Human development is essentially a lifelong process of behavioral, physical, socio-emotional, and cognitive growth and change. During the early life stages- from the babyhood/infancy to childhood, childhood to puberty, and puberty to adulthood- massive changes take place. It is worth mentioning that all through the process; every individual develops values as well as attitudes, which guide relationships, choices, and understanding. Nonetheless, the developing human being comes across various challenges including cognitive, biological, and socio-emotional challenges at every stage of development. Thus, this paper centers on the biological, cognitive, and socio-emotional challenges, which a developing human being comes across at each development stage starting from the first (pre-natal) to the last (late adulthood) stage.
- Pre-natal (conception to birth)
Pre-natal stage is a developmental stage that occurs between conception and birth period. The period is further divided into the germinal stage, embryonic stage, and lastly fetal stage. Although the womb offers safety, the fetus remains not directly connected to the outside world by its mother (Sugarman, 2004). Therefore, there are some challenges that a developing human being comes across during the pre-natal stage. One of the biological challenges that a human being encounters in this developmental stage is genetic disorders. Some disorders seem to be transmitted by the operation of recessive and dominant genes. For instance, the genes located on the autosomes cause autosomal disorders and those that are located on the X chromosomes cause sex-linked disorders in the fetus. The disorders result into abnormalities in the fetus.
In addition, the mothers that have a habit of smoking as well as using alcohol and both OTC as well as recreational drugs like narcotics, and cocaine, among others by the mother during the pregnancy present a number of challenges to an individual during the pre-natal developmental stage. For instance, mothers that drink heavily in pregnancy might give birth to newborns with fetal alcohol syndrome. What’s more, the unborn babies may have mental retardation and intellectual disability that are cognitive challenges. In addition, such babies may have small head size that is a biological challenge.
- Infancy (birth to 24 months)
Infancy stage is a developmental stage that occurs between birth and 2 years in an individual. During this stage of developing, an individual encounters a number of challenges. One of the biological challenges that and individual comes across is inability to meet new movement goals. Therefore, during this stage, a seven months infant becomes unable to roll as well as move objects from one hand to the other. By one year, an infant becomes incapable of crawling or moving from one position to the other.
In terms of socio-emotional challenges, one challenge that a person encounters during the infancy challenge is inability to develop self-control, as well as emotional regulation. A child experiences difficulty in building his/her emotional abilities, which leads to difficulties when recognizing, processing, as well as expressing feelings.
One of the cognitive challenges that an infant encounters during infancy is inability to grow verbal abilities since cognitive processes are essentially exhibited by the changes in a person’s thoughts, language, and intelligence.
- Early childhood (infancy- 6yrs old)
The biological challenge that individuals encounter in the early childhood stage is high risk of disease attacks. The child at this stage is very active and plays with different things that exposure him/her to pathogens that are harmful to his/her growth.
The cognitive challenge that a developing human being encounters in this stage is the inability to understand the process of learning. At this stage, the child begins to attend pre-school where the mental skills are molded. This stage is important in enhancing creativity and decision making of the child, but this may not always be the case as the relevant material may not be available to facilitate the development of the mental skills.
Coping up with a new social demand in the learning environment is the socio-emotional challenge at this developmental stage. A child previously used to relate to her parents most of the time, however, at this stage the child associates with the fellow children and teachers in the pre-school environment. Such a new environment may be either favorable or unfavorable for the child to construct a good social relation.
- Middle and late child hood (6-11years old)
At the middle and late childhood stage, the child is increasing in height and weight rapidly. The challenge is that the child is unable to realize the changes in their sexual makeup. This realization causes emotional disturbances that might affect their growth as they try to cope with the changes.
The cognitive challenge that a child encounters at this stage is inability to meet academic demands. This stage is a schooling period and the child is required to learn a lot of academic stuffs. The number of subjects being taught increase in school, and this puts pressure for the child.
The socio-emotional challenge that an individual faces at this stage is neglect from friends. The children at this stage try to look exactly like their friends and this at times becomes difficult if they do not earn that social acceptance.
- Adolescence (11-22 years old )
At the adolescence stage, the challenge is coping with the sexual hormones. The person develops mood swings that affect their relationships with their parents, siblings and at school.
The cognitive challenge that the adolescents face is making erroneous judgment on issues around them. At this stage of development, the adolescents tend to operate with abstract ideas that may mislead them. In order for the adolescent to discover the reality, they have to go through success and failure process of learning.
The socio-emotional challenge at this stage of development is the need for recognition and identity. The adolescents will behave in a manner that distinguishes them with their friends and thus affecting the way they socialize in the social arena.
- Early adulthood (22-39 years old)
The social challenge that young adult encounter in their development is rejection when it comes to the formation of intimate relationship. When an individual is in the early adulthood developmental stage, it becomes necessary for them to form an intimate relationship. The challenge arises when they are rejected. Rejected individuals live in isolation and loneliness.
The cognitive challenge of early adult is brain disorders that persist from adolescent. In these stages, this disorder becomes more problematic as the individual is expected to manage on his own. At this developmental stage, there is no one to remind a person what to do hence the early adult suffers from hyperactivity disorder (Sankaran, 2008).
The Biological challenge that occurs at this stage is an increase in weight. As a young adult increase in their body weight, they might become obese hence this increases the chances of them being exposed to diseases that are associated with obesity example high blood pressure (Crespi, 2005).
- middle adulthood (40-60 years old)
The major social emotional challenge that arises at this developmental stage is parenthood. At this stage, most individuals are parents to teenagers. When their children engage in unaccepted behavior, the parent who is in the middle developmental stage is affected greatly physiologically as they see themselves as a failure who never brought up their children well. They may be socially isolated as other individual will view their children as a bad influence (Sankaran, 2008).
The biological challenge associated with this developmental stage is there is a gradual decline in fertility, and this one is very common in women. Most of the women have a negative reaction to this menopause and see as if they have lost their fertility hence it is a challenge since they may be socially affected (Crespi,200).
The cognitive challenge in this stage is that most individual start to have prolonged recovery from muscular strain. The sensing ability becomes diminished hence they may have problems associated with memory. They are likely to forget a thing more than in their prime years.
- Late adulthood (60-death)
The biological challenge in the final stage of life is that the body defense mechanism becomes weak. Individual at this stage of life is more vulnerable to diseases than early stages of life. Most individual at this stage is sick (Crespi, 2005).
The social, emotional challenge of this stage is that most elderly are isolated by the young members of society. The older members are taken to elderly homes where they are left to associate by themselves. It is a challenge since the individual in this stage no longer enjoys social privileges they used hence to feel that they are rejected.
The cognitive challenge that arises is that the individual at this stage has memory loss. They are not able to remember things that happened a few days before. This challenge of memory loss affects them social as they are not able to connect well with individual of other developmental stages.
Crespi, E. J., & Denver, R. J. (2005). Ancient origins of human developmental plasticity. American Journal of Human Biology, 17(1), 44-54.
Sankaran, V. G., Menne, T. F., Xu, J., Akie, T. E., Lettre, G., Van Handel, B. & Orkin, S. H. (2008). Human fetal hemoglobin expression is regulated by the developmental stage-specific repressor BCL11A. Science, 322(5909), 1839-1842.
Span, Y. L. (2002). Life-span Development. Contemporary Psychology: An Introduction, 78.
Sugarman, L. (2004). Life-span development. Routledge.