Child development is a general term that takes into account all areas of a child's growth, including physical, intellectual, emotional, moral, social, psychological, and sensory and motor development.
All children develop at different rates in different areas, and the growth ofa child is a complex process of becoming older, bigger, and more accomplished. A child may lag behind his peers in physical development, for instance, but function at above average in intellectual or emotional growth. How quicklya child develops physically, mentally and emotionally depends on many things,including economic, social, genetic, and environmental factors.
Physical growth is a continuous process, and occurs at varying rates within discrete stages: infancy (from birth to 3 years), followed by the preschool period (from 3 to 6); early childhood from age 6 to 9, and later childhood from9 to 12. These periods are followed by early and late adolescence.
Psychologically, an infant grows from total emotional dependence on mother (or a primary caregiver) to an awareness of the self as a separate individual.From this point, the child develops an increasingly more complex range of emotions and a mastery of basic intellectual concepts.
While children develop at various rates, there are some guidelines established as the study of child development progressed during the late 1800s and early 1900s, based on observations of children under controlled conditions.
Medical and child development experts have established some basic milestonesof normal development, beginning with infancy when a baby normally will smileat 6 weeks, roll over onto his back at 9 or 10 weeks, raise his head and shoulders from a face-down position at 4 to 6 months, and sit unsupported at 6 months. At 8 months, a normal baby will say simple, two-syllable words such as"Dada," and try to feed himself with a spoon. He'll rise to a sitting position at 9 months, and, at 12 months he'll understand simple commands and be able to stand unsupported for a few seconds. A normal baby will walk unaided andmake a three-brick-high tower at 18 months, achieve bowel control at 20 months, and stay dry during the day by 2 years. He'll talk in simple sentences at3 years, stay dry during the night at 3 and a half, and be able to dress andundress himself at 4 years. At 5 years, he'll be able to hop, skip, and drawa stick figure.
In this way, a child's psychological development is linked to his physical growth and his ability to interact with others in his environment. Guidelines are only suggestions, not hard-and-fast rules; there is no cause for concern if a child's development does not strictly conform to established guidelines.However, a professional probably should be consulted if a child appears to fall short in all areas, or if development in one or more areas is far behind what is considered normal.