Human Development Class 11 Psychology Notes


  • When we think of development, invariably we think of physical changes
  • From conception until the moment of death, we not only change physically, but we also change in the way we think, use language, and develop social relationships.
  • Changes are not confined to any one area of a person’s life; they occur in the person in an integrated manner.
  • Development is the pattern of progressive, orderly, and predictable changes that begin at conception and continue throughout life.
  • Development mostly involves changes — both growth and decline, as observed during old age.
  • Development is influenced by an interplay of biological, cognitive, and socio-emotional processes.
  • The role of cognitive processes in development relate to mental activities associated with the processes of knowing, perception, attention, problem solving, etc.
  • Socio-emotional processes that influence development refer to changes in an individual’s interactions with other people, changes in emotions, and in personality.
  • These processes influence changes in the development of the individual as a whole throughout the human

Life-Span Perspective on Development

  • Development is lifelong, i.e. it takes place across all age groups starting from onception to old age.
  • It includes both gains and losses, which interact in dynamic (change in one aspect goes with changes in others) ways throughout the life-span.
  • The various processes of human development, i.e. biological, cognitive, and socio-emotional are interwoven in the development of a person throughout the life-span.
  • Development is multi-directional.the experiences of adults may make them wiser and guide their decisions. with an increase in age, one’s performance is likely to decrease on tasks requiring speed, such as running.
  • Development is highly plastic, i.e. within person, modifiability is found in psychological development, though
    plasticity varies among individuals. This means skills and abilities can be improved or developed throughout the life-span.
  • Development is influenced by historical conditions. the experiences of 20-year olds who lived through the
    freedom struggle in India would be very different from the experiences of 20 year olds of today.
  • Development is the concern of a number of disciplines.
  • An individual responds and acts on contexts, which include what was inherited, the physical environment, social, historical, and cultural contexts.


  • We inherit genetic codes from our parents, which are in every cell of our body.
  • It is because of the human genetic code that a fertilised human egg grows into a human baby and cannot grow into an elephant, a bird or a mouse.
  • Genetic transmission is very complex.
  • It is also not possible to possess all the characteristics made available to us by our genetic structure.
  • The actual genetic material or a person’s genetic heritage is known as genotype.
  • Phenotype is the way an individual’s genotype is expressed in observable and measurable characteristics.
  • The observable characteristics of an individual are the result of the interaction between the person’s  inherited traits and the environment.
  • Genes provide a distinct blueprint and timetable for the development of an individual.
  • genes do not exist in isolation and development occurs within the context of an individual’s environment.
  • Sandra Scarr (1992) believes that the environment parents provide for their children depends to some extent on their own genetic predisposition.
  • The interactions with environment keep changing from infancy through adolescence.
  • Environmental influences are as complex as the genes we inherit.


  • Development does not take place in a vacuum.
  • It is always embedded in a particular sociocultural context.
  • The environment can change or alter during any time of the individual’s lifespan.
  • Urie Bronfenbrenner’s contextual view of development emphasises the role of environmental factors in the development of an individual.
  • The microsystem is the immediate environment/setting in which the individual lives. It is in these settings where the child directly interacts with social agents – the family, peers, teachers, and neighbourhood.
  • The mesosystem consists of relations between these contexts. For instance, how a child’s parents relate to the teachers,etc
  • The exosystem includes events in social settings where the child does not participate directly, but they influence the childs’ experiences in the immediate context
  • Macrosystem includes the culture in which the individual lives.
  • Chronosystem involves events in the individual’s life course, and socio-historical circumstances of the time such as, divorce of parents or parents’ economic setback, and their effect on the child.
  • In a nutshell, Bronfenbrenner’s view is that a child’s development is significantly affected by the complex world that envelops
  • Durganand Sinha (1977) has presented an ecological model for understanding the development of children in Indian context. Ecology of the child could be viewed in terms of two concentric layers.
  • The “upper and the more visible layers” consist of home, school, peer groups, and so on.
  • These factors do not operate independently but constantly interact with one another.
  • These are also embedded in a larger and a more pervasive setting, the “surrounding layers” of the child’s ecology constantly influence the “upper layer” factors.
  • their influences are not always clearly visible.
  • The visible and the surrounding layer factors interact with one another and may have different consequences for development in different people.
  • The ecological environment can change or alter during any time of the individual’s life-span.


