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Definition of growth and development

    Growth is the progressive increase in the size of a child or parts of a child. Development is progressive acquisition of various skills (abilities) such as head support, speaking, learning, expressing the feelings and relating with other people. Growth and development go together but at different rates. Maturity refers to when the body are fully developed.


    Importance of assessing growth and development

    The assessment of growth and development is very helpful in finding out the state of health and nutrition of a child. Continuous normal growth and development indicate a good state of health and nutrition of a child. Abnormal growth or growth failure is a symptom of disease. Hence, measurement of growth is an essential component of the physical examination.


    Factors affecting growth and development

    Each child’s path or pattern of growth and development is determined by genetic and environmental factors. The genetic factors determine the potential and limitations of growth and development. If favourable, the environmental factors, such as adequate nutrition, facilitate the achievement of the genetic potential of growth and development. Unfavourable factors, acting singly or in combination, slow or stop growth and development.


    Some of the unfavourable factors are malnutrition, infections, congenital malformations, hormonal disturbances, disability, lack of emotional support, lack of play, and lack of language training. To promote optimum growth, these environmental factors can be removed or minimized. Once they are removed, there follows a period of catch up growth.


    During this period the growth rate is greater than normal. This growth rate continues until the previous growth pattern is reached. Then the growth rate is reduced to the normal rate determined by the individual’s genetic factors. A child genetically determined to be tall grows slightly more rapidly than a child genetically determined to be short. Similarly, a child genetically determined to be clever develops their intellect more rapidly than a child genetically determined to be less intelligence.

    Measuring Growth

    There are various measurements that are used to measure growth. These are:

    1. Weight,
    2. Height,
    3. Head circumference,
    4. Mid upper arm circumference (MUAC)
    5. The eruption of teeth.

    To be useful, these measurements must be taken accurately using reliable equipment and correct measuring techniques.Measuring weight For measuring the weight, a beam balance or spring balance is used the weighing pants on the hook of the scale. .


    Measuring the Head Circumference The head circumference is measured by encircling the head with an unstretchable tape measure, or a piece of string in the absence of a tape measure. This is passed over the most prominent part of the occiput posteriorly and just above the supraorbital ridges anteriorly to obtain the greatest distance around the head. The piece of string used in the absence of a tape measure is then measured with a ruler to obtain the head circumference


    Measuring the head circumference.

    Measuring the mid upper arm circumference (MUAC) The mid upper arm circumference is measured using a tape or string in the absence of a tape. The tape or string is placed around the upper arm, midway between the olecranon and acromion processes. Care is taken not to pull the tape or string too tightly. The measurement is read. The string used in the absence of a tape measures is then measured with a ruler to obtain the mid upper arm circumference.  illustrates how to measure the mid-upper arm circumference.

    Measuring the mid upper arm circumference. The length of a child is measured in the first 3 years and the height is measured after 3 years of age. The length is measured using a horizontal measuring board put on the ground or on a table. The child is laid on his back with the head against the fixed head board. A helper holds the child’s head so that the eye angle- external ear canal line is vertical and also keeps the body straight. With one hand of the health worker, the child’s knees are pressed down to straighten the child’s legs fully while, with the other hand, the sliding foot board is placed to touch the child’s heels firmly. With the foot board in place, the child’s length is read on the metre scale.  illustrates how the length of a child is measured.


    To measure the height, a bare foot child stands with the feet together. The heels, the buttocks and the occiput lightly touch the measuring device. The head is aligned so that that the external eye angle- external ear canal plane is horizontal. The child is told to stand tall and is gently stretched upward by pressure on the mastoid processes with the shoulders relaxed. The sliding head piece is lowered to rest firmly on the head. The height is read and recorded.


    The factors that promote development include good nutrition, emotional support, play and language training. We shall discuss each of them in detail, starting with good nutrition.


    Good nutrition is essential for normal growth and development. Unlike most other organs in the body, the brain is not fully developed at birth. Good nutrition in the first 6 months of life is extremely important. Malnutrition in this period may inhibit the growth of the brain. As a result of impaired brain growth, the child may suffer for the rest of life if the child does not get enough good food. A malnourished child is often tired, apathetic and not interested in learning new things that will promote normal development. Nutrition is discussed in detail in Unit 7.



