An Overview Of Childhood Development

Updated October 4, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Childhood development is defined as "the biological, psychological and emotional changes that occur in human beings between birth and the end of adolescence." The changes above are very important in any child's life and will greatly impact their success, or lack thereof, as an adult.

As children grow and develop, it is paramount for their parents or caregivers to take certain steps and ensure that their kids are receiving the necessary care so that they can develop fully. However, for adults to do this, they must first have a complete, thorough understanding of childhood development and all that it entails.

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An Overview Of Childhood Development

For better or worse, parents and caregivers play a wholly significant role in the growth and development of their children. Although childhood development follows a certain progressive pattern, not every child will grow at the same rate or pace. There are also many external and internal factors which can impact a child's development in both positive and negative regards.

There are a series of aspects of childhood development. The aspects above include physical growth, motor growth/development, intellectual/cognitive growth, social/emotional growth, and language development.

Physical Growth

Being one of the most readily apparent forms of development, physical growth involves the maturation of a child's height and weight. The size of the head will also increase in addition to the torso and limbs. Patterns and speed of physical growth can somewhat vary depending on the child, but in most cases, growth steadily progresses between birth and before puberty. Puberty kicks in between the ages of 10 and 13. Through puberty, physical growth and maturation increase considerably from the past, progressive years.

There are several factors which influence a child's physical maturation. Genetics and diet are two of the main elements which impact physical growth and other forms of maturation. This is why growing children are often encouraged and prompted to eat healthy foods. The quality of a child's health can greatly affect whether or not their physical development occurs at the normal rate.

Motor Growth/Development

As the name somewhat suggests, motor growth and development pertains to the movement of a child's legs, arms, and other limbs. Some examples of motor skills include crawling, walking, running, swimming, and moving other parts of the body such as hands, feet, fingers, and toes.

A child develops motor skills very gradually. For instance, very young children between six and eight months of age usually crawl using their hands and legs. Within the coming months, these children will then progress to walking while holding onto the hands of adults, before being comfortable and able to walk on their own. According to Baby Center, the average child begins walking independently between nine and seventeen months of age.

A child's nutrition heavily impacts motor growth and development. The maturation of various bones, limbs, and muscles furthermore influences the motor growth of children. Physical growth also impacts the development of various motor skills. Wikipedia affirms that slimmer children often crawl with greater ease than their heavier counterparts.

Intellectual/Cognitive Growth

The maturation of intellectual and cognitive capabilities regards memory, language, and problem-solving abilities. Like the forms above of development, intellectual and cognitive skills grow gradually. In most cases, the ability to distinguish live objects from inanimate ones begins during infantry. As infants turn into young children, their intellectual and cognitive skills develop, thus comes the capabilities of more extensive memories and increased the speed of internalizing information and learning.

Many factors play a role in the maturation of cognitive and intellectual development. Parental interactions, intake of food, exercise, everyday experiences, and amounts of received love and care greatly affect the preceding forms of growth.

Social/Emotional Growth

As the name suggests, social and emotional growth pertains to the innate development of various feelings and emotions. For instance, during the first months of an infant's life, he or she will mostly experience feelings of happiness, ire, or sadness. However, as the infant develops into a child, they will also experience fear, anxiety, and other more complicated emotions on top of the preceding, basic ones. Problems can arise when any emotion is felt too intensely or too often. In some cases, emotional disorders can form. If this occurs, parents should immediately seek out a professional diagnosis and treatment from a licensed doctor.

Experience and parenting styles can also impact the emotional and social development of children. For instance, young children who spend greater amounts of time with the adults in their lives are more likely to advance socially than their isolated counterparts. Furthermore, kids who can bond with their parents and siblings are likely to vary emotionally from children who grow up within environments of isolation, stress, and turmoil.

Language Development

Language entails the ability to communicate with other people via writing, sounds, and signs. For children to fully master language development skills, they must understand language sounds, pronunciations, speech comprehension, word formation, and the ability to communicate verbally and effectively.

Parents and caregivers can contribute to the language development of their children by reading to them. Cam Everlands Primary School moreover affirms that children who are read to by the adults in their life experience superior concentration skills, more advanced vocabulary/language skills, better academic performance, and maturation of empathy and the imagination.

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Theories Regarding Childhood Development

As explained by Very Well Mind, there are a series of theories revolving around childhood development. Many of the theories above observe the various elements of childhood growth and speculate about potential impactful factors of said development.

The Sigmund Freud Theory

For instance, Sigmund Freud's theory opines that subconscious desires and childhood experiences impact one's conduct and furthermore impacts their personality. Freud's theory also asserts that children who fail to develop in one area will likely develop a correlated fascination in their later life. Finally, the Sigmund Freud theory believes that an individual's personality is, in essence, fully developed by the time they reach five years of age.

The Erik Erikson Theory

While the Erikson theory has commonalities with Freud's theory, there are also notable contrasts. For instance, Erikson believes that various experiences and interactions with others are the main contributors to childhood development. He furthermore believes that at various stages of growth, children and adults face certain perils which become significant life milestones.

The Jean Piaget Cognitive Development Theory

The Piaget Cognitive Development Theory presents and explains various perceived stages of a child's intellectual maturation. The four stages above include the sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage, and the formal operational stage. According to the Piaget theory, the sensorimotor stage occurs between birth and age two. Throughout this time, infants are restricted to their limited motor skills and sensory consciousness.

Next comes the preoperational stage where infants become children who are beginning to understand language, yet have not developed enough to consider other people and comprehend certain information. The concrete operational stage, therefore, occurs between seven and eleven years of age. During this period, children's mental skills develop enough for them to practice logical thinking.

However, young people of the ages above are still believed to struggle with understanding hypotheticals and similar situations. Finally, in the formal operational stage, children are around twelve years of age and furthermore capable of understanding abstract notions, while gradually learning how to think logically and plan systemically.

A Final Word

There are countless theories surrounding childhood development and the underlying factors and elements of various stages of maturation. However, regardless of the theories, it is paramount for parents and caregivers to have a thorough understanding of childhood development and its aspects. Very young kids are extremely vulnerable and in need of love, support, and guidance. There are countless studies which affirm the merits of adults who spend time with children during their formative years and teach them information which will assist with the various stages of development.

Despite the importance of hands-on parenting during childhood development, the experience can still be challenging and difficult on many occasions. Sometimes, sitting down with a licensed counselor or therapist can make all the difference in the world and prove helpful.

Asking for Help

Unfortunately, many people still struggle with feeling comfortable enough to speak with a professional about occurrences in their lives. They could worry about being subconsciously judged or perceived as weak by other people. However, the strongest people are the ones who can ask for help when they know they need it or could benefit from it.

Here at BetterHelp, there is no judgment. Our only mission is to help you. Sometimes, this can be as simple as sitting down and having a conversation. In all honesty, it depends on each person. We are all experiencing different things in life, and we each have our own story. No matter what, it is highly important for you to know that BetterHelp will always be here to help.

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