  • Development is commonly described in terms of periods or stages.
  • variation is partly because everyone is in a different stage of life.
  • Human life proceeds through different stages.
  • Developmental stages are assumed to be temporary and are often characterised by a dominant feature or a leading characteristic, which gives each period its uniqueness.
  • During a particular stage, individual progresses towards an assumed goal – a state or ability that s/he must achieve in the same order as other persons before progressing to the next stage in the sequence.
  • certain patterns of behaviour and certain skills are learned more easily and successfully during certain stages.
  • These accomplishments of a person become the social expectations of that stage of development. They are known as developmental tasks.

Prenatal Stage

  • The period from conception to birth is known as the prenatal period.
  • it lasts for about 40 weeks.
  • genetic and environmental factors affect our development during different periods of prenatal stage.
  • Prenatal development is also affected by maternal characteristics, which include mother’s age, nutrition, and emotional state.
  • Disease or infection carried by the mother can adversely affect prenatal development.
  • teratogens environmental agents that cause deviations in normal development that can lead to serious abnormalities or death.
  • Intake of drugs by women during pregnancy may have harmful effects on the foetus and increase the frequency of congenital abnormalities.
  • Radiations  and certain chemicals near industrial areas can cause permanent change in the genes.
  • Environmental pollutants and toxic wastes like carbon monoxide, mercury and lead are also sources of danger to the unborn child.


  • The brain develops at an amazing rate before and after birth.
  • The neural connections among these cells develop at a rapid rate.
  • The newborn is not as helpless as you might think.
  • The newborns in their first week of life are able to indicate what direction a sound is coming from, can distinguish their mother’s voice from the voices of other women, and can imitate simple gestures like tongue
    protrusion and mouth opening.

Motor Development

  • The newborn’s movements are governed by reflexes — which are automatic, built-in responses to stimuli.
  • They are genetically-carried survival mechanisms, and are the building blocks for subsequent motor development.
  • reflexes present in the newborn — coughing, blinking, and yawning persist throughout their lives.
  • As the infant grows, the muscles and nervous system mature which lead to the development of finer

Sensory Abilities

  • newborns can recognise their mother’s voice just a few hours after birth and have other sensory capabilities.
  • Newborns prefer to look at some stimuli rather than others such as faces, although these preferences change over the first few months of life.
  • The newborn’s vision is estimated to be lower than the adult vision.
  • By 6 months it improves and by about the first year, vision is almost the same as that of an adult (20/20).
  • they might be able to distinguish between red and white colours but in general they are colour deficient and full colour vision develops by 3 months of age.
  • Infants can hear immediately after birth.
  • Newborns respond to touch and they can even feel pain.
  • Both smell and taste capacities are also present in the newborn.

Cognitive Development

  • Jean Piaget stressed that children actively construct their understanding of the world.
  • As children grow, additional information is acquired and they adapt their thinking to include new ideas, as this improves their understanding of the world.
  • Piaget believed that a child’s mind passes through a series of stages of thought from infancy to adolescence
  • Each stage is characterised by a distinct way of thinking and is age related.
  • The child during infancy, i.e. the first two years of life, experiences the world through senses and interactions with objects — through looking, hearing, touching, mouthing, and grasping.
  • According to Piaget, children at this stage do not go beyond their immediate sensory experience, i.e. lack object permanence — the awareness that the objects continue to exist when not perceived.
  • The basis of verbal communication seems to be present in infants.
  • Vocalisation begins  with the infant’s babbling, sometime between 3 to 6 months of age.

Socio-emotional Development

  • Babies from birth are social creatures.
  • An infant starts preferring familiar faces and responds to parent’s presence by cooing and gurgling.
  • They become more mobile by 6 to 8 months of age and start showing a preference for their mother’s company.
  • The close emotional bond of affection that develop between infants and their parents is called attachment.
  • providing nourishment or feeding was not crucial for attachment and contact-comfort is important.
  • Human babies also form an attachment with their parents or caregivers who consistently and appropriately reciprocate to their signals of love and affection.
  • According to Erik Erikson the first year of life is the key time for the development of attachment.
  • It represents the stage of developing trust or mistrust.
  • A sense of trust is built on a feeling of physical comfort which builds an expectation of the world as a secure and good place.
  • An infant’s sense of trust is developed by responsive and sensitive parenting.
  • If the parents are sensitive, affectionate, and accepting, it provides the infant a strong base to explore the environment.
  • if parents are insensitive and show dissatisfaction and find fault with the child, it can lead to creating feelings of self-doubt in the child.
  • Securely attached infants respond positively when picked up, move freely, and play whereas insecurely attached infants feel anxious when separated and cry due to fear and get upset.
  • A close interactive relationship with warm and affectionate adults is a child’s first step towards healthy development.


