Human Development: Principles, Factors, Human Index

What is Human Development?

Human development is a multifaceted process and involves different aspects. One aspect involves biological and physical development. The size and complexity of the human body change dramatically between conception and maturity. In other words, Development refers to the qualitative changes in the organism as a whole.

Development is a continuous process through which physical, emotional and intellectual changes occur. It is a wider and comprehensive term than growth. It is also possible without growth.


Principles of Human Development

These are the principle of human development:

  1. Development Involves Change
  2. Development is a Continuous Process
  3. Follows a Direction and Uniform Pattern in an Orderly Manner
  4. Individual Differences in the Development Process
  5. Development Depends on Maturation and Learning
  6. Development is Predictable
  7. Early Development is More Critical Than Later Development
  8. Development Involves Social Expectations
  9. Development Has Potential Hazards
  10. Happiness Varies at Different Periods of Development

Development Involves Change

The human being is undergoing changes from the moment of conception to the time of death. There are different types of change that occur such as changes in size, proportions, the disappearance of old features and acquisition of new features etc.

The goal of these developmental changes is self-realization, which Abraham Maslow has labelled as self-actualization. Each individual is equipped with certain abilities and potentialities at birth. By utilizing the innate or inborn abilities one tries to realize and strive for self-actualization during the total life period.

Children‟s attitude toward change are generally determined by his knowledge about these changes, social attitudes toward this change and the way people of society treats to children when these changes take place.

Development is a Continuous Process

Development continues throughout the life of an individual. This process takes place in interaction with the environment in which a person lives. One stage of development is the basic framework for the next stage of development. A child has limited knowledge and experiences about his environment.

But as he develops, he acquires more information through explorations and adds to the skills already acquired and the new skills become the basis for further achievement and mastery of skills.

For example, the child is able to write and draw, he must have developed a hand control to hold a pencil and crayon. Thus, a person has vast experiences and knowledge as he grows up.

Follows a Direction and Uniform Pattern in an Orderly Manner

Development proceeds from the centre of the body outward. This is the principle of proximodistal development that describes the direction of development (from nearer to far apart). It means that the spinal cord develops before the outer parts of the body. The child‟s arms develop before the hands and the hands and feet develop before the fingers and toes.

Development proceeds from the head downwards. This is called the cephalocaudal principle. According to this principle, development occurs from head to tail. The child gains control of the head first, then the arms and then the legs.

Individual Differences in the Development Process

Even though the pattern of development is similar for all children but the rate of development varies among children. Each child develops as per his abilities and perception of his environment. Children differ from each other both genetically and environmentally.

So, both biological factors and environmental situations have their impact on an individual‟s development which leads to individual differences in development. Understanding this fact of individual differences in rates of development should aware us to be careful about using and relying on age and stage characteristics to label children.

Development Depends on Maturation and Learning

Maturation refers to the sequential characteristic of biological growth and development. The biological changes occur in sequential order and give children new abilities. Changes in the brain and nervous system account largely for maturation. These changes in the brain and nervous system account largely for maturation.

The child‟s environment and the learning that occurs as a result of the child‟s experiences largely determine whether the child will reach optimal development. An enriched environment and varied experiences help the child to develop his/her potential.

Development is Predictable

Human development is predictable during the life span. Although this development is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, however, it takes place in a pre-defined manner.

Specific areas of development, such as different aspects of motor development, emotional behaviour, speech, social behaviour, concept development, goals, intellectual development etc. follow predictable patterns.

For example, the growth of the child in height and weight etc. continue up to a certain age. In general, it is also found that all children follow a commonality in the development periods of life. All children generally grow following the periods like prenatal period and postnatal period. The postnatal period includes infancy, babyhood, childhood, puberty and so on.

Early Development is More Critical Than Later Development

Milton writes “ The childhood shows the man, as morning shows the day.” Similarly, Erikson views “childhood as the scene of man‟s beginning as a man.” He explains that if parents gratify the needs of the child for food, attention and love etc., his perception towards people and situations remains positive throughout his life.

He develops positive attitudes, feels secure, emotionally stable and adjusts well to the environment. If negative experiences occur during the early life of the child, maladjustments may take place.

Glueck concludes that delinquents can be identified as early as 2-3 years of age. Different researchers view that the preschool years age are the most important years of development as the basic foundation is laid down during this period which is difficult to change.

