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Principles of Growth and Development

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  1. 0:06 Principles of Growth & Development
  2. 1:42 Cephalocaudal Principle
  3. 2:30 Proximodistal Principle
  4. 3:03 Orthogenetic Principle
  5. 3:54 Lesson Summary
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Taught by

Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

Is there a pattern to how human growth and development takes place? This lesson will examine some universal principles of growth and development in order to help you find the answer to this question.

Principles of Growth and Development

You are getting ready to do your laundry. What do you do first? Then what? What's the last thing that occurs? You probably answered these questions the same way that most others would: First you sort your laundry into loads of lights and darks, next are the steps to wash and dry, and last you put the laundry away. Most people would answer these questions in the same way because there is a sequential process that has to take place to get your clothes clean and put away.

Biological development takes place in a similar, organized manner. Biological development occurs in a sequential order. Typical biological development also takes place as a predictable and orderly process. Most children will develop at the same rate and at about the same time as other children. These patterns of growth and development allow us to predict how and when most children will develop certain characteristics.

There are also certain universal principles of growth and development that describe how the process of growth takes place. These are the cephalocaudal principle, the proximodistal principle, and the orthogenetic principle.

While these universal principles exist and we can predict that certain growth and development will take place during certain periods, it is also important to recognize that individual differences in rates of development are normal. This is why most stages of development are described as occurring within an age range rather than at a specific time.

Cephalocaudal Principle

The cephalocaudal principle states that development proceeds from top to bottom. According to this principle, a child will gain physical control of their head first. After this, physical control will move downward to the arms and lastly to the legs.

Imagine that you are holding a newborn. You have to carefully support the baby's head because the baby is not strong enough to support its head by itself. By the time the child is two months old, it develops enough strength to hold its head up on its own and to control its facial movements. Over the next few months, the baby gains control over the use of its arms. The baby can lift itself, and it can reach for objects. Finally, the child learns to control leg movements and to crawl, stand, and walk.

Proximodistal Principle

The proximodistal principle also describes the direction of development. This principle states that development proceeds from the center of the body outward.

Think of a fertilized egg. This one tiny cell divides and expands outward to become an embryo. The spinal cord forms first, and development progresses outward to become a fetus. The limbs of the body form before hands and feet, and the hands and feet develop before the fingers and toes.

Orthogenetic Principle

The orthogenetic principle does not involve the direction of development. Instead, the orthogenetic principle states that development proceeds from the simple to the complex. This means that development of more difficult tasks begins with the mastery of simple tasks first. In other words, one stage of development lays the foundation for the next stage of development.

Think of a child who is using crayons to draw a picture. The child did not simply sit down one day, grab a crayon, and draw. The child had to first learn the more simplistic task of grasping the crayon before learning to make purposeful movements with it that would form a picture. The same is true for the development of speech. In order to use words, a child must first learn to produce basic sounds.

Lesson Summary

Biological development occurs in an organized, sequential order. This is similar to the steps you would take to complete any task, such as doing your laundry.

There are three principles of growth and development: the cephalocaudal principle, the proximodistal principle, and the orthogenetic principle. These predictable patterns of growth and development allow us to predict how and when most children will develop certain characteristics. Growth and development typically occurs within certain time periods with allowance for individual difference in the rate of development.

The cephalocaudal principle says that development progresses from top to bottom. The proximodistal principle says that development progresses from the center of the body outward. The orthogenetic principle says that development proceeds from the simple to the complex.

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