11 Characteristics of Development

  1. Development is a life-long process, spanning from conception till death.

  2. Developmental changes are often systematic, progressive and orderly. They usually follow a pattern, proceeding from general to specific, and from simple to complex and integrated levels of functioning.

  3. Development is multi-directional, i.e. some areas may show a sharp increase while other areas may show a decline. Developmental changes usually involve an increase in maturity towards higher levels of functioning, e.g. increase in vocabulary’s size and complexity. But it may also involve a decrease or loss, such as in bone density or memory in old age.

  4. Moreover the rate of growth and development is not always constant. ‘Plateaus’ are often seen in the pattern of development, indicating periods of no apparent improvement.

  5. Developmental changes can be quantitative, e.g. increase in height with age, or qualitative, e.g. formation of moral values.

  6. Development is both continuous as well as discontinuous process. Some changes may occur very rapidly and be overtly visible, such as appearance of the first tooth, while some changes may not be sharp enough to be observed easily in day-to-day functioning, such as understanding of grammar.

  7. Developmental changes are relatively stable. The temporary changes due to weather, fatigue or other chance factors will not qualify as development.

  8. Developmental changes are multi-dimensional and inter-related. They may happen together in many areas at a time, or can occur one at a time. During adolescence there are rapid changes in the body as well as in emotional, social and cognitive functioning.

  9. Development is highly plastic or flexible. This means that the same person may suddenly show greater improvement in a particular area than expected from the past rate of development. An enriched environment can produce unexpected changes in the physical strength, or in memory and intelligence levels.

  10. Development is contextual. It is influenced by historical, environmental and socio-cultural factors. The loss of a parent, an accident, a war, an earthquake and child-rearing customs are examples of factors which may influence development.

  11. There are considerable individual differences in the rate or tempo of developmental changes. These differences could be due to hereditary factors or environmental influences. Some children can be very precocious for their age, while some children show developmental delays. For example, though an average child begins to speak 3 word sentences around 3 years of age, there will be some children who have mastered this much before 2 years, while there will be some who are not able to speak full sentences even by 4 years. Moreover, there will be some children who are not able to speak even beyond the upper limit of the range.