Child development is a term used to explain the varying aspects of development from birth through to adulthood which are traditionally measured against milestones as to when these should occur. Over the years studies of development have associated chronological age with the achievement of milestones. However there can be considerable variation in the achievement of milestones, even between children with developmental trajectories within the normal range.
A common concern in child development is developmental delay involving a delay in an age specific ability for milestones. . Prevention of early intervention in developmental delay has been well researched and knowledge of age specific milestones is said to provide parents and professionals an effective way to monitor this.
The main aspects of development are physical growth, speech, cognitive / intellectual development, social, emotional and behavioural development. In an area such as growth genetic factors can play a major role in determining the rate, proportion characteristic of early development. However genetic factors can produce the maximum growth only if environmental conditions are adequate. Poor nutrition and ill health can affect / interrupt a child / young person’s physique, but the best environment cannot cause growth to a greater degree than hereditary factors. Individual differences in height and weight during childhood can be considerable. Some of these differences are due to family genetics, others to environmental factors, but they may also be influenced by individual differences in reproductive maturation.
The same can be said for a child / young person’s development of communication, cognitive, social, emotional and behavioural abilities. Whilst there are defined milestones which are used to monitor development these can be affected by a variety of factors such as environmental, cultural, social and health (disability / learning needs).
The development of motor skills involves genetics to determine the physical size of body parts at a given age, as well as aspects of muscle and bone strength. Nutrition and exercise also play a part in the development of strength and therefore the ease and accuracy with which a body part can move. An example of cultural difference which may affect the development rate of motor skills could be where a child is taught to use the left hand only for sanitary purposes and the right hand for all other uses. This said Atypical motor development can be an indication of disability such as autism or cerebral palsy. However skilled voluntary movement develops as a result of practice and learning so if a young child is constantly strapped in a push chair and not given the opportunity and encouragement to learn to walk this will significantly impact on the development of motor skills and of them meeting their expected milestones.
As noted above whilst there is said to be a ‘normal’ pattern of child development which is monitored by sequence and age there are reasons why this pattern may be interrupted which include not only personal factors but also external factors such as poverty, neglect, drug and alcohol misuse during pregnancy and lack of educational opportunities to name but a few. The impact of these can be poor attachment resulting in low confidence and self esteem preventing a child to believe in them and ultimately underachieve. There is considerable research evidencing that children born into poverty are unlikely to meet their milestones due to issues such as poor diet, lack of attendance at health appointments, chaotic / neglectful home environments.
Within child development there are various theories of differing views such as maturation, noting that development occurs in orderly stages and sequence affected by individual rate of maturation. Cognitive theorists support active learning through varying stages of life. Behavioural