The Rate and Sequence of Development in Children and Adolescents From Birth to Age 19 Years.
Human development begins at conception and continues right through to adolescence after which the young adult emerges.
In order to inform best practice when working with children it’s important to understand the development of children and young people and some key concepts that affect it.
Areas of Development
Children’s development is often thought of in four areas:
Physical – This concerns the development of motor functions Cognitive – This is the development of a child’s ability to perceive and understand the world around them. It includes skills involved in memory, abstract thought, learning and understanding Social and Emotional – Social and emotional development centers around the child’s perception of their own identity and their place in society. It concerns their relationships and attachments, self-image, gender and psychosexual development and ideas around morality Communication – The child acquires skills in language and non-verbal communication
Again, these areas of development are linked. The child’s cognitive ability will affect his acquisition of language skills. His ability to communicate will influence his social interaction, which in turn will affect his moral development.
Each development follows on from the last and a deficiency in one area may lead to problems arising in the child’s development across a wide range of skills.
Rate of Development
It is important to realise that although development occurs in a common order, the rates at which a child develops can vary. This can influence the approach that must be taken when working with children as we must take into account each individual’s stage of development and adapt our approach accordingly.
The rate of development is influenced by many factors both genetic and environmental. For example, a baby will commonly begin to smile socially at around 6 weeks old. However, if the child is not talked to or smiled at during the first few weeks after birth they may not smile socially until much later while a baby who experiences lots of positive communication in those early weeks may smile sooner than 6 weeks.
Development in children is closely linked to their brain development.
At birth a baby will have almost all of the brain cells or Neurons that they will develop throughout life. Brain function develops as the Neurons create links between one another called synapses. At 2-3 years old children have almost twice as many synapses as they will have in adulthood.
Throughout a child’s development their Neurons develop a fatty coating that enables the cells to function more efficiently and speeds up signal transmission through the synapses.
The more a synapse is used the stronger it becomes and the developing child’s environment is essential for this strengthening process, providing the stimuli required to develop strong synapses.
During late childhood and adolescence the brain undergoes a process called ‘pruning’ whereby it rids itself of excess synaptic connections and reorganises itself to become more efficient. This process can cause a temporary reduction in certain skills in adolescents, particularly those requiring reasoning and social communication.
Stages of Development
In order to understand development in children we commonly break it down into 5 stages. These are:
Infancy – Birth to 1 year old
Early Years – 1 to 3 years old
Childhood – 4 to 7 years old
Puberty – 8 – 12 years old
Adolescence – 12 – 19 years old.
The stages are not fixed at the ages given but rather serve as a guide for the development of the ‘average’ child. This allows professionals to gauge whether a child is making appropriate developmental progress and decide whether interventions are necessary.
Developmental stages can also be talked about in terms of ‘milestones’. These are the ages at which we would...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document