Physical Development

  • Children gain control over the upper part of the body before the lower part.
  • growth proceeds from the centre of body and moves towards the extremities or more distal regions — the
    proximodistal trend, i.e. children gain control over their torso before their extremities.
  • Initially infants reach for objects by turning their entire body, gradually they extend their arms to reach for things.
  • These changes are the result of a maturing nervous system and not because of any limitation since even
    visually impaired children show the same sequence.
  • As children grow older, they look slimmer as the trunk part of their bodies lengthens and body fat decreases.
  • The brain and the head grow more rapidly than any other part of the body.
  • The growth and development of the brain are important as they help in the maturation of children’s abilities, such as eyehand coordination, holding a pencil, and attempts made at writing.

Motor Development

  • Gross motor skills during the early childhood years involve the use of arms and legs, and moving around with
    confidence and more purposefully in the environment.
  • During these years the child’s preference for left or right hand also develops.

Cognitive Development

  • The child’s ability to acquire the concept of object permanence enables her/him to use mental symbols to represent objects.
  • the child at this stage lacks the ability that allows her/him to do mentally what was done physically before.
  • Cognitive development in early childhood focuses on Piaget’s stage of preoperational thought
  • The child gains the ability to mentally represent an object that is not physically present.
  • The ability of the child to engage in symbolic thought helps to expand her/his mental world.
  • children see the world only in terms of their own selves and are not able to appreciate others’ point of view.
  • Children because of egocentrism, engage in animism – thinking that all things are living, like oneself.
  • Piaget called this the stage of intuitive thought.
  • Another feature of thought during preoperational stage is characterised by children having a tendency for centration, i.e. focusing on a single characteristic or feature for understanding an event.
  • intuitive thought is replaced by logical thought.
  • This is the stage of concrete operational thought, which is made up of operations — mental actions that allows the child to do mentally what was done physically before.
  • Concrete operations are also mental actions that are reversible.
  • Concrete operations allow the child to focus on different characteristics and not focus on one aspect of the object.
  • This helps the child to appreciate that there are different ways of looking at things, which also results in the
    decline of her/his egocentrism.
  • Thinking  becomes more flexible, and children can think about alternatives when solving problems, or
    mentally retrace their steps if required.
  • the preoperational child develops the ability to see relationships between different properties of an object, s/he cannot do abstract thinking, i.e. s/he still cannot manipulate ideas in the absence of objects.
  • The growing cognitive abilities of children facilitate the acquisition of language.

Socio-emotional Development

  • The important dimensions of children’s socioemotional development are the self, gender and moral development.
  • The child due to socialisation has developed a sense of who s/he is and whom s/he wants to be
    identified with.
  • The developing sense of independence makes children do things in their own way.
  • According to Erikson, the way parents respond to their self-initiated activities leads to developing a sense of initiative or sense of guilt.
  • Self understanding in early childhood is limited to defining oneself through physical characteristics
  • defining oneself through psychological characteristics, children’s selfd escriptions also include social aspects of self
  • Children’s selfunderstanding also includes social comparison.
  • Once the children enter school their social world expands beyond their families.
  • They spend greater amount of time with their age mates or peers.
  • the increased time that children spend with their peers shapes their development.

Moral Development

  • Another important aspect of the child’s development is learning to differentiate between the rightness or
    wrongness of human acts.
  • The way children come to distinguish right from wrong, to feel guilty, to put themselves in other people’s
    position, and to help others when they are in trouble, are all components of moral development.
  • Lawrence Kohlberg pass through the various stages of moral development, which are age related.
  • Kohlberg  interviewed children in which they were presented with stories in which the characters face moral dilemmas.
  • Children were asked what the characters in the dilemma should do, and why.
  • According to him, children approach thinking about right and wrong differently at different ages.
  • These are “internalised” in order to be virtuous and to win approval from others
  • Children view rules as absolute guidelines, which should be followed.
  • Moral thinking at this stage is relatively inflexible.
  • At the end of childhood a more gradual growth rate enables the child to develop skills of coordination and balance.
  • Language develops and the child can reason logically.
  • Socially the child has become more involved in social systems, such as family and peer group.
  • The next section traces changes in human develop


  • The term adolescence derives from the Latin word adolescere, meaning “to grow into maturity”.
  • It is the transitional period in a person’s life between childhood and adulthood.
  • Adolescence is commonly defined as the stage of life that begins at the onset of puberty, when sexual maturity, or the ability to reproduce is attained.
  • It has been regarded as a period of rapid change, both biologically and psychologically.
  • the physical changes that take place during this stage are universal, the social and psychological dimensions of the adolescent’s experiences depend on the cultural context.
  • the adolescent years are viewed as problematic or confusing, the adolescent will have very different experiences from someone who is in a culture, where adolescent years are viewed as beginning of adult behaviour and, therefore, undertaking responsible tasks.
  • most societies have at least a brief period of adolescence, it is not universal across cultures.