Development Involves Social Expectations

In every society, there are certain rules, standards and traditions which everyone is expected to follow. Development is determined by social norms and expectations of behaviours from individuals. Children learn customs, traditions and values of the society and also what behaviours are expected from them.

They realize from the approval or disapproval of their behaviour. Social expectations are otherwise known as “developmental tasks”. Havinghurst defines the developmental task as a “task which arises at or about a certain period in the life of individual Developmental tasks arise mainly

  • As a result of physical maturation.
  • Form the cultural pressures of society.
  • Out of the personal values and aspirations of the individual. The developmental tasks remain the same from one generation after another in a particular culture.

    As societies are evolving, changing traditions and cultural patterns of society are learned automatically by children during their development process. These developmental tasks help in motivating children to learn as well as help parents to guide their children.

Development Has Potential Hazards

Development may be hampered by various hazards. Hazards may be of physical, environmental or psychological type. These hazards may be originated from the environment in which the child grows or due to hereditary factors. They have a negative impact on the physical as well as socio-psychological development of the child.

The growth of the child may be retarded, he may be an aggressive person or he may encounter adjustment problems. For example, if a child is slurring or stammering and parents neglect the child, the child may continue with this problem.

Happiness Varies at Different Periods of Development

Happiness varies at different periods in the development process. Childhood is the happiest period of life and puberty is the most unhappy. The patterns of happiness vary from child to child and it is influenced by the rearing process of the child.

Paul B. Baltes stated six principles of development of life span approach. The six principles of development are mentioned below:

  • Development is a lifelong process- Development is a process that continues throughout life. It begins at birth and ends in the death of an individual.

  • Development includes both gain and loss during the life span. The child may develop in one area and lose in another area.

  • Development is influenced by biological factors and environmental situations- Human development is influenced by biological and environmental factors. For example, the body strength of the child develops in the early period but may deteriorate during old age.

  • Development involves changing the allocation of resources. It states that during different developmental periods, resources such as; time, money, social support etc. are used differently. For example, during old age, people require more money to maintain their proper health.

  • Development can be modified- This principle reveals that through proper training development can be modified. For example, an individual can maintain his proper health by doing different exercises even in old age.

  • Development is based upon the historical and cultural environment- The child grows, develops, acquires knowledge about the traditions, rules, regulations of society according to his historical and cultural environment.

Factors Affecting Human Development

These are the following factors affecting human development:

  1. Hereditary Factors
  2. Environmental Factors
  3. Home Environment
  4. Cultural Factors
  5. Socioeconomic Status
  6. Normative Influences
  7. Education and Training

Hereditary Factors

Heredity exerts an influence on human development. The child carries genetic endowments from his/her parents. It is genetically transmitted characteristics from one generation to the next. The physical characteristics like height, weight, eye colour etc.

and psychological characteristics such as intelligence, personality, creativity and so on are innately determined and hereditary. The genetic code provides the base on which brain and body grow and manifest in observable appearance and behaviour.

Environmental Factors

Another important factor of human development is the environment where an individual lives. The child lives and grows in his environment. The environment consists of a wide range of stimuli and it provides the necessary input and experiential base for the development of the child. Enrichment or impoverishment of the environment would produce differences in his abilities.

For example, a child may have inherited music talent from his parents through the transmission of genes, but he may not excel in the music field if he does not get the proper environment and support to develop his innate ability.

Home Environment

The home environment exerts tremendous influence on a child‟s understanding of the external world. It builds self-concept and prepares him to face the external world. The child begins to acquire knowledge through interaction with parents and other family members.

During his early years of development, the behaviours of the child are modulated by the home environment. The environment of the family can be supportive or stressful for the child. If it is a supportive, warm and harmonious environment, the child develops normally.

In unsupportive and stressful home environments, broken families or uncaring parents in the family, children may develop as maladjusted persons.

Cultural Factors

Culture refers to a system of beliefs, attitudes and values that are transmitted from one generation to the next. It is a product of past human behaviour and is also a shaper of future aspirations. The development of the child is influenced by family as well as by society.

The child learns the habits, beliefs, attitudes, skills and standards of judgment through the socialization processes. The socialization processes of the child take place according to the culture, customs and traditions of the society.

For example, greeting someone is a familiar experience but behavioural experiences are different in different cultures. In Indian culture, people greet others by saying namaskar, folding hands or lying down near the feet but in Western culture, people greet by handshake or kissing or saying hello etc.

