Development is the process of creating growth, progress or positive change. It involves physical, economic, environmental, social and demographic components to meet people’s needs for a better quality of life.
A person’s development begins at birth. Infants experience their world through their fundamental senses (seeing, hearing, touching, and tasting) as well as through mental imagery. They also learn to use language and begin to understand abstract concepts such as time, space and emotions.
The developmental process continues throughout childhood and adolescence, when children acquire the ability to think systematically, reason about abstract concepts, and develop an understanding of ethics and scientific reasoning. Adolescents can make informed decisions and develop healthy relationships with others.
Various theories exist about how human development occurs. Some, such as cognitive theorists, behaviorists and information processing theorists, believe that development is a gradual, continuous process. This view is often referred to as meta-developmental.
Other theorists, who endorse lifespan or ecological systems approaches, believe that human development is multiply determined and always shaped by both biological and environmental factors. They also believe that development is embedded in societal and cultural contexts.
Normative history-graded influences shape people’s development. Typically, these influence their experiences at certain ages or in specific historical periods. Non-normative influences, such as immigration, accidents, or the death of a parent, can also impact development.