What is meant by the concept of development?

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The concept of development can mean various things depending on what field you are referring to. Generally, development refers to improvement and growth. It involves moving from a primitive condition and transitioning through stages to a more advanced condition. In some instances, what constitutes development is subjective, because there is an implied value judgment in what is considered to be an improvement.

In terms of economics, development refers to a rise in the standard of living of a given country. Economic development involves low-income economies transforming into more sophisticated and prosperous ones. Economists study how a country's economic output can increase in terms of GDP and industrial and commercial advancements. This will usually result in changes in that nation's society.

In sociology, development is often related to economic development, but the concept varies somewhat. Overall, societal development is concerned with how social change occurs. This involves changes in family structure, religion, and governance. Societal development also includes issues of population growth, migration, and assimilation with other societies.

In the field of psychology, the concept of development involves studying how people mature throughout their lives. Mostly, this is related to cognitive, emotional, social, and intellectual abilities. People's abilities to think and control their thoughts and emotions increases drastically as they age. Exactly how the brain changes to allow these developments has been a major area of study in psychology for years.

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In the social sciences, the concept of development can refer to the progress of societies, or it can refer to the progress of economic systems. Social development refers technically to a rise in the quality of life of a population, and practically this means that amount and distribution of wealth, technological advancement, and democracy are evaluated, as these things are assumed to improve the quality of life of populations overall. Economic development similarly offers a structure where wealth and choice are valued as indicative of quality of life in the studied populations. As wealth and consumer choice increase, regardless of how this affects a population in terms of life expectancy, literacy, and so on, a society is seen to be more economically developed.

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The phrase "concept of development" is open to more than one common definition. Psychologists in developmental psychology speak of the concept of development in relation to human development through varying stages of life and learning. Economists, on the other hand, speak of the concept of development in relation to economic development from low technology and living standards to high technology and living standards.

In psychology, the "concept of development" refers to comprehensive theories of how humans develop from being infants to adults. Freud, for example, posits that the unconscious drives the conscious through sexual energy of the libido, and he emphasizes the role of sexual energy. Jung, in contrast, criticizes Freud for placing so much emphasis on the sexual, calling the libido energy "psychic energy," and he posits that there is a driving influence of the universal collective memory which each human accesses during developmental stages. Questions considered by psychologists are, for example, nature versus nurture and continuity of gradual change versus discontinuity of distinct transitional stages.

In economics, the "concept of development" refers to dual aspects of a country's economic improvement. The first, traditional aspect addresses technological advancement and growth in gross national production. Economists Haq and Sen describe this aspect as answering the question: "How is the economy doing?" The second, contemporary aspect of the economic "concept of development" addresses human development in terms of "enlarging people’s freedoms and opportunities and improving their well-being" ("About Human Development," Measure of America).


Both these understandings of the "concept of development," the psychological and the economic one, overlap in the consideration of human lives as continually moving from one lesser stage to another greater stage of living. The economic concept of development differs from the psychological in that it combines economic and human aspects, and the economic is measured by more immediately evident metrics, like employment goals and health. In contrast, the psychological concept of development is measured by more esoteric metrics, like repressed motives and cognitive goals.

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When we are looking at the concept of human development we are looking at how humans progress and learn from birth until death.  There are several theories that help to explain how this happens and why behavior occurs including Freud’s psychosexual development, Erickson’s psychosocial development, Piaget’s cognitive development and Pavlov’s behaviorism theory.

Each of these theories looks at different aspects, stages, and behavior within human development but each serves to explain the differences in development stages as well as in why behavior occurs. For example why is it that a child cannot understand long term consequences for their behavior however an adult can? Piaget would state that this is because an adult has obtained formal operational development however a child has not.  Also development looks at the question of why behavior occurs. Why do we learn to react in a specific ways to specific situations?  Pavlov would state that we have been classically or operantly conditioned to respond to stimuli within our environment.

In closing the focus of explaining development is being able to apply a psychological theory to explain the behavior which results in humans changing in reaction to their environment and experiences.

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