In this article we will discuss about the growth and development in a child.
General-Nature of Growth and Development:
We often use ‘growth’ and ‘development’ interchangeably, as synonymous terms. In the strictest sense of the word, ‘growth’ is different from ‘development’. In this strict sense ‘growth’ means an increase in size. When we say that a body or any of its parts has “grown”, it means that it has become larger and heavier.
Thus increase in size height, length and weight which can be measured, contributes ‘growth’. Development, in the strict sense of the word, implies change in shape, form or structure resulting in improved working or functioning. Improved functioning implies certain qualitative changes leading to maturity. For example, ‘arms’ do not grow larger but they also develop because they improve in their functions. Increase in size and structure of arms enables the human individual to use them for more complex functions which were not possible earlier.
There are many thinkers who give a wider connotation to the term growth. One of them is Gesell. According to him growth carries a more dynamic connotation which organically ties the present with past and directs it towards the future; it places an emphasis on the total economy of the individual. Thus, in a wider sense, growth and development can be used synonymously.
Causes of Development:
Development is the result of the interaction between maturation and learning. According to Hurlock, by maturation is meant the development or unfolding of traits potentially present in the individual, because of his hereditary endowment from his parents and other ancestors. It is not directly dependent on the child’s experience, but is stimulated and influenced to some degree by the different environmental factors with which he comes in contact.
Thus maturation is the inner growth process unaffected by training. Most of prenatal development takes place because of this process. Before a child develops the ability to walk, the muscles of his legs must reach a certain degree of maturity. Once he has reached this maturity, he starts walking, as it were all of a sudden. Similarly, the mouth and larger muscles mature before the child starts speaking.
Another factor that causes growth is ‘learning’. Learning implies exercise and experience on the individual’s part, the child’s own activities. Learning may result from practice or mere repetition of an act which, in time, may bring about a change in the individual’s behaviour, or it may result from training which is nothing but a selective, directed and purposive type of activity. ‘Learning’ is responsible for ‘walking’ in a particular manner — an indication of the development.
It must be noted that maturation and learning are closely related: one influences or retards the other. Traits potentially present will not develop to their maximum without effort (learning). No amount of effort or exercise on the individual’s part or no amount of training will be adequate to bring up a trait to a desired standard if the trait is limited in its potentialities.
Thus, maturation, in the words of Hurlock, provides the raw material for learning and determines to a large extent the more general patterns and sequences of the individual’s behaviour. This is not, however to minimise the importance of learning or environmental influences on the growth or development.
Characteristics or Principles of Growth and Development:
The process of development has been studied experimentally and otherwise. The studies and researches have highlighted certain significant facts or principles underlying this process.
These are as follows:
(i) Development follows a pattern:
Development follows a pattern peculiar of the species Development occurs in orderly manner and follows a certain sequence. For example, the human body cuts his molars before his incisors, can stand before he walks and can draw, a circle before he can draw a square. In physical development one can see the cephalocaudal sequence in the prenatal life of the human child.
This means that control of the body as well as improvements in the structure itself develops first in the head and progresses later to parts further from the bread. The cephalocaudal sequence may be illustrated by the development of motor functions. When the baby is placed in a prone position, he can lift his head by his neck before he can do to by lifting his chest. The control of muscles of the trunk precedes that of the muscles of the arms and legs.
Even the specific phases of development such as motor, social and play follows a pattern also. Group play activity follows the self-centered play activity. The child is interested in himself first before he can develop interest in other children. He babbles before he talks, he is dependent on others before he achieves dependence on self.
(ii) Development proceeds from general to specific responses:
It moves from a generalised to localised behaviour. This can be observed in the behaviour of infants and young children. This new-born infant moves his whole body at one time instead of moving only one part of it. The baby waves his arms in general and makes random movements before he is capable of such a specific response as reaching out for a specific object.
He makes random kicking with his legs before he can co-ordinate the leg muscles well enough to crawl or to walk. When given an unpleasant stimulus on any part of the body i.e. a pinprick he reacts with the entire body before he learns to restrict the movement to the particular part of the body which is stimulated. In the emotional field, the baby first responds to all strange objects with a general fear. Gradually, his fear becomes specific. He reaches out for the object as a whole before he can hold its specific parts.
