Read this article to learn about the stages of development of an individual.
Stages of Development of an Individual # Introduction:
An individual develops and grows since conception, and passes through a number of stages until death. He is never static. He is continuously changing from the moment of conception to the time of death.
As Hollingsworth aptly said:
“The ultimate goal of development is death.” Development means qualitative change and not mere growth in size.
Normally growth and development proceed together, and that is presumably why Gesell does not make a distinction between the two. In his Infancy and Human Growth Gesell says “No effort will be made to maintain distinction between growth (dimensional augmentation) and development (differentiation).
Development, though continuous, comes in series of waves with whole segments of development re-occurring repetitively, (Bower). “Typically the pattern of human life is that of a bell-shaped curve, rising abruptly at the start, then flattening out to some extent during the middle years, only to decline slowly or abruptly toward the closing years of the life-span.”
“Development is always dynamic and never discontinuous. It is therefore impossible to separate one period of development sharply and completely from any other period of development. The foetal period is continuous with the neo-natal, the neo-natal with the pre-school period, and this in turn with the school period; pubescence, adolescence and adulthood.”
The goal of development is to achieve independence, and adaptation to the environment at the same time. This achievement of independence or maturity is des cribed as self-realisation or self-actualization. There are different methods of studying development and growth from early stages to maturity and old age.
Gesell mentions comparative methods, like developmental correspondence in twins, the method of observation, like keeping records or diaries, normative and clinical diagnosis approach, studying clinical deviations between age-levels, personality records and parental interviews, developmental supervision or longitudinal studies etc. Developmental diagnosis is highly important from the point of view of mental hygiene especially.
Though individuals are different, “yet each phase of development has characteristic patterns of behaviour, and hazards as well”. Accepting uniformity of behaviour, we may divide the lifespan into certain stages. The usual division is threefold – infancy, childhood and adolescence. Now-a-days, adulthood till death is also being added to these divisions. The division is necessary to make an in-depth study of the various age-groups, though one stage imperceptivity passes into the next stage.
Stages of Development of an Individual # Characteristics:
1. Age from Birth to Two Years:
The child begins his life as a very helpless creature, dependent for very existence on parents and elder members of the family. This has a biological significance. It has been found that animals who have longer period of infancy and dependence, can adjust better with the environment, as they get time to develop their brain, nervous system and intellect. This plasticity of the brain and nervous system is very important for the development of human physical and nervous structure. In case of animals the neuromuscular equipment is nearly ready to function at birth.
The emotions that show themselves during this period are love, anger and fear. According to Watson the original stimuli to fear are loud sound and loss of support, to anger, hampering the child’s freedom of movement, and to love, stroking and patting. These rudiments of emotions are shown in early infancy.
The main needs of the child during this period are those of love and security. The child feels secure in the love of mother. Want of love and security may create havocs in later life. Dr. Suttie points out in his Origins of Love and Hate that later social development of an individual lies in the love relationship between mother and child. Deprivation of love in infancy is the cause of many health hazards in later life.
Psychiatrists place great importance to this period of infancy and childhood. Want of love and security in this period may express itself more vehemently during adolescence. Hurlock says, “Childhood is the foundation period of life. This is the time when attitudes, habits and patterns of behaviour are established and when the personality is moulded.” Freud says that “the poorly adjusted adult is the product of unfavorable childhood experiences.” Freud looked upon this love relationship between mother and child as the beginning of the sex life of a person.
According to him, repressed love is the root of many diseases in later life. But this view has not been universally accepted. Dr. Hadfield emphasises the importance of love in infancy. According to him the feeling of deprivation of love and security is most important from the point of view of mental hygiene. It is pointed out that two mental diseases like claustrophobia or the fear of closed places and agoraphobia or the fear of open places are rooted in the feeling of deprivation of love and security in the beginning of life. The child’s clinging to mother is a primitive need.
“This gives the infant a sense of protection and security. Denied it, the infant suffers from ‘separation anxiety’ which may later take a neurotic form of a fear of leaving home, or agoraphobia, which is defined as fear of open space, but which in reality is a fear of loss of contact.”
