“Growth” and “development” are not the same. Growth means specific observable physical changes taking place in a child throughout most of his life due to increase in both the quantity and size of the existing body cells. These include increase in height, weight, head circumference, body shape, and shoe size as well as the length of the arms & legs. Development, on the other hand, is progressively evolutionary process of advancement from simplicity to complexity, along a defined path, marked by increased intelligence, knowledge, behavior and skill-sets. The growth and development cycle gauges the actual developmental progress using two frameworks, namely; developmental domains and developmental milestones.
Developmental Domains refer to those areas or aspects of a child’s normal development. Such as:
i. Physical Development - Is a purely natural & individualistic process (Gottlieb, 2004) that brings physical changes in the child’s body shape and size, increases his muscle strengths, coordinates vision & motor control and ensures neurological-muscular alignment to gain bladder and bowel control. It can’t be accelerated using adult pressure, which, if forcibly used, can harm the child’s future growth and development.
ii. Motor Development – Refers to development of control over various body parts, facilitated by overall brain development through sensory inputs, and a healthy nervous system. For example, acquisition of gross motor skills like walking, running etc. & fine motor skills like grasping, throwing etc.
iii. Perceptual Development ─ Addresses child’s usage of his senses to receive, organize, prioritize and respond to information that he is exposed to. For example, the child might refuse to eat if the food does not smell good.
iv. Cognitive Development ─ Deals with development of mental abilities such as intelligence to recognize, process, and organize information to use it appropriately (Charlesworth, 2007) through skills like discovering, analyzing, sorting, classifying, and remembering.
v. Language Development ─ Involves a system of verbal, written, gestural & non-verbal signs and symbols developed to communicate, such as sounds like crying, shouting & laughing.
vi. Social & Emotional Development ─ Presents a broad description of children’s feelings about themselves & their relationships with others (Lane, Stanton-Chapman, & Jamison, 2007; Turner & Brown, 2007) including attachments to family, teachers, caretakers & friends, awareness of gender roles and societal expectations.
Like domains, developmental milestones, are also important age-specific developmental landmarks of the child, achieved as part of growth. They reveal the particular developmental domain the child is into, thus, assuring about the normalcy of his developmental progress. Some of these commonly visible milestones are:
a. Social Smile – The first social smile appears within the first 10-12 weeks indicating medically acceptable developmental progress.
b. First Words – Like social smile, the first words start coming out after 12 months, with the observable progression from cooing and babbling sounds to jabbering and syllable production, deemed more important than the number of words spoken.
c. Sitting, Walking & Talking ─ Child initially starts to walk with support, as hands and legs muscles develop. Later on, with greater muscle coordination achieved by 18 months, the child starts walking well. Similarly, talking starts with cooing and babbling sounds, which slowly take the form of jabbering and syllable pronunciation.
Finally, growth & development can also cease to be normal, in the form of atypical development, marked by a condition called developmental deviation, where flaws in an aspect of development cause its deviation from normally expected typical development. Being born blind or deaf is an example of such developmental deviation, having the following three causes:
1. Poor Health & Nutrition deprives children of essential nutrition required in early childhood, causing lack of nourishment causing improper development or deficient development that translates into developmental deviation of some sort.
2. Injury caused in early childhood to the child or in some cases even to the mother during her pregnancy can increase risk of developmental deficiency in a newborn.
3. Genetic defects running in either of the parents as chromosomal anomalies risk the unborn to such erroneous growth and development.
Allen K., & Marotz L. (2010). Developmental Profiles: Pre-birth Through Twelve (6th ed.). Principles of Growth and Development (pp. 24-42). Belmont. Cengage Learning.
What Puts a Child at Risk For Developmental Delay? (2009). mychildwithoutlimits.org. Retrieved from http://www.mychildwithoutlimits.org/?page=developmental-delay-risk-factors