Stages of Human Development

What are the stages of human development?

The stages of human development are a series of biological, physical, emotional, psychological and social changes that people go through throughout their life trajectory.

The life cycle of a person ideally involves seven stages of human development:

  • Prenatal phase or pregnancy
  • Childhood
  • Childhood
  • Adolescence or puberty
  • Youth
  • Adulthood
  • Old age or old age

diagram of the stages of human development

Each of these phases of development brings with it a series of changes that are essential for the evolution of the individual, hence it is important to know the characteristics of each stage.

Prenatal phase (pregnancy)

montage of an ultrasound on the abdomen of a pregnant woman-stages of human development

From 12 weeks of gestation, the baby’s first organs begin to form.

The prenatal phase is the stage of development that takes place in the womb. Here, the embryo begins its development process into a fully formed baby. This phase includes three sub-stages:

germinal period

It is the moment of conception, when an egg is fertilized by a sperm and begins to travel to the uterus, where it will implant

embryonic period

It is the stage in which the division of cells begins according to their functions, and which will then give rise to the bone, muscle structure and the different organs of the baby.

fetal period

In this phase the organs begin to form and mature. This stage of development begins at 12 weeks of gestation and ends with the birth of the baby.

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See also Pregnancy.

Childhood (0 to 6 years of age)

child learning to write-stages of human development

In childhood, the first notions of reading and writing are acquired.

It is the development phase characterized by the learning of psychomotor skills and abilities, as well as language. Other characteristics of the childhood stage are:

  • The infant begins to eat solid foods.
  • The first movements begin autonomously, first crawling and then walking.
  • Pronunciation of the first words.
  • Learning of the basic notions of reading and writing.
  • Interaction with the physical environment (going down stairs, getting on a chair) and social environment (meeting other peers and playing with them).

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Childhood (6 to 12 years old)

two children playing-stages of human development

Childhood is characterized by the development of the first social ties outside the family nucleus.

For many specialists, childhood is the most important stage of human development. It is there where the fundamental psychosocial and emotional skills for healthy development are acquired, and the foundations of what the individual will be in the future are laid.

Among its characteristics, the following stand out:

  • Development of cognitive skills (association of ideas, recognition of colors, shapes and structures)
  • Evolution of skills for reading, writing and logical thinking.
  • On a social level, it is a period of much interaction in which the first bonds begin to form outside the home through education and recreational activities.

See also Childhood.

Adolescence or puberty (12 to 20 years of age)

two teenagers with laptops-stages of human development

Physical changes begin in adolescence and the need to bond emotionally.

Biologically, adolescence is the stage of human development marked by hormonal and physical changes that will determine the sexual maturity of the individual. It is subdivided into two phases:

Early adolescence (12 to 15 years old)

It is characterized by:

  • height increase
  • Changes in weight and height.
  • Appearance of body hair.
  • Breast growth in women and the onset of menstruation.
  • Appearance of sexual desire in both genders.
  • Tendency to isolate or distance from the family nucleus as part of the search for their personal identity.
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Late adolescence (15 to 20 years old)

In this stage, the process of sexual maturation is completed and the adolescent prepares for adulthood. It involves the completion of high school, as well as the exploration of academic or professional interests.

See also Adolescence.

Youth (20 to 25 years old)

At this stage, the first adult social interactions begin, although the individual still lacks emotional maturity. Among other characteristics of this stage of development, the following stand out:

  • Completion of the process of physical development.
  • The individual begins to experience the world with a clearer vision of himself and what he wants for the future.
  • In many cases, this is the stage of emancipation, since the individual begins to generate their own income and lay the foundations for their adult life.

Adulthood (25 to 60 years of age)

an adult couple laughing - stages of human development

In adulthood begins the period of greatest professional productivity. And the foundations of a family life of their own are created.

Adulthood is the longest stage of human development. It involves various physical, emotional and psychological changes depending on the age and phase of each person. It has, in turn, three classifications:

Young adulthood (25 to 40 years of age)

In principle, adulthood is the period of greatest vitality and activity. Some outstanding features are:

  • It is the phase of greatest productivity, since it coincides with the completion of higher education and professional development.
  • It is also the stage in which, ideally, procreation occurs, since people are at the height of their reproductive capacity and have the emotional maturity necessary to face the changes that this process implies.

Middle adulthood (40 to 50 years of age)

After the age of 40, the changes typical of menopause in women and andropause in men begin, characterized by:

  • hormonal fluctuations
  • Emotional changes
  • Weight and height change
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Appearance of gray hair and expression lines
  • Loss of bone and muscle mass.
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Late adulthood (50 to 60 years of age)

In this phase, the physical changes that began in previous stages are more evident, in addition, a series of vital changes occur that have an impact on social dynamics:

  • Emancipation of the children, which in many cases implies the beginning of a period of solitude for the parents.
  • It is the phase of retirement and the rethinking of priorities, so skills, talents, hobbies and social connections are especially important in this period.
  • Decreased sexual desire in both sexes.
  • Vaginal lubrication problems in women and erectile dysfunction in men.

See also Adulthood.

Elderly or old age (60 years and older)

older adult-stages of human development

Old age is characterized by a loss of bone mass and skin elasticity.

Old age, also called third age, is the last stage of human development and is characterized by:

  • Progressive deterioration of physical and cognitive abilities.
  • Tendency to social isolation, either as a consequence of the appearance or evolution of diseases or due to the reduction of the social circle caused by the death of other peers.
  • Acceleration of the aging process (the skin loses its elasticity, wrinkles deepen, hair begins to fall out).
  • Acceleration of bone and muscle loss.
  • Decreased vision and hearing.

Factors such as quality of life and health habits acquired in previous life stages can positively influence this phase. A healthy adult will face old age with a better perspective, which is why it is important to create the conditions and habits to do so in a timely manner.

See also:

  • Old age.

Sources consulted:

  • Masilla, María Eugenia (2000): Stages of human development. Journal of Research in Psychology, volume III, number 2. Lima, Peru.
  • Perez, Nelly; Navarro Ignasi (2011): Psychology of human development. Editorial University Club. Spain.