Child development refers to the biological and psychological changes that occur in human beings between conception and the end of adolescence, as the individual progresses from dependency to increasing autonomy. Related terms include "developmental psychology", referring to development throughout the lifespan and "pediatrics", the branch of medicine relating to the care of children. Developmental change may occur as a result of genetically-controlled processes known as maturation, or as a result of environmental factors and learning, but most commonly involves an interaction between the two. Age-related development terms are: newborn (ages 0–1 month); infant (ages 1 month – 1 year); toddler (ages 1–3 years); preschooler (ages 4–6 years); school-aged child (ages 6–11 years); adolescent (ages 11–18) (Kail, 2006). However, organizations like Zero to Three and the World Association for Infant Mental Health use the term infant as a broad category, including children from birth to age 3, a logical decision considering that the Latin derivation of the word infant refers to those who have no speech, and speech is generally well-established by 3 years. The optimal development of children is considered vital to society and so it is important to understand the social, cognitive, emotional, and educational development of children. Increased research and interest in this field has resulted in new theories and strategies, with specific regard to practice that promotes development within the school system. In addition there are also some theories that seek to describe a sequence of states that comprise child development.
Child development stages:
Milestones are changes in specific physical and mental abilities (such as walking and understanding language) that mark the end of one developmental period and the beginning of another. For stage theories, milestones indicate a stage transition. Studies of the accomplishment of many developmental tasks have established typical chronological ages associated with developmental milestones. However, there is considerable variation in the achievement of milestones, even between children with developmental trajectories within the normal range. Some milestones are more variable than others; for example, receptive speech indicators do not show much variation among children with normal hearing, but expressive speech milestones can be quite variable.
A common concern in child development is developmental delay involving a delay in an age-specific ability for important developmental milestones. Prevention of and early intervention in developmental delay are significant topics in the study of child development. Developmental delays should be diagnosed by comparison with characteristic variability of a milestone, not with respect to average age at achievement. An example of a milestone would be eye-hand coordination, which includes a child's increasing ability to manipulate objects in a coordinated manner. Increased knowledge of age-specific milestones allows parents and others to keep track of appropriate development.
Scott Wardell has a Masters Degree in School Counseling and a Specialist Degree in School Administration. He has twenty-eight years of counseling and educational experience. Scott is a Past President of the Minnesota Association of Middle Level Educators. He’s a father of three children and has personally experienced the challenges that comes with parenting and helping children succeed.