1.3 Child Development: What are the domains of change? What determines growth and development?

1.3 Examine the phenomenon of domains of change

Domains of change

These are the arrears in which growth and development occur. They include

  1. Cognitive domain which includes thinking,     understanding and language.
  2. Physical domain which includes physical features like appearance, size and weight as well as motor abilities
  3. Social emotional domain

Significant changes occur in all these arrears. I will also introduce you to these changes in this module.


What Determines Growth And Development?

Changes that occur in human beings do not take place in a vacuum. Rather they are the product of certain factors and processes. The question of what brings about these changes has been a subject of much debate. One evidence of this is a debate referred to as the nature- nurture controversy.


Nature-Nurture Controversy

It is one of the oldest controversies in the history of philosophy and human department is the nature – nurture controversy.  It is all about whether behaviour is primarily determined by biological or genetic factors within the organism (nature) or by experience in the external world (nurture).  This issue can be traced to the arguments of ancient Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle. The debate continued on and off throughout the centuries. In the modern research, the nature side was presented by maturation theorists.  The nurture side was a advocated by the behavioural theorists. By 1950’s, it was realized that neither side could offer a complete explanation of human behaviour. Behaviour was found to be a product of the interaction between maturation and experience.  This interaction is not a simple additive process. Hence we cannot easily determine the percentage contribution by each to the overall process of development. This interaction is complex with the contribution of each element continuously influencing and being influenced by the contributions of the other.


For example, many adults have had the experience of trying to calm a crying baby.  You find that the more the baby cries, the more tense the person holding him/her becomes and the more tense the adult becomes, the more the baby cries.  Can we determine how much of the infant’s distress was caused by the adult and how much was caused by the baby? Certainly no. We can only conclude that both the adult and the baby continue to influence and to be influenced by each other.  Both heredity and environment combine in such an interactive fashion to influence behaviour.


Activity 1.2

You can see very clearly that since the ancient times some people have argued for heredity as the determinant of behaviour and development while others have insisted that development is governed by experience. One of the modern psychologists, Jean Piaget recognized the importance of both groups of factors.



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