(iii) Development is a continuous process:
Development does not occur in spurts. Although, it is suggested that there are definite developmental stages such as ‘gang age’ or ‘adolescence’, yet it is a fact that growth continues from the moments of conception until the individuals reaches maturity. It takes place at a slow regular pace rather than by ‘leaps and bounds’. Development of both physical and mental traits continues gradually until these traits reach their maximum growth.
For example, speech does not come over-night. It has gradually developed from the cries and other sounds made by the baby at birth. The first teeth seem to appear suddenly, but they start developing as early as the fifth fetal month: they cut through the gums about five months after birth. There may be a break in the continuity of growth due to illness, starvation or malnutrition or other environmental factors or some abnormal conditions in the child life.
(iv) Although development is continuous process, yet the tempo of growth is not even:
There are periods of accelerated growth and periods of accelerated growth. During infancy and the early preschool years, growth moves swiftly. Later on it slackens Growth from three to six is rapid but not so rapid as form birth to three years. In early adolescence it is again rapid as compared to the period covering eight to twelve years.
(v) 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. For example, the brain attains its mature size around the age of six to eight years. It gains much in organisation after that. The feet, hands and nose reach their maximum devolvement early in adolescence.
This can explain the awkwardness, clumsiness and self-consciousness characteristic of this period. Similarly, creative imagination develops rapidly during childhood; it seems to reach its peak during youth. Reasoning develops at a relatively slower rate. Rote memory and memory for concrete objects and facts develop more quickly than memory for abstract and theoretical materials.
General intelligence reaches its peak, in most cases, about the age of 16 years. Children probably learn more new things in the first five years of life than in all the rest of their lives. Adolescence is marked by the most rapid development of the genital systems and of certain definite social interests and emotional capacities which is not so in other stage of development.
(vi) Most traits are correlated in development:
Generally it is seen that the child whose intellectual development is above average is; o in health size, sociability and special aptitudes. Mental defectives tend to be smaller in stature than the normal child. Idiots and imbeciles are often the smallest of the feebleminded group. There is a correlation between high intelligence and sexual maturity.
(vii) Growth is complex. All of its aspects are closely inter-related:
“It is impossible to understand the physical child without understanding him at the same time as a child who thinks and has feeling.” His mental development is intimately related to his physical growth and its needs. Again, there is a close relationship between his total adjustment to school and his emotions, his physical health and his intellectual adequacy. An emotional disturbance may contribute to difficulties in eating or sleeping. A physical defect may be responsible for the development certain attitudes and social adjustments.
(viii) Growth is a product of the interaction both heredity and environment:
Neither heredity alone, nor the mere environment is the potent factor in the development of an individual. But it is not possible to indicate exactly in what proportion heredity and environment contribute to the development of an individual.
The two work hand in hand from the very conceptions. The environment bears upon the new organism from the beginning. Among the environmental factors, one can mention nutrition, climate, the conditions in the home, the type of social organisation in which individual move and live, the roles they have to play and other.
(ix) Each child grows in his own unique way: There are wide individual difference:
How much and how little individuals vary one from another has not yet been discovered as definitely as the fact that they do differ. It is definitely indicated in various studies that the differences in physical structure are less than the differences in intellectual capacity. Similarly, it has been found out, that personality differences are far more marked than either physical or intellectual differences. Differences in special aptitudes seem to be the most marked of all.
Individual differences are caused by differences in hereditary endowment and environmental influences. Among the environmental influences, the most important factors are food, climate health conditions, opportunities for learning, motivation to learn, social relationships, codes of behaviour set up by the social group to which the individual belongs, and the strength of social approval or disapproval.
Individual differences in rate of development remain constant. For example, a child may be slow in learning in early childhood. It is wrong to presume that he will catch up with the average. Evidence shows that the rate of growth is consistent and those who grow rapidly at first will continue to do so and those who develop slowly in early years will continue to do so, in later years. This observation is not applicable when the growth has been regarded by some condition which may be remedied, if the treatment is given in time.