So from the point of mental hygiene the importance of this period is immense. A child should be looked after with love and care. Though the child sleeps during the major period of the first three months of life, this is important for preparation of mental and physical development.
“Nothing that happens to him in later years is comparable in importance as far as his development is concerned, with what has happened to him before he ever comes to school.” It is of utmost importance that the child should be given the sense of protection, all forms of shock and fear be avoided, be saved from a life-long feeling of insecurity. Another important event in the life of child happens, when he learns to walk. Toddlerhood brings the first taste of independence to the child.
2. The Period of Two to Four Years of Early Infancy:
As the child learns to walk, the world becomes enlarged for him. “The child goes out to meet the world.” Curiosity is the main emotion at this period. Dr. Hadfield says that a two year old child is like a scientist who tries to explore and understand his surrounding, and a four year old child wants to know causes of things. “At the earlier age of two, he also asks questions, but then it is, “What is this?” and “What is that?” In other words, at the age of two he is a scientist, at the age of four he is a philosopher.”
It is a period of self-display and desire for attention. “The one-year old child frequently is at the very centre of the group. He shows significant tendency to repeat performances laughed at. He pleases himself thereby as much as he does his audience.” In later life this curiosity and exploration take specific form like scientific research. The child should be given plenty of material to explore.
3. Self-Will and Temper-Tantrums:
The age of two is the age of self-will. It is the age of tantrums. This outburst of temper should not be repressed by punishment, by crushing his assertiveness, or his strength of character will be ruined. It will develop into self-confidence. Self-will is the raw material of the will. So outlets for his self-will must be found, otherwise, if repressed, it may produce insecurity, anxiety and fear, and also regression.
The period is highly important for another reason. That is, this is the period for development of ego-consciousness. The ego develops through four phases, imitation, suggestibility, identification and formation of ego-ideal.
Imitation means taking over the role of parents and other adults in the neighbourhood. If the parent acts cruelly, he acts cruelly, if the parent acts kindly, he acts kindly. Suggestibility is partly conscious, and partly unconscious. The child unconsciously takes over the moods, feeling and ideas of those around him. He is not aware that he is taking over the ideals of others. In identification the child goes further.
He takes over the entire personality of the other person. He identifies himself fully with the characters in the story, or in his neighbourhood. Lastly, he develops his ego-ideal or the ethical standard of conduct. He forgets the father but keeps his ideal of courage, bravery or courtesy. He develops his conscience, and also a basis for conflict among his impulses and desire for the good. The parents should be careful of not putting much pressure on the child to adopt an ideal beyond the reach of the child.
4. The Period of 4 to 7 Years or Early Childhood:
The child is’ now developing his individuality. It is an age of individuality or ego-centric age. That is, he is more concerned with himself and not others. But he is not being altruistic.
According to Prof. Green the dreams of the child of this age are egoistic in nature, Piaget says:
“In the early years the child is very largely a naive egoist.”
Susan Isaacs also agrees .with the above view.
“When a number of such young children are brought together in a given space, but left free to play and more about as they wish, they do not at first constitute a group in the psychological sense. They behave simply as a number of independent persons; each is mainly concerned with his own immediate ends” and look upon other children as a means to serve.
Gesell sums up the qualities of the five year old as seriousness, purposefulness, patience, persistence, carefulness, generosity, outgoing, sociability, friendliness, poise, pride in accomplishment, pride in going to school, satisfaction in artistic productions, pride in possessions. The child’s play is also individualistic, though he plays with others. His muscular coordination increases and he acquires skills like running, hopping, skipping etc. These bring a sense of confidence in the child.
5. Late Childhood or the Period from 7 to 11 Years:
This is the period of socialisation. Hadfield describes this as the “primitive man” phase, as the child is in activities of primitive man like, camping, hiking, fishing, climbing trees, swimming, playing ‘Red Indians’, and ‘messing about in boats.’ Physiologically, this period is said to be the healthiest in life. He is full of life, has good appetite, and sleeps well.
There is the urge to collect, and to collect apparently useless things. Tagore says in his ‘Reminiscences’ how unhappy he used to feel if the family tailor forgot to add a pocket to his shirt. This sense of property should be developed and not thwarted to avoid mental aberrations in later life.
