What Is Development?


A development is a process that creates growth and progress. It can be economic, environmental, social or psychological. Development is usually associated with a country’s level of wealth or improvement in people’s lives. But it can also refer to something as simple as a new office building or shopping mall.

Many different theories of development exist. Some, like the maturational meta-theory, assume that a person’s developmental stages are determined by innate characteristics of the individual, whether they are traits or brain systems. This view is signaled by the search for “the aggression gene,” or by statements such as, “as an adult, you don’t learn new skills, you develop them.”

Other theorists believe that people change through a series of discontinuous qualitatively distinct stages, much like a caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly. These theorists are sometimes called organic meta-theorists.

Still others, such as the behaviorists, Vygotsky and information processing theorists, believe that people develop through the accumulation of more complex, higher-order skills. This is known as continuous or gradual development.

Some theorists, such as Amartya Sen, argue that development must be judged in terms of its effects on the quality of people’s life and their choices. This is sometimes referred to as the capability approach, which has been further developed by Martha Nussbaum. These theorists also stress that development should be culturally bound and that a person’s development can only occur in the context of his or her culture. This view of development is known as the ecological or lifespan system approach.