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Stages of Human Development

Stages of Human Development

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Published by: newbienurse on Nov 25, 2009
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Normal growth and development
encompasses all of the changes that occur from the momentconception takes place until a child reaches adulthood. For most of pregnancy, an embryo or fetus isunable to survive outside the mother’s body. At birth, infants have many organ systems functioning,such as the cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive systems, but cannot survive on their own.Throughout childhood, enormous physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioural changes occur asbabies go from being dependent on their parents for all of their needs to becoming independentadolescents, capable of functioning alone and reproducing themselves.A child’s growth and development can be divided into the following stages: prenatal, infancy, earlychildhood, middle childhood and adolescence.To support healthy growth and development throughout childhood and in later years, proper nutrition,adequate rest and physical activity are essential.However, among the most important things parents and other caring adults can do as children grow anddevelop is to provide them with plenty of attention and unconditional support at every stage of their development.Normal growth and development encompasses all of the changes that occur from the momentconception takes place until a child passes through adolescence and reaches adulthood. Throughoutthis timeframe, vast physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioural changes occur as babies grow andgradually learn to process and interact with their environment.Most children develop at similar stages, reaching similar milestones within a few months of each other.It is normal for healthy children to grow and develop at their own pace. However, parents should notifytheir child’s physician if a child displays signs of possible developmental delays while growing up. Thesecan include, but are not limited to failure to thrive, not being able to walk by age 18 months or not beingable to read by age eight.To promote health and development from the start, pregnant women should receive prenatal care.Research suggests that women who see an
(a physician who specializes inthe female reproductive system and childbirth) regularly during pregnancy have healthier babies, areless likely to deliver prematurely, and are less likely to have other serious problems related topregnancy.Following birth, all the stages of childhood development can be monitored when children receive regular checkups with a physician, preferably a paediatrician. Regular contact with a paediatrician can also helpmonitor a child’s development and note any problem areas. Children should have regular well-childvisits, during which the paediatrician can ask the parents if the child has met certain milestones for eachstage of development.To support healthy growth and development throughout childhood proper nutrition, adequate rest andphysical activity are essential. Play is another important component of childhood development. It canhelp spur a child’s emotional, cognitive and social/motor development. Through various play activities,children can learn basic concepts and ideas, communication and socialization techniques, and physicalskills.
In addition, among the most important things parents and other caring adults can do as children growand develop is to provide them with attention and unconditional support at every stage of their development.Each part of a child’s life involves large changes in development. Each stage has particular developmental milestones associated with it.
1. Prenatal development
encompasses the 40 weeks of pregnancy. After conception, a zygote formsthat rapidly changes into a blastocyte, embryo and finally a fetus. Every week of a woman’s pregnancy,the developing infant undergoes great changes as the body forms and takes shape. During the firstthree months (trimester) of pregnancy, the most dramatic changes occur. A ball of cells divides intothree different types of tissue, which eventually divide to form the different body parts and organsystems. By the end of the first trimester, the fetus has the general appearance of a baby, with head,arms, legs and functioning organ systems.Many problems that eventually become birth defects begin with malformations in the first trimester. For example, neural tube defects occur when the spinal cord fails to close properly. It may cause spinabifida or other more severe birth defects. Some abnormalities that occur are so severe that thepregnancy cannot be sustained and a miscarriage occurs. Other birth defects are the results of geneticdefects, such as Down syndrome or muscular dystrophy. The mother’s actions during pregnancy mayalso affect the fetus, especially if she smokes, drinks alcohol or uses recreational drugs. Some birthdefects can be identified and repaired in infancy.During the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, most development is related to growth, weight gainand the outer appearance of the fetus. Some problems during these later parts of pregnancy may resultin premature birth. Babies born before full term may be healthy, but may also be at increased risk for problems such as respiratory trouble, cerebral palsy and developmental delays. Even premature infantsborn with no apparent problems will develop more slowly than their full-term counterparts. Whengauging an infant’s milestones, parents should measure from the baby’s actual due date. For example,a child born one month prematurely should not be expected to meet six-month-old milestones until he or she is at least seven months old.The milestones of development during pregnancy are well defined. A woman’s obstetrician can monitor her progress throughout her pregnancy and can usually tell when certain milestones of weight or growthare not being met. Various prenatal tests may identify and rule out certain genetic problems.
2. Infancy development
