Prenatal period (Conception to birth)

The prenatal period has six important characteristics, each of which has a lasting effect on development. It is the period at which the hereditary endowment which serves as the foundation for the later development is fixed. The sex of the newly created individual is fixed at the time of conception.

Infancy (Birth to 2nd week)

The first two weeks of life is the time needed for a newborn to adjust to the new environment outside its mother’s body. Infants must begin to breathe on their own and get nourishment by sucking and swallowing, instead of receiving it through the umbilical cord. The infant organs of elimination begin to work soon after birth. The neonate has to learn to make adjustments with the fluctuating temperature.

Babyhood (end of 2nd week to the end of 2nd year)

Babyhood is also known as toddler-hood especially in the second year of life. The child attempts to acquire language and learns to develop intimate ties with others. It is the period for the beginning of socialization.

Early Childhood (two to six years)

Childhood is divided into early childhood and late childhood. The end of babyhood till the child enters school marks early childhood. This is the period between two to six years of life.

Late Childhood (six to ten or twelve years)

This stage starts with the child formally enters the school after completing five years of early parts of childhood. It is a critical age for acquiring academic as well as extra-curricular activities and habits. Once formed, habits of working below, above, or up to one’s capacity tend to persist into adulthood. Acceptance by their age mates and membership in a gang is an important characteristic of this age. They show conformity to group approved standards in aspects of appearance, speech, and behavior.

Puberty (ten or twelve to thirteen or fourteen years)

Puberty is a relatively short period, lasting for two to four years. It encompasses the closing years of childhood and the beginning years of adolescence. Puberty is characterized by rapid growth and marked changes in body proportions. Children take an “anti” attitude towards life or seem to be losing some of the good qualities previously developed.

Adolescence (thirteen or fourteen to eighteen years)

Adolescence is a transitional period during which rapid physical and behavioral changes take place. Both boys and girls show conformity to group standards which is important to their socialization. They begin to crave for identity. Unrealistic aspirations of adolescents are responsible for their heightened emotionality.

Early Adulthood (eighteen to forty years)

Early adulthood is settling down and reproductive age. This period stretches from the point at which the person is legally adult (at eighteen years) to the point when the person undertakes adult work and family roles. Choosing a vocation, getting appropriate education or training, and formulating ideas about the selection of a mate or someone to have a close relationship characterize this stage.

Middle age (forty to sixty years)

Middle adulthood or middle age is the time when men and women undergo menopause. It is a time for not only financial and social success, but also for authority and prestige. People of this age participate in community life beyond the family and reaffirm the values of life that have real meaning.

Old age (sixty years and above)

The term “senility” is used to refer to the period of old age when there are a physical breakdown and mental disorganization. The elderly occupy a minority group status in the family and society due to unfavorable social attitudes towards the aged. Poor adjustment is the characteristic of old. age and their desire for rejuvenation is widespread in all cultures.

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Identity is a new way of thinking about oneself that emerges during adolescence. It involves a sense of self-unity, accompanied by a feeling that the self has continuity over time. Identity achievement during adolescence serves as a basis for adult expectations and goals. As individuals enter early adulthood they use their current understanding of whom they are to develop a lifespan construct.

The process of identity development begins with children’s awareness that they are separate and unique individuals. Erikson was the first major psychological theorist to develop the notion of an adolescent identity crisis. To develop a sense of identity amidst the confusion, adolescents need to try their identity on a variety of roles and must often test extremes before settling on a considered course. With their sense of Identity in flux, teens will often turn to peer groups for the missing sense of belonging. This explains some of the cult-like tendencies amongst early adolescents to worship the same heroes, according to the author. The process of separation from parents is a natural one. At this stage adolescents often reject their parents, and all that they stand for is that they can make a clean break from childhood as they attempt to form an identity of their own. Erikson was the first major psychological theorist to develop the notion of an adolescent identity crisis. To develop a sense of identity, adolescents need to try their identity on a variety of roles. With their sense of Identity in flux, teens will often turn to peer groups for the missing sense of belonging. At this stage adolescents often reject their parents, and all that they stand for.

Erikson’s interest in identity began in childhood. According to Erikson, identity is an intense analysis and exploration of different ways of looking at oneself. Identity achievement during adolescence serves as a basis for our adult expectations and goals. Eriks on identity as a subjective sense as well as an observable quality of personal sameness and continuity.

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The present classification divides retardation into mild, moderate, severe, and profound. These categories, along with specific characteristics for each category, are shown below.

MILD RETARDATION (IQ 50-70): People are not noticed as retarded by the casual observer. They can acquire practical skills and useful reading and arithmetic to sixth-grade level. They can usually achieve social and vocational skills necessary for self-maintenance but is slower to walk, feed themselves, and talk than most children. They can be guided toward social adjustment. They may need occasional guidance and support when under unusual social or economic stress.

MODERATE (IQ 36-50): People under this category show more delay in motor especially in speech. They respond to training in various self-help activities. They can learn simple communication, can perform simple tasks under elementary health and safety habits, and sheltered conditions; participates in simple manual skills; does not progress simple recreation; travels alone in familiar places; usually incapable of self-maintenance.

SEVERE RETARDATION (IQ 20-35): These people exhibit marked delays in motor development; little or no communication skill; may respond to training in the elementary self-help, for example, self-feeding. Usually walks, barring specific disability, has some understanding of speech and some response; can profit from systematic habit training, can conform to daily routines and repetitive activities; needs continuing direction and supervision in a protective environment.

PROFOUND RETARDATION (IQ below 20): Under this category, there is gross retardation; minimal capacity for functioning in sensorimotor areas; obvious delays in all areas of development; shows basic emotional responses; may respond to skillful training in the use of legs, hands, and jaws; needs close supervision, may walk, need nursing care, have primitive speech, usually benefits from regular physical activity; incapable of self-maintenance.

Mental retardation has many causes. Some are genetic accidents, such as Mongolism or Down’s syndrome, which are caused by an extra chromosome. Some are caused by physiological problems, such as cretinism, which results from thyroid deficiency. Some are due to physical factors such as not receiving enough oxygen before birth. And many are simply a combination of hereditary and environmental factors – the parents were retarded and did not provide a stimulating home environment for the children.

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