. The school imparts knowledge and skills and proper attitudes to pupils to help them fit in the society. The school also reinforces the values of the society. For example emphasizing cleanliness, co-operation, respect etc.

Peer groups

Children learn meaning of role, status and leadership from peers. The peer group also influences fashions, habits and trends. From the peer group, children acquire the following benefits:

  • It provides opportunity to practice leadership skills, which may enhances a child’s self-esteem necessary for a healthy personality development.
  • It teaches the child a variety of social skills such as cooperation and sharing.
  • It provides an emotional outlet and social emotional support when one is experiencing problems.
  • It provides opportunity for one to express himself among equals without fear of judgment or reprimands.

Social organizations

These include religious organizations, clubs, societies etc.

Mass media

Includes electronic and print media. Their role is to educate, inform and influence. The mass media can enhance prosocial behaviour, language and cognitive development. It can also introduce antisocial behaviour such as aggression and gender and racial stereotypes.

Importance of Play in Social Development

  1. The physical activity of play helps young children to develop and improve their mental skills.
  2. Imaginary and fantasy play is a step towards the development of abstract thinking.
  3. Play helps children to persevere and build attention skills.
  4. Play is important in social-emotional development.
  • Children use play to understand, express, share and control emotional experiences.
  • Allow children to get rid of aggression and to learn to control aggressive urges.
  • Through play children form their first friendships and build social skills.
  • Provide a fairly safe environment in which children can compare their own behaviours and skills with those of other children.
  1. Helps in muscular coordination and motor skill are refined.
  2. Increases self-confidence.
  3. Develops cognitive, social and emotional skills for example problem solving, language competence and interaction.
  4. Shows child’s inner needs and desires.
  5. Helps children to better understands themselves, others and events.
  6. Learns how to formulate, negotiate, argue and follow rules.
  7. Improves creativity imagination, and tolerance.
  8. Helps children to acquire new information and understanding.
  9. Learns how to listen to other’s views.
  10. Learns to communicate ideas and acquire more vocabularies.
  11. Resolve conflict- endurance, sympathy, and self-control, give and receive.
  12. Low impulsivity, low aggression, sharing, cooperation, independence, social maturity.

Factors Influencing Social Development

Personal factors

  • Physical factor: Healthy child have the strength to make him adjusted in the challenging social situations. He is able to mingle with people and maintain proper relationship.
  • Mental factor: Mental factor or intelligence is very essential for adjustment and sociability to the individual
  • Emotional factor: The person expresses his emotion in a proper way at a proper time, then he is able to possess a healthy social personality.


Environmental factors

  • Family
  • School
  • Peer group

Emotional Development

Emotional development’ refers to the emergence of emotions like anger, joy, delight, happiness, fear, anxiety and sorrow and the socially acceptable ways of expressing them. As the child grows up and becomes aware of acceptable ways of behaviour, a variety of emotions also emerge. As an infant he expresses only discomfort and delight. As he grows older expressions of joy, happiness, fear, anger and disappointment appear. He learns to express these emotions in a healthy manner. From the simple emotional states present at birth, new and more complex emotions develop. This development comes partly from maturing but mostly through learning. By the end of the first year, the baby feels fear, anger, jealousy, envy, curiosity, joy and affection.

Common Emotions

  • Affection: Anything that gives the young child pleasure a person, a pet or a toy becomes the object of the child’s affection.
  • Anger: Anger has a very bad influence on the personality of the individual and hence is called a negative emotion.
  • Curiosity: Things that are new and different may make children want to explore them. later, when children can ask questions, they add facts given the answers to what they learned from exploring.
  • Envy: The usual causes of envy in young children are the things other children own or can do.
  • Fear: Is a form of self-protecting flight from any dangerous situations. The child is frightened by loud noises, animals, strange persons, high places, darkness, loneliness, pain and falling down.
  • Grief: The loss of anything important to children a family member, a pet or a loved toy-makes them cry and they refuse to do what they usually do.
  • Jealousy: Jealousy is an attitude of resentment directed towards people. Whenever a parent or other adult shows more interest in, and gives more time and attention to another child, young children may resent it.
  • Joy: Anything that makes a young child feel satisfied and important, such as doing something well and winning praise for it, gives rise to an overall feeling of happiness known as joy.

Moral Development

The term moral is derived from the Latin word ‘Mores’ which means manners, custom or folkways. Thus an individual’s moral notions and concept are determined by laws, traditions, religious ideals, custom etc. Hence moral development considered as a part of social development as well as emotional development. Moral development refers to the development of moral concept and moral behaviour. Moral concepts start developing when the child learns what is good and what is bad, what are right and whatis wrong. The child categorizes any action that meets with his parent’s disapproval and invites their criticism as bad or wrong and all actions sanctioned and welcomed by the parents are accepted as good and correct. That is, punishment and the reward control the children’s right and wrong action. Moreover, the child’s moral development is dependent upon his emotional development. Hence moral development is a complex process in which the action and interaction of an individual and other people surrounding him is of great importance.


Language Development

A major feature that distinguishes the human being from animal is their ability to use vocal speech as a means of communication. Language is used throughout the human life span for communication; thinking; problem solving; creative activities and writing.  The child learns three forms of language namely spoken, written and gesture. The individual’s linguistic development is strongly influenced by the community, home, school, and the family’s social and economic status. Language acquisition significantly alters the child’s cognitive and social experiences and helps children to form a view of themselves. Towards the end of babyhood 2-3 years child begins to use words and forming sentences. At 4-5 years a child improves to form sentences considerably and is able to use grammar. After 5 he achieves comprehension of meanings of the words, builds up new vocabulary e.g. good, bad, this, that.

Language has several functions:

  • Communication of thoughts, desires, and needs to others.
  • Translation  of  experiences  into  symbols  so  that  one  is  able  to  remember  the experiences better.
  • Helps to increase understanding.
  • Social interaction.
  • Transmission of culture


Factors Influencing Language Development

  1. Social environment. The environment needs to be stimulating in terms of language acquisition. There should be suitable role models and regular use of language.
  2. Presence of adult speakers rather than other children.
  3. Cognitive development
  4. Maturation and other developmental factors such as hearing, mouth deformities etc.
  5. Bilinguals.
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