(x) 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. Breckenridge and Vincent have given a nice example to illustrate this principle. The baby’s digestive tract not only grows in size, but also changes in structure, permitting digestion of more complex foods and increasing its efficiency in converting foods into simpler forms which the body can use.
The younger the child, the simpler the emotions. With growth, there is an increase of experiences and these produce more and more complex emotional reactions to more and more complicated situations.
(xi) Development is predictable:
We have seen that the rate of development for each child is fairly constant. The consequence is that 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. But it may be noted that all types of development, particularly mental development, cannot be predicted with the same degree of accuracy. It is more easily predictable for children whose mental development falls within the normal range rather than for those whose mental development shows marked deviation from the average.
(xii) Principle of spiral versus linear arrangement:
The child doesn’t proceed straightly on the path of development with a constant or steady pace. Actually he makes advancement, during a particular period but takes rest in the next following period to consolidate his development. In advancing further, therefore, he turns back and then makes forward again like a spiral.
Developmental psychologists have also observed that each developmental phase has certain traits characteristic if it, that it has certain undesirable forms of behaviour which are usually found at that age and which are outgrown as the individual passes into the next stage, and that every individual normally passes through each stage of development.
Jersild, while writing about the principles of development, remarks that one feature of the growing ability is its spontaneous use and wholeheartedness. As a child’s capacities for doing, thinking and feeling mature he has an impulse to put them to use, and he often does it wholeheartedly. This is described by Jersild as ‘Indigenous motivation’. Another feature of human development is its struggle. The process of growth involves conflicting impulses and demands.
The child struggles against these in his striving toward maturity. The process of development is also characterised by anticipation, in that it is also geared to the needs of the future, by the capacity for self-repair by the developmental revision of habits, by the persistence of archaic behaviour trends and by its quality of ‘becoming’ its dynamic rather static nature, made so by the changes that occur in the individual at every step.
Development is affected by many factors. Some of these factors play a more important role than others. These factors are intelligence, sex, glands of internal secretion, nutrition, fresh air and sunlight, injuries, accidents and diseases, position in the family, psychological conditions in the family matrix, social roles and cultural demands. These factors affect different phases of development at different stages in varying degrees.
Educational Implications of Principles of Growth and Development:
1. Education is not only a process and a product of growing, it means growing. It aims at the fullest possible realisation of all the potentialities of children. This implies that teachers and parents must know what children are capable of and what potentialities they possess. Equipped with this knowledge they should provide suitable opportunities and favourable environmental facilities which are conducive to the maximum growth of children. Apart from these opportunities, it is necessary that their attitudes are helpful, encouraging and sympathetic.
2. School programmes, procedures and practices should be adjusted to the growth and maturational levels of children, bearing in mind the individual variations in rates of growth. Since various aspects of growth are interrelated, parents and teachers should pay attention to all aspects.
Good physical growth, for example, through the provision of play, games and sports, is conducive to effective intellectual development, malnutrition has been found to be an important factor that retards development: hence, teachers and parents should cooperate in cultivating among pupils habits of balanced eating.
3. The principles of development have highlighted the importance of “individual differences” from one child to the other and from one stage to another. This fact justifies the provision of diversified courses for the development of specific talents, abilities and interests and a rich and varied programme of co-curricular activities. Similarly, the curricular activities should be based on the needs and interests of various stages of growth i.e., childhood, boyhood or later childhood, pre-adolescence and adolescence.
4. Each stage of growth has its possibilities and limitations. This implies that teachers and parents should not demand of pupils or children what is beyond their stage of growth. If they do so, they will only cause frustrations, heighten tension and nervousness in children. For example, it is wrong to expect a primary school child to appreciate abstract concepts and theories.
5. The inter-relatedness of growth’ demands presentation of knowledge in an interrelated manner and its integration with action. Since each child grows in his own unique way, it is but opposite that parents and teachers should treat each child as a unique individual and provide for this special needs and interests.