After reading this article you will learn about the process of development and changes of behaviour in an individual.
1. Development proceeds in an orderly manner. This enables us to predict the pattern of development. For example, most of us cut our teeth before the first year; started walk by the end of the first year; the boys grow moustaches around 16 or 17 years and probably beards.
2. At the same time there are also differences among people. Some groups of people and some individuals show these changes at a slower or faster rate than others.
3. Development of behaviour proceeds from generality to specificity. For example, in the case of emotional behaviour the child shows a general excitement whenever it is emotionally aroused. Its whole body displays this excitement. But as it grows older, this becomes very specific. Similarly, a child starts using words as functional (though incomplete) sentences.
4. While behaviour becomes more and more specific, at the same time there is also what is called ‘generalisation of behaviour’. A child likes a specific sweet and not another. But, as one grows older, one forms general attitudes and reactions and either likes or dislikes sweets.
We develop likes and dislikes not for individual objects or events but for a whole category of objects or events. Thus, some people become vegetarians or non-vegetarians due to interaction with others or even experiences of eating good or bad food of either type. Thus, we find both generalisation and discrimination being displayed in adult behaviour.
5. As a child develops, its behaviour increasingly shares common characteristics with others while at the same time showing the emergence of unique characteristics. A young child gradually becomes more like “other boys’, and at the same time shows differences.
6. Development is influenced by a number of factors. Some of them are in the organism and others in the environment. Some arise as a result of interaction between the organism and the environment.
7. While the above characteristics’ describe the normal developmental processes, there are also instances where individuals show deviation from this pattern. In some people the process of development goes at a much faster rate, in some people at a much slower rate and in some people it stops at a particular point and does not proceed further. Thus, we can have fast development, slow development and arrested development. These deviations are also caused by the same factors which basically influence the developmental processes. Sometimes these deviations are changeable and on other occasions they are not.
8. The developmental process does not proceed at a uniform rate. Developmental changes are very fast during the childhood period, then slow down and again assume a faster rate during the ages 12 to 17 and again finally slow down. The most important developmental changes occur during childhood, especially the first five to six years of life.
Thus, the childhood years are very important from the point of view of development. This point has been stressed by psychologists especially in explaining the abnormalities of development. In fact, the general agreement is that most forms of abnormal behaviour result from defective development during the childhood years.