Development is Continuous
The fact that development is continuous emphasizes the point that each stage of development has its foundations built upon a preceding stage and has a definite influence on the succeeding stage of development. Emergence of each type of behavior or development is dependent on the development that has occurred before. Similarly, how a child develops in the early years will determine the future development. A classic example to illustrate this is the malnutrition prevalent among children of 0-6 years. Inadequate diet and lack of protection in the early years not only affect physical development but also retard mental development in the later years. These damages have long lasting effects and are difficult to repair in later stages of life.
Development is Sequential
The rate and speed of development may vary in individual cases, but the sequence of the pattern is the same. A child from a disadvantaged home and a child from an affluent home, both follow the same pattern of development, although the latter may develop at a faster rate due to the facilities available at home.
One of the sequential patterns of development relate to the two directions in which development proceeds. Firstly, development proceeds from the upper portions of the body toward the lower portions. This is referred to as “head to toe” sequence. This means that improvements in the structure and function in a child’s body come first in the head region, then in the trunk and last in the leg region. This growth pattern helps to explain why children sit before they can stand and crawl before they can walk.
Secondly, development proceeds from the centre line of the body outward towards the distances or peripheral parts referred to as “near to far” sequence. Hence, in a foetus, the head and the trunk are fairly well developed before the rudimentary limb buds appear, gradually the arm buds lengthen and then develop into hands and fingers. This growth pattern explains, for instance, why children in the early years are more adept at controlling larger muscles than the whole limbs. They are unable to control finer muscles that are required for the manipulation of tiny objects with fingers.
Development Proceed from Generals to Specific Responses
In studying the development pattern of children, it is observed that general activity always precedes specific activity. The early responses of the baby are very general in nature which are gradually replaced with specific ones. The earliest emotional responses of the new born are generally diffused excitement and this slowly gives way to specific emotional patterns of anger, joy, fear, etc. Babies wave their arms in general, random movements before they are capable of such specific responses as reaching for an object held before them.
Development Proceeds at Different Rates
Although the process of development is continuous for both the mental and physical spheres, the rate of development varies for different areas. As children grow, each area of development proceeds at its own rate and reaches its maturity in its own time period. For example, the heart, liver and digestive organs grow slowly in childhood, but rapidly during the early years of adolescence. Memory for concrete facts and objects develops more quickly than memory for abstract and theoretical material.
The Child Develops as a Unified Whole
To understand the child much better, we must view development as something which happens to the whole child. Whether the child is learning a task at school, or playing in the park, we must recognise that it is the total child who is involved. Yes, physical, cognitive, emotional and moral development are different aspects of development , but they are not water-tight compartments. These areas have been delineated (outlined) for the convenience of our analysis and study. Each aspect is dependent on others and in turn influences the others. All the aspects are integrated and interrelated. Problems in one area of development could lead to delays in other areas of development also. For example, children who suffer from severe mental retardation differ from other children not only in their mental abilities, but also their physical growth and social-emotional development.