Physical Development

  • Puberty or sexual maturity marks the end of childhood and signifies the beginning of adolescence, which
    is characterised by dramatic physical changes in both, growth rate, and sexual characteristics.
  • The hormones released during puberty result in the development of primary and secondary sexual characteristics.
  • Pubertal changes in boys are marked by acceleration in growth, facial hair, and changes in voice.
  • Physical development during adolescence is also accompanied by a number of psychological changes.
  • Around puberty adolescents show an increase in interest in members of the opposite sex and in sexual matters and a new awareness of sexual feelings develops.
  • This increased attention to sexuality is caused by factors such as individual’s awareness of the biological
    changes taking place and the emphasis placed on sexuality by peers, parents, and society.
  • many adolescents lack adequate knowledge or have misconceptions about sex and sexuality.
  • adolescents tend to become secretive about sexual concerns which make exchange of information and communication difficult.
  • The concern over adolescent sexuality has become intense in recent times because of the risk of AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • The development of a sexual identity defines the sexual orientation and guides sexual behaviour.
  • it becomes an important developmental task for adolescents.
  • Adolescents need to develop a realistic image of their physical appearance, which is acceptable to them.
  • puberty also involves cognitive and social changes along with physical changes.

Cognitive Developmental Changes

  •  Adolescents’ developing ability to reason gives them a new level of cognitive and social awareness.
  • Piaget believed that formal operational thought appears between the age of 11 and 15.
  • During this stage adolescent thinking expands beyond actual concrete experiences and they begin to think more in abstract terms and reason about them.
  • Adolescents begin to think about ideal characteristics for themselves and others and compare themselves and others with these ideal standards.
  • adolescent thinking becomes more systematic in solving problems — they think of possible courses of action, why something is happening the way it is, and systematically seek solutions.
  • Piaget called this type of logical thinking — hypothetical deductive reasoning.
  • Logical thought also influences the development of moral reasoning.
  • Social rules  are not considered as absolute standards and moral thinking shows some flexibility.
  • The adolescent recognises alternative moral courses, explores options, and then decides on a personal moral code.
  • According to David Elkind, imaginary audience and personal fable are two components of adolescents’ egocentrism.
  • Imaginary audience is adolescent’s belief that others are as preoccupied with them as they are about themselves.
  • They imagine that  people are always noticing them and are observing each and every behaviour of theirs.
  • The personal fable is part of the adolescents’ egocentrism that involves their sense of uniqueness.
  • Adolescents’ sense of uniqueness makes them think that no one understands them or their feelings
  • To retain their sense of personal uniqueness they may weave stories filled with fantasy around them to create a world that is away from reality.

Forming an Identity

  • Identity is who you are and what your values, commitments and beliefs are.
  • The primary task of adolescence is to establish an identity separate from the parents.
  • During adolescence a detachment process enables the individual to develop a personalised set of beliefs that
    are uniquely her or his own.
  • In the process of achieving an identity the adolescent could experience conflict with parents and within
    herself or himself.
  • Those adolescents who can  cope with the conflicting identities develop a new sense of self.
  • Adolescents who are not able to cope with this identity crisis are confused.
  • This “identity confusion”, according to Erikson, can lead to individuals isolating themselves from peers and family; or they may lose their identity in the crowd.
  • Adolescents on one hand, may desire independence but may also be afraid of it and show a great deal of dependence on their parents.
  • The formation of identity during adolescence is influenced by several factors.
  • Family relationships become less important as the adolescent spends more time outside the home and develops a strong need for peer support and acceptance.
  • Increased interactions with peers provide them with opportunities for refining their social skills and trying out different social behaviours.
  • Peers and parents are dual forces having major influences on adolescents.
  • Vocational commitment is another factor influencing adolescent identity formation.
  • Career counselling in schools offers information regarding appraisal of the students for various courses and jobs and provides guidance in making a decision about career choices.

Some Major Concerns


  • Delinquency refers to a variety of behaviours, ranging from socially unacceptable behaviour, legal offences, to
    criminal acts.
  • Adolescents with delinquency and behavioural problems tend to have a negative self-identity, decreased trust,
    and low level of achievement.
  • Delinquency is often associated with low parental support, inappropriate discipline, and family discord.
  • delinquent children do not remain delinquent forever.

