The process of development happens continuously in the course of an individual’s lifetime. Life begins at conception and ends the moment a person dies. Right from infancy, humans go through a continuum of life stages constantly change with each passing phase. In the course of life, a person experiences significant body changes (both emotional and physical) that are unique for every single phase.
The rate of human development is fair regular, predictable, and similar among all people and that makes it plausible to generalize the various life stages that begin from conception through childhood, adolescence, and finally adulthood. Adulthood is the longest of these phases as it entails young adulthood, middle adulthood and old age.
Stage 1: Prenatal Development
Prenatal development is the initial stage of human life that starts immediately after conception. At this point, life begins to form inside a mother’s womb. The fetus in the womb starts to develop the major body structures both internal and external. At this stage, the mother is primarily concerned with acquiring knowledge in nutrition, delivery, and teratogens to aid in the baby’s growth (Balswick, King & Reimer, 2016).
Stage 2: Infancy
Infancy begins the moment a baby is born. At this stage, the child is entirely dependent on the mother for survival and emotional development. They need tender care in a friendly environment to support their emotional and physical development. The young infant learns to control their body parts by crying, murmuring incomprehensible words, and moving their limbs. At this stage, their body muscles also undergo significant development that enables them to move their limbs (Alexander & Langer, 1990).
During this period, the infants develop trust in close caretakers who persistently meet their needs. Mothers must provide a sense of security to the infant at this stage to support their emotional and physical development. The infants need nurturing and love at this stage so that they can bond with the caretakers. Infancy lasts from birth up to two years (Balswick, King & Reimer, 2016). Infants will learn how to listen, talk blurred words, and move their limbs in a guided manner.
Stage 3: Early Childhood
Early childhood begins at the end of infancy up to the time when a child is about to start formal schooling. They are the pre-school years where the child makes effort to learn the first language. A child in this stage endeavors to acquire a sense of self. They also seek to do things independently as they try to explore and learn how the physical world operates. They take a long time to acquire this knowledge.
By the time they join school, children often have some little conceptions about space, size, distance, and time (Kelcourse, 2015). For instance, they always know about space and the possibility of falling when they move in the space outside the bathtub. At this stage, the children also develop a sense of guilt because they are determined to accomplish new things without inviting disapproving looks from others.
Stage 4: Middle Childhood
Middle childhood begins from six years up to eleven years. At this stage, children derive much satisfaction from their school activities. They consider the world as a place for teasing and learning academics. They also see every activity as a test for their accomplishments and abilities. For this reason, they compare themselves with others more often (Balswick, King & Reimer, 2016). To satisfy this development need, schools devise programs that constantly compare the performance of individual students to each other such as tests scores and sports performance.
The goal of these programs is to create an opportunity for recognition among the children. During this stage, children develop refined motor skills but reduce their overall growth rates. They develop new social relationships outside their family whenever they play with other students or friends (Kelcourse, 2015). The children enhance their independence by seeking to do things alone with great competence.
When children make decisions, they also learn to take caution out of the knowledge that there are specific consequences for their actions. They expand their perception about others and their own selves. At this stage, the caregivers and adults who interact with the child should develop a nurturing relationship with him or her to support their self-confidence. With high self-confidence, children are able to achieve more in their engagements because they have self-motivation (Kelcourse, 2015).
Stage 5: Adolescence
Adolescence begins at 12 years and ends when a person reaches 18 years. At this stage, teenagers undergo dramatic physical changes that include sexual maturation and a sharp growth spurt. In the puberty stage, young teenagers learn new ways of adapting to their body changes. They also explore new ways of showing their identities to the world. For most young people, the changes bring a lot of confusion (Skiadas & Skiadas, 2018).
Young teenagers will try out new hobbies, and spot different hairstyles just to express their newfound identity. The adolescent teenager explores new possibilities such as fear, love, and freedom. One also develops better cognition and an increased sense of invincibility. In most cases, their perceptions of invincibility create an immense risk for accidents and STI infections.
Stage 6: Early Adulthood
Early adulthood begins from 18 years up to the mid-thirties. At this stage, people attain optimal physiological changes. Early adulthood is also a high-risk demographic group for substance abuse and violent crimes. Career choices and life paths also happen at this stage of life. In most cases, it begins with learning in a higher institution before one formally joins employment.
At this stage, people also focus on love, career, and the future. There is significant emotional development that happens at this stage (Skiadas & Skiadas, 2018). The young adults make decisions on where they would like to live, whom they would like to marry and the specific career paths that they would like to pursue.
Stage 7: Middle Adulthood
Middle adulthood begins from the late thirties all the way to sixty years or early 60s. At this stage, a person is stable, fully developed and emotionally mature. Signs of aging also start to show more openly especially as one approached fifty years. Many people in this stage achieve high productivity at work and in love. People in their 40s and 50s have experienced life in many ways and they can solve problems with much ease (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2018).
Humans also develop higher emotional intelligence to know what can be possibly achieved and the impossibilities. This group forms a great proportion of the active workforce. Most people have to contend with signs of old age such as grey hair, wrinkles, added weight, and increased stress. At this point in life, most people are financial and emotional stable, which means that they can handle most of the challenges related to work, life, and family.
Stage 8: Late Adulthood/Old Age
Old age is the last stage of life that begins from 65 years to 80 years and beyond or until death. At this stage, most people are retired and now dealing with old age challenges. People in this age bracket 65-79 years have similarities with midlife adults. They still have interest in doing productive things, maintaining good health, and exercising regularly (Skiadas & Skiadas, 2018). However, most people deal with chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer. Others have to battle the cerebral vascular disease and arteriosclerosis.
This age group is also concerned with social protection issues such as healthcare, housing, and attendance of programs for improving their life expectancy. Physicians recommend that caregivers for old people in this life stage should focus on providing optimal aging experience. Such experience is characterized by continued physical activity and living a stimulating life like the midlife adults.
Since most people in this life stage suffer from increased cases of chronic diseases, it is also the stage where more people die due to age-related complications. Aging causes the weakening of body tissues. The topic of death for people in this life stage does not bring profound discomfort as compared to people in the midlife stage, or early adulthood (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2018). Most old adults have heightened confidence brought by the acceptance that they could die from conditions aggravated by their old age condition.
Despite this acceptance, there are significant psychological aspects, physical pain, social disillusionment, and grief borne by old adults when they learn that their peers have died. The lifespan of humans starts from conception and ends at old age when death happens. Death can happen in the early life stages and cut short the other subsequent life stages (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2018). In such cases, a person is said to have died prematurely, because the whole cycle of human development assumes that all people will grow to attain old age before they die.