Human growth and development is affected by a large number of factors. These factors include internal factors and external factors.

A- Internal factors are conditions within the body. These include intelligence, sex, glands of internal secretion, racial difference, cultural background of the child etc.

  • Intelligence: Low grade intelligence is associated with retardation, slow learning and poor performance. On the other hand, high grade intelligence is associated with acceleration, quick learning and excellent performance.
  • Glands of internal secretion: Glands of internal secretion play an important role in human growth and development. For example, if the pituitory glands are over-active, the different parts of the body exhibit large size growth. If these glands are under-active, dwarfness is the result. Again, an over-active thymus gland will retard normal development and keep the child physically and mentally at a disadvantage. Other glands such as parathyroid and thyroid glands also affect growth and development in an important manner. The deficiency of sex glands delays puberty. The over activity of these glands produces early sexual maturity.
  • Sex: At birth, boys are slightly bigger in size than girls. When the process of growth sets in after birth, girls exhibit rapid growth and attain full size earlier than boys.

B-External Factors:

Much of the physical growth depends partly upon such environmental factors as sunlight, fresh air, conditions of climate and partly upon food and nutrition.

C- Other Factors:

Other factors as heredity, environment and maturation also play an important role in growth and development.

  • Heredity and environment: Human organism is the product of heredity and environment Potentialities of development, and not acquired skills, knowledge and attitudes, are handed down from parents to their off-springs. Again, favourable environmental influences and specific training are required to develop a superior personality or to improve a weak one.
  • Maturation and learning. Development is the result of maturation and learning. According to Hurlock, by maturation is meant the development or unfolding of traits potentially present in the individual because of his hereditary endowment from his parent and other ancestors. Thus maturation is the inner growth process unaffected by training. Another factor that causes growth is ‘learning’. Learning implies exercise and experience on the part of an individual. Learning may result from practice, which in due course of time may bring about a change in the individual’s behaviour, or it may result from training which is nothing but a selective, directed and purposive type of activity.

It must be noted that maturation and learning are closely related, and one influences the other. This means that traits potentially present will not develop to their maximum without effort or learning. On the other hand, no amount of effort, exercise, or training on the individual’s part will be adequate to bring up a trait to a desired standard if the trait is limited in its potentialities. Thus, though learning or environmental factors have a great influence on growth and development, maturation provides the raw material for learning and determines to a large extent the more general patterns of the individual’s behaviour.

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