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The three key developmental processes discussed in the field of psychology involve biological, cognitive and socioemotional phases or dimensions. Biological are perhaps the simplest to intuitively grasp, as it refers to the physical development of the body, with particular emphasis on development of the brain. As scientists now understand, the human brain continues to develop through the first 21 years of age. With those changes in the brain’s development come changes in how the individual controls his or her movements along with reflexive and hormonal evolutionary processes, all of which are influenced by genetics and environment, the latter bridging the gap between biological, cognitive and socioemotional processes. The second process, cognitive, involves the development of an individual’s ability to process information, conceptualize solutions to problems, memorize information, and learn to communicate through multiple means (for example, through spoken language, the written word, drawing, etc.). Finally, socioemotional processes refers to the development of the ability to form relationships and to understand and adapt to behavioral differences among individuals. Individuals develop bonds starting soon after birth, with those relationships evolving over time and expanding to incorporate additional people.
Examples of each of these three developmental processes could include the aforementioned development of the brain from birth to the early 20s, and its subsequent degradation as a normal part of the aging process. The adolescent brain is constantly changing as it evolves to assume the composition or form that will see the individual through adulthood. The significance of recent discoveries regarding the development of the adolescent brain is suggested in the following text from the U.S. Government National Institute of Mental Health:
“An understanding of how the brain of an adolescent is changing may help explain a puzzling contradiction of adolescence: young people at this age are close to a lifelong peak of physical health, strength, and mental capacity, and yet, for some, this can be a hazardous age. Mortality rates jump between early and late adolescence. Rates of death by injury between ages 15 to 19 are about six times that of the rate between ages 10 and 14. Crime rates are highest among young males and rates of alcohol abuse are high relative to other ages.”
With respect to the cognitive process, the distinctions throughout the adolescent years and into adulthood are particularly crucial. There is a reason foreign languages and musical instruction are best introduced early in childhood: the phase of human brain development that occurs in those early years is most conducive to the absorption and retention of forms of communication. Similarly, puzzle-solving is a part of the cognitive process, as it was noted above that developing the ability to solve problems is a major element of the cognitive process.
Socioemotional processes, as noted, involve the development of an individual’s ability to forge relationships and to function within a unit. Socioemotional development occurs very early in childhood, as babies develop bonds with parents and associate those presences as loving, supportive entities.
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