covers the period from birth to 12 months of age. During this stage, a baby willexperience rapid changes, including physical growth and brain development. For example, the babybegins to breathe at birth, developing the respiratory system. The cardiac system has functioned duringprenatal development, but changes occur in the heart after birth so that blood is oxygenated andtransported throughout the body. Other than regular growth, physical changes include the fusing of thebones in the baby’s skull and the eruption of teeth in the first year.An infant’s brain also grows rapidly, as does the neural connections inside the brain. In the first year,infants develop greater acuity in their senses and begin to understand and use methods of communication like crying. From early on they recognize speech, especially their parents, andeventually can understand the meanings of some words, long before they can speak coherently. Babiescan speak a few words by their first birthday. They also begin to recognize that things continue to existeven if they are out of sight.Infants also learn about social connections in their first year. They respond to their parents and other caregivers and learn to prefer their presence. They learn to smile, play and interact with others. Byabout the age of eight months, infants may develop separation anxiety when they are separated fromtheir parents or primary caregivers.In addition to physical development of organs, babies have huge developmental changes in their motor skills, cognitive abilities and psychosocial connections during the first year of life. At birth, an infant haslittle control over its body parts. By the first birthday, infants can lift and control their heads and movetheir arms and legs. They can usually coordinate their limbs enough to roll over, crawl and pullthemselves up. Some babies can walk at this stage, and those that cannot begin to do so in the nextfew months.
3. Early childhood development
encompasses the period when children are from one to four yearsold. Huge changes also take place during this stage, as children change from tiny, dependent infants tochildren who can walk, talk and begin formal learning. Many of the changes associated with this stageinvolve movement (walking) and communication (talking). Most children learn to walk early in their second year of life. At such a time, greater vigilance is needed to care for them because they have theability to reach more dangerous objects, but not the understanding to avoid them.
Communication also grows rapidly in early childhood. Children learn to speak in sentences andunderstand what is being said to them. The vocabulary grows to about 1,500 words by age four, andchildren learn some complexities of speech, such as the use of pronouns or the past tense. Likewise,they may use their newfound abilities to test their boundaries in the home. Toddlers learn to say “no”and may refuse to obey their parents or caregivers. Temper tantrums may begin during this period. Aschildren grow toward school age, the likelihood of temper tantrums lessens.Children also learn to control their bodies during this stage. Most children begin toilet trainingsomewhere before or near their third birthdays. The range differs for each child, but girls can usually betoilet trained earlier than boys. Almost all children have complete bowel and bladder control by the timethey reach school age, although some children may have bedwetting problems.Developmental delays and other problems may become more obvious during early childhood. Learningdisabilities may become noticeable if a child does not take an interest in learning and getting ready toread. Other developmental disorders such as Asperger’s syndrome and autism may also becomeevident if children have problems with communication, social interaction and behaviour. Monitoring achild’s development can help parents identify problems early and begin treating them early.
4.Middle childhood
is the developmental period when children are ages five to 10 years old. Duringthese years, children are more independent and physically active than they were during early childhooddevelopment. Physical changes mostly relate to growth in height and weight. Loss of primary teeth andthe growth of permanent teeth also occur in these years.Formal education begins during these years and cognitive development continues with greater inputsfrom reading and learning. The fine motor skills improve in most children with a better ability to write.Learning problems that may not have been identified earlier may become more apparent in thesemiddle childhood years. These include dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).Muscular strength, eye-hand coordination and stamina continue to progress rapidly, allowing older children the ability to perform more complex tasks, such as riding a bicycle, dancing and playing sportsor musical instruments.
5. Adolescence
is the last major developmental stage from childhood to adulthood. It ranges from age11 to 21. It is generally a time of self-discovery in which young people aim to define their place in theworld.The first part of adolescence encompasses the physical changes associated with puberty, or sexualmaturation. Children’s bodies begin to produce more hormones and physical changes occur. In bothboys and girls, more hair grows on the body, including pubic hair, and for boys, hair on the face. For boys, hormonal changes also mean growth of the sexual organs, greater frequency of erections and theability to ejaculate semen from the penis. For girls, breast tissue grows, the hips widen and the monthlyblood loss of menstruation begins. After menstruation begins (menarche), a young woman is physicallycapable of becoming pregnant.The hormonal changes in both sexes are accompanied by greater sexual interest in other people.Teenagers may begin sexual behaviour during this time, which may expose them to the potential for unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. The physical maturity may not be matched bya similar emotional maturity to handle such changes.Many psychosocial changes are associated with adolescence. Teenagers may feel like they are adultsbut are not being treated as adults by their parents. Mood swings and emotional outbursts are common.They frequently test parental boundaries with risk-taking behaviours or general insolence. Someteenage rebellion is a normal part of growth. However, behaviours with serious consequences such asuse of recreational drugs or alcohol and sexual recklessness can be a cause for concern. The emotionalchanges may be more serious for some teens, with thoughts of suicide or the potential for depression.Social changes in adolescence include greater activity and influences of peer groups.In later adolescence, most overt physical changes have been completed. Girls typically finish growingby about age 16 and boys by about age 18. Physical changes that occur after this time may be thesame as in any adult, related to nutrition and exercise. Good foundations about a healthy diet andregular exercise help teens at this stage to maintain healthy bodies.During adolescent development, children complete
puberty and physical growth. They also developimportant social, emotional and intellectual skills, while striving towards independence.

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