Socioeconomic Status

Socioeconomic Status plays a pivotal role in human development. The index of socioeconomic status is determined by parental education, occupation and income. The children of low socioeconomic status may develop as mal-nourished, suffer from lack of knowledge in many aspects and their normal development may get hampered.

The parenting in high socioeconomic status families would be different from low socio-economic status families. Children of the high socioeconomic groups of the society get better social opportunities, are nurtured with better nutrition, good medical treatment and are exposed to more intellectual stimulation than the low socioeconomic groups.

Normative Influences

Normative influences occur in a similar way for the majority of people in a particular group. These influences may be biological or environmental. For example, biological events like sexual maturity or deterioration in old age. Environmental events, like entering the school at about 6 yrs of age, parenthood etc.

Have the same influences on individuals. Most of the people of the same age, at the same place and time and generation, have common biological and environmental influences such as floods, famines and other natural disasters. Non-normative influences include the unusual life events in an individual‟s life.

For example, the death of a parent when a child is young or birth defects etc.

Education and Training

Each child is equipped with certain abilities which need to be nurtured through proper education and training. Therefore, the first and foremost step is to identify and recognize the ability of the child and the next step is to provide adequate opportunities to develop the same.

If proper identification of the ability is not possible and adequate facilities are not available to the child, then his innate ability may not be developed. Thus, adequate education and training have an influence on human development.


Human Development Index

Human Development Index consists of GNP per capita, life expectancy and means years of schooling. HDI is a combination of three basic components of human development, longevity, knowledge and standard of living. Longevity is measured by life expectancy, knowledge includes adult literacy (one-third weight) and means year of schooling (two-third weight). Standard of living is calculated by purchasing power based on real GDP per capita adjusted for the local cost of living and Purchasing Power Parity (PPP).

It is difficult to measure HDI because there is no common measuring scale for years in schools life expectancy and purchasing capacity. Due to this problem another system has been evolved.

The HDI sets the minimum or maximum of each dimension and then finds out the position of each country in that connection expressed as a value between 0 and 1. Since the minimum adult literacy rate is 0% and the maximum is 100%, the literacy (a component of knowledge) for a country where the literacy rate is 75% would be 0.75. Similarly,

The minimum life expectancy is 25 years and the maximum is 85 years. In this case longevity component for a country where life expectancy is 55 years would be 0.55. For income, the minimum is $ 200 (PPP) and the maximum is 40,000 (PPP). Income above the average world income is adjusted using a progressively higher discount rate.

The scores for the three dimensions are then averaged in an overall index. No doubt this type of calculation is based on too many averaged figures and it may not represent every section. Even then, this system provides a general picture.

To get a more representative picture HDI of different groups in a country may be calculated on the basis of region, race, gender or ethnic groups. As far as the utility of HDI is concerned it is an alternative to GNP for measuring the relative socio-economic progress of a nation. It also provides parameters of comparisons between two countries.


Human Poverty Index

Following are human poverty index:

Three Perspectives of Poverty

  1. Income Perspective
  2. Basic Need Perspective
  3. Capacity Perspective

Income Perspective

A person is confirmed poor if he/she can not fulfil his/her basic needs and he/she falls ‘below the poverty line according to national standards. He can also be identified as poor according to the global criteria of having less than one dollar a day income. Sometimes poverty is measured in terms of shortage of food, nutrition, calorie count or level of consumption.

Basic Need Perspective

This kind of poverty includes deprivation in terms of food, clothing, housing, health facilities, educational opportunities and gainful employment. This is usually a result of unequal distribution of national resources which leaves the majority as a resourceless section of the population.

Capacity Perspective

This connotation of poverty refers to the lack of opportunities for leading a meaningful life as a useful and required individual in society. It indicates having no choice of participating in political processes, having no status and role in the society or enjoying no right of utilising societal resources for personality growth and self-fulfilment. A combination of these three is human poverty.

The HDR 1996 advocated that development must be people-centred, equitably distributed and environmentally and socially sustainable. It also emphasised that human development is an end, and economic growth is a means, and growth should bring about all-round development. UNDP had prepared Capacity Poverty Measures (CPM) in HDR 1996. It includes.

  • The number of undernourished and underweight under five who have the capacity to be well-fed and healthy.
  • The proportion of births ended by trained health personnel for those mothers who have the capacity to reproduce in a healthy way without the fear of maternal mortality.
  • The female illiteracy rate for women over 15 years. This is a measure of the capacity to be educated.

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