This is a phase of sociability, and qualities of leadership begin to emerge. They like to play organised games, and obey rules, and care more for the opinion of friends or teammates than more of parents.
There is a controversy regarding the development of social life and power of abstract reasoning. Piaget believes that social development increases and ego-centricism decreases, and the child of 8 or 9 years learn to accept other people’s opinion and point of view. As a result he is ready to think in abstract- and universal terms.
On the other hand, Susan Isaacs believes that intellectual development starts much earlier, and that rational thinking controls social development. Both views are correct, after all, both intellectual and social development go side by side, influencing one another. The age of eleven plus is often called the “gang age.” If not guided properly, there is the risk of mixing with undesirable elements, and become a delinquent child.
It is the period of transition from the status of childhood to that of an adult. It has more than one connotation. It can be looked as a social phenomena or as a biological fact, or as a subject for study from the point of view of the high school pupils. Stanley Hall’ looks upon adolescence as an abrupt event in the life of growing children, creating problems: “Adolescence is a new birth, for the higher and more completely human traits are now born. It is a marvelous new birth.” “Development is less gradual and more salutatory, suggestive of some ancient period of storm and stress when old moorings were broken and a higher level attained.”
Chronologically, adolescence actually refers to the age-group, say, between twelve to twenty, and more accurately to those who are physiologically old enough to have experienced puberty but not yet sufficiently mature to have developed the physical stability of adult life.
Physiologically, adolescence may be divided into three stages—pre-adolescence, adolescence and late adolescence, or pre-puberty, puberty or pubescence and adolescence. Puberty refers to the completion of the physiological changes that make one potentially capable of producing offspring.
It is difficult of find a proper measure of the onset of adolescence. Stanley Hall gave sudden emergence of physical changes as the criterion of adolescence. But it was not accepted by many. “There is a slow and steady maturation, perhaps slightly accelerated for a while, and eventually appearing, when we compare the child of 12 or younger with the youth or girl of 16 or more, in qualitative differences”—Burt. But the changes are so gradual that it is impossible to say whether, 11, 12, 13 or even later is the age when the characteristics or adolescence first emerge.
The onset of menses or menarche in girls and that of first pigmented hair in boys has been proposed by Crompton and others as the criterion of emergence of adolescence. An immense body of data is available on the average age of menarche of women of different races, climates, occupational classes etc. Maximum growth age has been put forward as the criterion by Dearborn and Rothney as based on the data of Harvard growth studies.
The average age of maximum growth for girls is found to be 12.7 years (for 747 cases) and 14. 8 years for boys (for 711 cases). In general, it is found that the maximum growth age period coincides with the advent of menarche in girls and pubescence in boys and probably it is one of the best available indication of impending adolescence. But these norms are based on averages and though the general tendency is to regress towards the mean, there are individual differences.
(1) Pre-pubertal acceleration in growth:
Puberty is preceded by a period of rapid growth, especially in height and weight.
(2) There are endocrine changes:
The gonads secrete sex hormones, and are able to influence the entire organism. Though sexual behaviour does not begin suddenly at about the time of puberty, which was present in childhood as well. Adolescence does not initiate but only intensifies sexual behaviour (Willoughby).
(3) There is increase in muscular strength:
It is often called the awkward age. Mead refers to the awkward gait of the Samoan girls. It may be related to sudden bodily changes.
(4) There is change in voice in both sexes, low in pitch and more resonant. In girls, however, the change is less pronounced. In boys, the larynx or “Adam’s apple” becomes noticeably enlarged, and the vocal cords within it increase greatly in length. It takes a year or more for this change to be completed.
During this period the voice may be noticeably harsh and discordant. Sometimes there are queer and unexpected shifts in pitch, when the voice without warning jumps from a deep bass to a husky squeak. Physical characteristics of this kind which do not involve the primary sex- organs—but which nevertheless differ for the two sexes.—are known as secondary sex characteristics.
(5) Motor control in the adolescent increases:
The awkwardness in public is not due to lack of motor skill but is due to self-consciousness and the resulting embarrassment.
