What Is Development?


Development is the term used to describe changes in people’s lives, whether they are improvements in health, wealth and happiness. The concept has been historically classified as an economic measure, involving the growth of a nation’s GDP or other indices, and has been linked to such measures as human development index (HDI) and the global north/ south divide. However, true development cannot be defined by a nation’s economy or GDP alone, and should consider its social context as well.

The science of development, also known as lifespan developmental sciences or maturational neuroscience, studies how humans change and remain the same throughout life. It examines a wide range of areas, including physical and neurophysiological processes, cognition, language, personality, and emotions. It is often compared to evolutionary, ethological, behavioral genetics and temperament theories of human behavior.

Many developmental theorists have presumed that pathways of development are either normative and universal, assuming all individuals pass through certain stages in the same order at the same age, or that they are contextually specific, meaning that different patterns and paths of development exist depending on the cultural context of a person. For example, Piaget’s stages of cognitive development may translate well in the United States middle-class culture, but might not be as recognizable in other cultures that use rites of passage or have very different beliefs about what is expected of adults.

Consistent personal development can help employees develop skills that are valuable for their professional careers, such as communication and flexibility. They can also improve their quality of life by developing strategies to cope with stress and take on new challenges. Developing goals that are SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based – can help them achieve their desired results more effectively.