Development is the process of enhancing a person’s physical, economic, environmental and social capabilities. It is a term that has emerged in the context of international discussions on poverty reduction, development aid and other forms of humanitarianism and can include a wide range of policy areas including infrastructure, education, healthcare and poverty alleviation.
The nature of development is a topic of debate among scholars and NGOs worldwide. It is shaped by assumptions about human nature, the role of the individual in their own development and the relationship between genes, environment and learning.
There are several different meta-theories that guide the study of development, ranging from biological to interactionist and lifespan to ecological systems perspectives. Some of these theories assume that the way people develop is essentially the same for all children; others believe development takes place through a variety of different pathways, depending on the specific experiences and environmental contexts of each child.
Meta-theories are often derived from scientific research. For example, developmental theorists such as Piaget and Erikson based their theories on studies of brain development and environmental experiences that contribute to a person’s cognitive and motor skills.
There are also normative and non-normative influences that shape the way people develop, such as the time period in which they were born or their ancestry. There are also differences between countries and cultures that may influence development.