Principles of Child Development By Paul Baltes

Updated October 13, 2020

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Paul Baltes’ life-span developmental framework informs our understanding about the general principles of child development in a coherent way (Baltes, 1997). Baltesarticulated the basic principles of life-span development which are applied as a coordinated whole to view the nature of human development. These include the following principles.

 Development is life-long

The life-long view of development has two aspects. First, development extends throughout the life-span of an individual. Second, new processes and changes may spur throughout the constantly emerging nature of life-span development.

Development is both multidimensional and multidirectional

Healthy development involves multiple dimensions and directions. This implies that development is neither limited to a single criterion (e.g., an increase and decrease in the physical ability), nor is it restricted to a single direction (e.g., only increase or decrease). Rather, it involves multiple abilities which may change over time in multiple ways.

Development involves both gains and losses

According to Baltes, any type of developmental process comprises both, growth and decline. For example, a gain in cognitive abilities of a child during formal schooling also characterizes a loss of his creative abilities as a result of following the school\’s rules, etc. However, the gains and losses should not be treated as equal since the balance between these two may change over time.

Development is plastic

Baltes suggested that the process of development is characterized by plasticity. This implies that human beings is open to changes and modifications in response to toinfluential experiences. For example, an infant\’s brain has the tendency to change, modify, and/or pick up the functions of other parts of the brain as a result of the injury. Yet, plasticity has certain limitations within various domains of human functioning.

Development is situated in context and history

Children grow up in different contexts which are characterized by their personal, social, and environmental circumstances. These varied circumstances influence the course of their development. In this way, development is situated in context and history. For example, two children growing in rural and urban areas have different types of influences and experiences which can result in different paths of developmental changes for both of them. Similarly, the historical time period in which children grow affects their development in significant ways.

Development is multidisciplinary

Baltes argued that the study of human development is multidisciplinary in nature. Therefore, a single perspective or methodology is not sufficient to develop a holistic understanding of the multiple processes involved in human development. For example, psychological methodologies are not sufficient to reveal the sociological processes involved in development. In this way, multiple perspectives and approaches are needed to better understand the nature of human development.

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