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Introducing Let's Talk Health, an initiative from Apollo Hospitals, where our endeavor is to share knowledge which you can use to keep yourself and your family fit & healthy.

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in Health & Happiness

Understanding the development process in humans – Part 1

Development- Part1

Various classic developmental theorists like Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget and newer theorists like Urie Bronfenbrenner and Lev Vygotsky have made major contributions to our understanding of childhood developmental stages. Jean Piaget has asserted that human intelligence develops through interaction with one’s world. Children are able to create their own cognitive (intellectual) concepts by constantly exploring and interacting with their expanding environment. In the process, they re-define reality, based on their experiences. Erikson’s theories help us to understand that a child’s actions can be predicted from observing his/her environment in which he/she is living. A supportive, thoughtful, gentle and consistent environment generally leads to a happy, energetic, affectionate and cooperative child, whereas a negative, harsh, rough environment generally leads to a sad, rough, aggressive child.

Though each child develops at his/her own pace, yet according to Erikson, each stage must be fairly well established before the next stage can begin.

  • Birth to two years
    Stage 1: ‘Trust vs. Mistrust’ – The infant develops trust or mistrust through his/her early experiences, which in turn, determines his/her attitude in the following years, either one of optimism or pessimism. Baby understands that activities have consequences – He/she understands that some activities bring hugs, kisses while others bring frowns, scolding and even isolation. Babies prefer those activities that bring them the former and shun those which bring them the latter.
    Stage 2: ‘Autonomy vs. Doubt, Shame’ – Lots of physical and emotional developments take place like:

    • Muscle strength and coordination – It leads the baby to learn new adventures and demands, like walking and toilet training
    • Memory establishment – A consistent caregiver and firmly established daily schedule help the infant to remember and anticipate a pattern of activities upon which he/she can depend
    • Language development – An infant learns to speak through babbling and imitating sounds. He/she discovers that words can have an effect on others


    • A constant caregiver to protect him/her from injury and to provide support

    Warning signs:

    • Motor delay (delay in rolling over, sitting, crawling/bottom shuffling, walking)
    • Lack of communication intent (not waving bye-bye, no babbling, no finger pointing)
    • Not responding to adults (hearing, speech disorder, autistic spectrum disorder)
    • Poor eye contact/visual behaviour, looks vacant
    • Dull affect/frozen watchfulness
  • Year two

    • The psychosocial personality of the baby starts forming with the development and integration of the above accomplishments
    • Feelings of value and autonomy are established from self-confidence established through pride in his/her new abilities
    • Impulse control learning starts and toddler learns how to change his/her actions to gain attention and affection


    • A consistent supportive caregiver to guide and encourage the toddler, as otherwise this will lead the toddler to failure, which in turn will lead to self-doubt, shame and despair.

    Warning signs:

    • No single word
    • Toe walking
    • Food aversion/rejection
    • Poor communication/eye contact/ finger pointing
  • Year three
    • Enjoys his/her increasing strength, agility and body control
    • Starts to have an increasing vocabulary and memory which helps him/her to understand predict and cooperate with his/her expanding world
    • Starts enjoying a growing imagination
    • Ability to separate from one’s parents starts at this phase as the child starts preschool/day-care


    • Loving support and protection.

    Warning signs:

    • No two worded sentence
    • Problem behaviour,/li>
    • Odd behaviours
  • Years four and five:
    ‘Initiative vs. Guilt’ stage:

    • The pre-schooler starts investigating new activities with very little or no regard for consequences, resulting in disappointment, pain and disapproval
    • Fear of the new world develops
    • Developmental regressions along with nightmares are quite common now
    • Prepares for kindergarten and later school years
    • By age five, he/she accepts reality as it is, as a result of experience and gives up the fantasy of ‘make-believe’ world
    • Becomes ‘egocentric’ and starts believing that peers should ‘do’ whatever he/she does
    • Starts learning to be a better playmate


    • Patience, love and understanding
    • Reward child’s efforts to modify his/her behaviour
    • Evaluation of child’s emotional well-being

    Warning signs:

    • Sensory and language deficits
    • No sharing
    • Poor concentration/attention
    • Always on the go
  • Year Six
    ‘Industry vs. Inferiority’ stage:

    • Self-confidence
    • Greater cooperation
    • Greater ability to express thoughts and ideas
    • Able to manage a daily routine away from home
    • Maintain appropriate behaviour
    • Make new friends
    • Be able to accept and return affection


    • Allow the child to be free to try out new ideas, see how they work and explain his/her


    • Family support and encouragement
    • Support from friends and teachers
    • Evaluation of physical, health, environmental and support system of the child
    • Close monitoring of children’s achievements

    Warning signs:

    • Feelings of insecurity and inferiority
    • Persistence of separation anxiety
    • Proneness to accidents
    • Health problems

If a child fails to master the developmental tasks at one stage, he/she will be unable to complete the subsequent stages successfully.

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