Child development can be described as the biological and psychological changes that occur in human beings between birth and the end of adolescence. There are many different factors that influence child development, such as biology/ genetics, the personal experiences we undergo throughout our childhood, and the influence of the environment. Child development is often categorized into five domains: cognitive (development of the ability to think and reason); social/psychosocial (the process by which a child learns to interact with others); emotional (the child has to learn how to recognize and control their own differing emotional states and to recognize emotions in others); language (how children acquire language); and finally physical development (the physical changes that occur from birth to adolescence). It is important to remember that development occurs simultaneously in all domains and that they are interrelated and interdependent, for example a delay in physical development may hamper the child’s social and emotional development. It is imperative that nurses have a sound understanding of ‘normal’ child development before they can begin to appreciate deviations in any aspect of development. On completion of reading this chapter you will begin to link your knowledge of child development to the preparation, implementation, and aftercare involved in clinical nursing procedures such as measuring a baby’s head circumference, as outlined later on in the chapter. It is anticipated that you will be able to do the following once you have read and studied this chapter: ● Understand the main influences on child development and the nature versus nurture debate. ● Understand normal child development so you can apply this knowledge to the key nursing skills required to care for a child and their family. ● Understand the importance of developmental assessment throughout childhood, such as the development checks undertaken by health visitors/ public health nurses, as a means to assess ‘normal development’ as well as delays in the achievement of expected developmental milestones. Child development refers to the biological and psychological changes that occur in human beings between birth and the end of adolescence, as the individual progresses from dependency to increasing autonomy.
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