Development is a broad term, and it can mean anything from economic growth to building up an area. It also has a more specific meaning in terms of human advancement. For example, developmental psychology seeks to explain the stages of life and how people progress from one stage to the next.
Human development is a vast topic of study, and many different theories exist about how it works. Some of these theories are based on the field of psychology, while others focus on biology and sociology. Regardless of the field of study, development theories always contain assumptions that will influence the results. Some of the most common assumptions include the role of nature versus nurture, continuity versus discontinuity, and stability versus change.
Some theories, such as Freud’s and Erikson’s stages of development, assume that people experience a series of crises that occur in a fixed sequence. These types of theories are sometimes called discontinuous models of development. Continuity models of development, on the other hand, believe that change occurs gradually over a lifetime. Other theorists, such as Vygotsky and behaviorism, take a more continuous approach to development. For these theorists, humans use skills that were acquired in earlier stages of development to perform new tasks.
As researchers have looked for explanations of development, they have found that it is often caused by a combination of factors, both biological and environmental. Interactionist meta-theories of development, which view nature and nurture as being interdependent, are gaining favor in the scientific community. Nevertheless, some researchers continue to believe that one meta-theory is correct, and they will apply their own assumptions from that perspective to their work.
For instance, Sen and Nussbaum have developed the concept of capabilities in development. They argue that people can only grow by having access to the resources they need to fulfill their goals and achieve a better quality of life. Capabilities include the ability to earn a living, engage in healthy relationships, and participate in political and social activities. The development of these capabilities requires the right conditions, such as opportunities to use these abilities and democratic space.
Development is a global issue, and it takes the efforts of many different individuals and groups to make progress toward its goal. Efforts to improve the lives of people around the world are constantly being challenged by new problems that require innovative solutions. It’s important for us to remain aware of the challenges to global development and support those who are working to overcome them. We can all learn from their successes, failures, and discoveries to develop a more sustainable future for all. This article is adapted from Development in Practice, an international journal of practice-based research on global development and humanitarianism. The journal offers a worldwide forum for practice-based analysis, research and exchange of ideas among practitioners, academics, and policy shapers including activists and NGOs. The journal is published by the Society for Development Studies in partnership with The Hague Academy of International Law.