Development is a general term for growth, progress and positive change. It can be used to describe the improvement of a nation’s living standards, including better education, employment and sanitation facilities, as well as more advanced medical facilities. It can also be used to refer to the overall economic growth of a country, or its rise in the global rankings on international indicators like gross national income (GNI).
The study of development is guided by the assumptions that researchers have about the nature of humans and how they change over time. These assumptions are often called meta-theories.
Some of the most common meta-theories assume that human development is primarily caused by nature, or innate biological traits and characteristics, such as gender, ethnicity, temperament, and brain wiring. This approach to understanding human development is sometimes referred to as maturational, and it has been the basis of many scientific studies, such as behavioral genetics, sociobiology, evolutionary, ethological, neuroscience, and personality theories.
Other researchers, such as Piaget, Vygotsky, and information processing theorists, have assumed that humans play a more active role in their own developmental process. They believe that as children learn, their brains create new ways of interpreting the world around them, and they become more capable of solving problems.
The challenge for human development is to nurture the diversity of the world’s people, so they can develop their potential in ways that reflect their individuality and unique social identities. It is also necessary to encourage, rather than repress, emerging social movements that reflect the desire of many people for autonomy and space.