The rate of intellectual growth and development is very rapid and highest during adolescence, followed by a period of gradual decrease. There is no significant relationship between physical and mental growth, and no significant difference between the sexes, though differences within the sexes are more pronounced. Individual differences and variability’s are maximum during adolescence, special aptitudes and interests are most likely to appear during this period.
Sex interests become stronger and more definitely patterned during adolescence than they are in childhood due to an increased secretion of sex- hormones which start during puberty.
The sex instinct and the emotion of love develop during this period in four phases, according to Hadfield:
(i) There is attachment to groups of same sex.
(ii) It is followed by attachment to individuals of the same sex, leading to deep friendship,
(iii) Then comes attachment to groups of opposite sex, known as the polygamous phase,
(iv) Lastly, there is attachment to individuals of the opposite sex, which again develops in two phases—first, there is a romantic stage, when love is non- sexual, and second, the stage of complete falling in love, which comes in later adolescent period.
The mental hygiene is that the whole personality should be developed. Sex instinct and emotion of love should go together. They were together in infancy, in the child’s sensuousness, need for protection and longing for security. Sexuality without love is not complete mental health, which, therefore, calls for sex-education in school.
Social and Emotional Development:
The most salient characteristics of adolescence are changes not so much in intellect or aptitude, as in character and temperament. Sometimes they suffer from a temperamental instability due to endocrine changes and sexual growth.
Self-assertion and submission—two contradictory characteristics—show in boys and girls, and they become a bundle of contradictions. Corresponding to self-assertion and submission develop two emotions—pride and humility, parents and teachers cannot expect at the stage the same degree of obedience or frank confidence as they hitherto received. They should be treated more as equals and as adults, though they are not yet ready for the full privileges of adult freedom and responsibility.
Curiosity, self-assertion and pugnacity lead them to experiment with life and explore the world. But their aggressiveness is only a passing phase. Side-by-side with self-assertive display of power and vanity there is often present a secret feeling of humility and a tendency to follow a lead rather than to take it. Sometimes he is shy and awkward, sometimes he is aggressive.
Growth of Idealism:
Along with the growing interest in himself, he is conscious of the changes in himself, and he becomes sensitive to criticism. He becomes very critical of his own achievements, and cares much for external standards. He has a feeling of incompleteness which again express itself in the form of sex-desire and idealism. Idealism takes many forms. He may be interested in art, religion and morality.
There is a desire to perfect oneself and elevate others. There may be social, and political idealism—a desire to reform the world, a philosophic desire to unify the world—an expression of the desire to unify oneself.
Satisfy their need for security—security in parental love, in the fundamentals of knowledge and skill, acceptance in one’s social world, i.e., acceptance and social recognition of one’s personality. Security in the assurance that one is progressing and not regressing. School excursions, debates, games and sports, youth clubs, friendship are necessary to satisfy the need for adventure—physical, social and intellectual.
Freedom and not repression should be the watchword. Freedom does not mean want of all restriction, but they want guidance and proper identification to save them from aberrations like delinquencies and other behaviour disorders.
Recently the psychologists are thinking over the problems of old age or senescence. By the grace of medical sciences, there has been an increase in longevity. The number of old people is increasing in an alarming rate. New sciences like gerontology and geriatrics have come into operation. The term is derived from the Greek word ‘geron’ meaning old age, and ‘logy’ meaning the science.
Geriatrics is the area of medical practice concerned, with the diseases of old age, just as pediatrics deals with the health of infants and children. The objective is to find causes of old age diseases like senile dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and other deadly diseases and to keep the senior citizens healthy and happy as far as possible till death. However, death is inevitable, and with age all the faculties, physical and mental, will decay slowly and slowly. The period of decline gives rise to a defensive strategy of folding on to life.
As Havinghurst says:
‘he finds life is slipping through his fingers.’ However, there are exceptions as well, like George Bernard Shaw (1856- 1950) who wrote several plays in his nineties, Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) who, even at 98, ‘retained to the end his lucidity, independence of mind, and humour’, and Nirod C. Choudhury, at his nineties, produced thought- provoking articles.
This calls for research into cases who maintain vigour throughout. However, the senior citizens require accepting the inevitable destiny, and preparing to retire finally, leaving the heritage to the younger generation—with love and affection.