Human life starts from a single fertilized cell. This cell is under constant interaction with the environment in the mother’s womb and after birth with the outside world. This interaction leads to the Growth and Development of the child. The increasing of an organ or limb of the baby, in size and weight is Growth. Division of each cell and their growing into thousands in number, or their changing tissues, blood or bone, is part of the process of Development.

The primary purpose of studying the growth and development of children is to understand them better. As a teacher or a parent, you, can manage children more effectively if you are aware of how they grow and develop in a systematic manner right from the moment of conception. An orderly pattern is found in the growth of every organ of the body and area of development.


Growth and development are similar words but different from each other though it is not possible to separate them totally. It is a whole process which includes growth of the body as well as growth of various aspects of child’s personality, e.g., the physical, emotional, social and cognitive development.

Development is a progressive change the child undergoes which increases the physical, social, mental and emotional capacities of the child.

Comparisons between Development and Growth:

Development Growth
A progressive series of changes that occur as a result of maturation and learning Structural and physiological changes
functional change structural change
overall changes particular
Qualitative quantitative
direct measurement difficult possible
progressive changes changes both progressive and retrogressive
continuous process possible without growth E.g. Intellectual functions in abstract thinking may or may not bring development E.g. increase in brain weight

Principles of Development:

Growth and Development do not take place in a haphazard manner. They tend to follow certain principles underlie certain process of development, which can be observed in all human being.

Crow and Crow says; ‘Growth refers to structural and physiological change, while development refers to growth as well as those changes in behaviour, which result from environmental stimulation’.

The following are the important principles of Development.

  • Development is a continues process: Development does not stop at any time. It continues from the moment of conception until the individual reaches maturity. It takes place at a slow or a rapid rate but at a regular pace rather than by leaps and bounds.
  • Development follows a pattern: Development occurs in orderly manner and follows a certain sequence which, in general is the same for most children. Each stage of development leads to the next. For instance, all children first learn to sit up without support before they stand. Similarly, they learn to draw a circle before attempting to draw a square.
  • Development proceeds from general to specific responses: In studying the development pattern of children, it is observed that general activity always precedes specific activity. The early responses of the baby are very general in nature which is gradually replaced with specific ones.
  • Development involves change: Development involves a progressive series of changes. The human being is never static.
  • Development is a product of interaction of the heredity and environment: Child at any stage of his growth and development is a joint products of both heredity and environment. Among, the environmental factors like nutrition, climate, the conditions in the home, the type of social organisation in which individual move and live, the roles they have to play and other.
  • Principle of uniqueness: Development is individualized process. Although the pattern of development is similar for all children, they follow the pattern at their own rate.
  • The Principle of Interaction of Maturation and Learning: It occurs as a result of both maturation and learning. Maturation refers to changes in a developed organism due to the unfolding ripening of abilities, characteristics, traits and potentialities present at birth. Learning denotes the changes in behaviour due to training and or experiences.
  • Development is often predictable: Development psychologists have observed that each developmental phase has certain common traits and characteristics. We have seen that the rate of development for each child is fairly constant.

Factors affecting Development:

Heredity Factors:

Play their part at the time of conception in the mother’s womb. What is transferred to the offspring from its immediate parents in the form of genes, chromosomes at this time constitute the heredity contribution. This is the real starting point and basis for all the growth and development that take place later in the life of the child.

The height, weight, colour of the eyes and the skin, the characteristics of the hair are all decided by these hereditary influences. The physical structure, nervous system and other things related to one’s constitutional makeup, body chemistry and physical development are decided by hereditary factors.


During childhood, under-nutrition causes children to have less energy and less interest for learning, which negatively influences cognitive development and academic performance. Under-nutrition will also affect physical growth and maturation, thus affecting growth rate, body weight and ultimately height.

Psycho-social Maturity:

Emotional factors such as emotional adjustability and maturity play a big role in influencing a person’s overall growth and development. Socially immature child will have social adjustment problem. He will fail in doing serious mental activities. Ultimately, he may spoil his physical and mental health.


The intelligence is the ability to learn, adjust and take a significant role at right time in the overall growth and development of a child.

It affects his social behaviour, moral adjustment and emotional growth.

An intelligent person is said to have a reasonable control over his emotions and is found to carry on well his personal and social adjustments.

Thus the physical, social, emotional, moral and language development of a child is greatly influenced and controlled by the level of his intelligence.

Diseases and Injury:

Whatever a child gets from different conditions and forms of his environment after his birth which influences his growth and development in many ways. Like any accident and incident in life.


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