Arrested Development

courtesy of google

Human development (physical, cognitive, moral, societal, and behavioral) is going through certain patterns, whether we like it or not. Physical development, along with the neuro-cognitive process, is known to follow the head to toe fashion. The novel progress in imaging technology produced better resolutions of magnetic resonance imaging. It directly impacts the new research and knowledge on neuroscience.

It is known that the maturity of human brain is following the postero-anterior fashion, whereas it first started at the occipital lobe (responsible for visual sensory activity, which in turn responsible for the first activity of “social smile”), cerebellum (effective feeding routines, predictable sleep-wake cycles) and brainstem (regular breathing process). The myelinization (developmental process) then move anteriorly, until it reach the last part of pre-frontal cortex (responsible for “executive functions”: regulation and interpretations of environmental stimuli)

Before the wake of neuroimaging, there were many theories on human development and of emotion and cognition. The first one was the famous Psychoanalytic Theory of Sigmund Freud. In the field of psychiatry and developmental medicine, this theory is used in lesser extent, while still praised as the mother of human neurodevelopmental theory. Still under the Psychoanalitic Domain, Erik Erikson recast the theory of Freud. Instead of analyzing the sexual stages, he talked on the psychosocial stages. In every stage of development, there are two fates, which eventually would shape the human behavior. Based on this theory, a professional intervention can be made on a certain age pointing on the salient issues.

There is another famous group of developmental theory: Cognitive Theories. This group consists of Cognitive Theory by Jean Piaget and Moral Development Theory by Lawrence Kohlberg. For Piaget, a process of learning (cognitive development) started with the sensorimotor. During this period of life, a child learn to master their sensorium and motoric function based on the sensory perception. Simple survival reflex, body exploration, learning on sensation beyond self, and aware of goals and possibilities of the object perceived.

Jean William Fritz Piaget, courtesy of

The second stage after Infancy and Toddlerhood’s Sensorimotor is the Pre-Operational Stage. During this stage, a child has started to speak, and active interactions with language and ideas have started to develop. However the thought process in this stage mainly dominated with magical thinking, egocentrism (the child cannot take someody else’s point of view), and dominated by perception (less logic involved in the process of interpretation of environment). The magical thinking of a child will involved ability to fly, believe that bad things happen on someone because of their wish. The period of pre-operational involves the difficulty of distinguishing fantasy from reality, hence a child usually will include a magical story line along with their reality. The egocentrism dominating cognition also creates inconsistencies in rules of playing. Initially they will prefer to ask and acquire for their own benefit, then as the brain develop, cooperation and role-playing becomes a part of the world, whereas the rules and regulations changing based on the desire of the owner. After about three years of setting their own rules, finally they accept the rules of others, but now rigidly. Fairness means equality without social consideration, because the child cannot focus to more than one aspect at a time. A child will do good things for the approval of their parents. This stage of morality was called conventional: conformity stage by Kohlberg.

Lawrence Kohlberg, courtesy of

Into the school age, a child will be increasingly separate from parents and seek acceptance from other authorities (such as teachers), and peers. They will start considering multiple dimensions and point of views. Magical thinking will be left and physical law along with observable phenomena will be the center of thinking process. During this time, known as concrete operational , they will acquire the long term memory as in knowledge storage and recall, be able to zone out unimportant stimuli while focusing on the important, and be able to do sequencing of a process. However this ability can be revert back to the pre-operational stage while in distress. (e.g secretly believe that illness is the punishment for being bad). The concrete operational process has its main focus on concreteness. The concrete explanations without nuance, concrete negotiations, and concrete consequences. The morality has developed into understanding law and order, although the main reason of doing good will still be depending on peer pressures and authority pleasing.

On the adolescent stage, a child, affected with hormonal bursts, will move from concrete operations stage to formal operations. The egocentricity will be changed by consideration on the needs of others. The future will be weighed more, hence delayed gratification becomes more important. Along with the development of the cognition process, the morality will also developed. The desire to be a good person, which usually is consistent to the parental values, becomes the driver of good deeds.

All the process is expected for a person to reach adulthood, where the development will still continue until the end of life. The picture of a human development might be the same picture for a family development, a society development, a cultural development. Where are you, where are we now? Are we arrested in development?


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