Substance Abuse

  • Adolescent years are especially vulnerable to smoking, alcohol and drug abuse.
  • This can interfere with the development of coping skills and responsible decisionmaking.
  • The reasons for smoking and drug use could be peer pressure and the adolescents’ need to be accepted by the group, or desire to act more like adults, or feel a need to escape the pressure of school work or social activities.
  • The addictive powers of nicotine make it difficult to stop smoking.
  • It has been found that adolescents who are more vulnerable this have low self-esteem, and low expectation for achievement.
  • Peer pressure and the need to be with their peer group make the adolescent either go along with their demands to experiment with drugs, alcohol, and smoking or be ridiculed.
  • The United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) has chosen the programme as an example to be adopted by other nongovernmental organisations in the region.

Eating Disorders

  • Adolescents’ obsession with self, living in fantasy world and peer comparisons lead to certain conditions where
    they become obsessed with their own bodies.
  • Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that involves relentless pursuit of thinness through starvation.
  • It is quite common to see adolescents eliminate certain foods from their diets or to eat slimming foods only.
  • The media also projects thinness, as the most desirable image and copying such fashionable image of thinness leads to anorexia nervosa.
  • Bulimia  is another form of an eating disorder in which the individual follows a binge-and-purge eating
  • The bulimic goes on an eating binge, then purges by self-induced vomiting or using a laxative at times alternating it with fasting.
  • Anorexia nervosa and bulimia are primarily female disorders more common in urban



  • An adult is generally defined as someone who is responsible, mature, self-supporting, and well integrated into society.
  • There is a variation  in developing these attributes, which suggests that there is a shift in timing when an
    individual becomes an adult or assumes adult roles.

Career and Work

  • Earning a living choosing an occupation, and developing a career are important themes for people in their
    twenties and thirties.
  • Entering work life is a challenging event in anyone’s life.
  • There are apprehensions regarding different adjustments, proving one’s competence, performance, dealing with competition, and coping with expectations both of the employers and oneself.
  • the beginning of new roles and responsibilities.
  • Developing and evaluating a career becomes an important task of adulthood.

Marriage, Parenthood, and Family

  • The adjustments that young adults have to make when entering a marriage relate to knowing the other person if not known earlier, coping with each other’s likes, dislikes, tastes, and choices.
  • getting married, becoming a parent can be a difficult and stressful transition in young adults, even though it is usually accompanied by the feeling of love for the baby.
  • adults experience parenting is affected by different situations such as the number of children in the family, the availability of social support, and the happiness or unhappiness of the married couple.
  • Death of a spouse or divorce creates a family structure in which a single parent either the mother or the father has to take up the responsibility of the children.
  • women are increasingly seeking employment outside the home thus creating another type of family in which both parents work.
  • The stressors when both parents are working are quite the same as of a single working parent, namely, and in the office, etc.
  • the stresses associated with parenting, it provides a unique opportunity for growth and satisfaction and is perceived as a way of establishing concern and guiding the next generation.

Cchanges in the body

  • Physical changes during middle ages are caused by maturational changes in the body.
  • Though individuals may vary in the rate at which these changes occur, almost all middleaged people notice gradual deterioration in some aspects of their physical functioning such as decline in vision, sensitivity to glare,
    hearing loss and changes in physical appearance (e.g., wrinkles, grey hair or thinning of hair, weight gain).

Cognitive abilitie

  • It is believed that some cognitive abilities decline with age while others do not.
  • Decline in memory is more in tasks involving long-term memory than short-term memory.
  • A middle-aged person can remember the telephone number immediately after s/he has heard it but may not remember it so efficiently after a few days.
  • Memory tends to  show greater decline, while wisdom may improve with age.
  • Remember that individual differences exist in intelligence at every age and as not all children are exceptional, neither do all adults show wisdom.

Old Age

  • old age also depends on the socioeconomic conditions, availability of health care, attitude of people, expectations of society and the available support  system.
  • Retirement from active vocational life is quite significant.
  • Older adults also need to adjust to changes in the family structure and new roles  that have to be learnt.
  • Children usually are busy in their careers and families and may set up independent homes.
  • Older adults may depend on their children for financial support and to overcome their loneliness
  • This might trigger-off feelings of hopelessness and depression in some people.
  • The elderly tend to look towards others to lean on and to care for them.
  • It is important to give the elderly a sense of security and belonging, a feeling that people care for them and to remember that we all have to grow old one day.
  • The death of a spouse is usually seen as the most difficult loss.
  • Those left behind after the death of their partner suffer deep grief, cope with loneliness, depression, financial loss and are also at risk of many health related problems.
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