    The first 5 years of life are critical for the foundation of the skills which are developed in the following periods of the child’s life. A newborn starts with no knowledge and learns a great deal during his/her first year of life. It is very important to realize that a child is a growing and developing human being right from birth. He ought to be treated very carefully, with love and respect, so that he can develop normally. He needs full emotional support. There are eight basic needs for a healthy emotional development of a child.


    These are:



    Acceptance an an individual;

    Self-Respect (Self-Esteem);





    Let us briefly look at each in detail.

    Love A child needs to feel loved continuously. A child who does not feel loved will not develop properly, and will not learn as quickly as other children. Instead, he becomes sad and lonely and no longer interested in what goes on around him.


    Security A child needs to feel safe. He can only feel safe if his parents show that they love him and take good care of him. He must know that his parents will look after him and help him, that they will feed him when he is hungry, play with him, and keep him happy and comfortable. The love and security a child gets from the mother and family helps him to develop a sense of trust in people, initially the family members and later people outside the family.


    Acceptance as an individual: A child enjoys being accepted as an individual. A child needs to know that his mother and family love him for what he is. They should not compare him with other children and tell him that he is slow to do this or that, or that he is not as good as some other child. They should show him that they respect him as an individual with his own likes and dislikes, and that they realize he is unique, as all children are unique.


    Self respect (self-esteem)

    Children need to feel that they are of great value, they are able to do things by themselves, they can achieve success, and that their success will be recognized. Anything suggesting that a child is inferior is very disturbing to the child.



    The child feels the need to achieve. The parents should not do anything that the children can do for themselves.


    A child enjoys recognition by his or her parents. A child needs to know that his parents are happy and pleased when he has learned to do something new. Parents should help a child to do things and encourage him to make achievements. They should also teach the child because they love him and show that they are proud of him. This helps the young child to feel secure and to learn more easily.



    A child needs to learn how to make decisions. As the child grows he needs to be allowed to decide more and more things for himself and learn how to be independent. The parents must not unnecessarily limit the child’s independence and exploration by overprotection and over anxiety.


    A child needs his parents’ authority mixed with affection. The parents train the child to learn to obey the rules of the home, the neighbourhood, the school and the society. The rules indicate what the child may do and what he may not do. What a child may do is approved and encouraged with rewards. What the child may not do is clearly and firmly disproved and discouraged. The discouragement is achieved by permitting consequences of undesired behaviour. The child thus learns to accept the restrictions that are there in life.



    Play is an essential factor the development of a child. Play is an irreplaceable source of information, stimulation for the brain, stimulation for the muscles and a lot of fun. All these are necessary for physical, mental and social development. All normal children like to play. If a young child does not play, he may be ill. Encourage playing, even if it may be noisy sometime



    Childhood is the stage  from birth to puberty. It is characterized by light body weight,smallsize,very rapid growth.very active body and restlessness.

    Puberty is the transition stage from childhood to adolescence.It is the period when the body of a school age  child turns into that of a dolescent.It is characterized by very active body,well formedbones,rapid gain in height and weight,development of secondary sexual characteristics.

    Adolescence is the stage before adulthood. It is characterized by well formed reproductive system,height and weight still increasing.

    Adulthood is the stage of full maturity.It is characterized by no change in height but changes in weight and body sizes,Ageing indicated by appearance of grey hair,gradual decline in body (reproductive capacityand functioning of body organs.


    STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT                                                       

    0 – 6 years – First stage of development

    6 – 12 years – Second stage of development

    12 – 18 years – Third stage of development

    18 —–> – Fourth stage of development



    1.——- refers to when the organs in the body are fully developed. A.develpoment  b.Growth  c.Maturity   d.measurement.

    2.A stage in  life in which individuals grow into  adults is termed    a.Adult stage   b.Developmental stage   c.Ovulation stage   d.Puberty Stage.

    3.All these factors influences growth and development except         a.Environment   b.Genetics   c.Nutrition   d.Enzymes   d.Hormones

    4.Changes that occur in an organism which leads to maturity is called   a.Called   b.Maturity   c.Development   d.Growth   e.Growth and Development.

    1. ———— is an irreversible increase in size   .a.Development   b.Maturity   c.Growth   D.Enlargement.

    6.Develpomental stages  include the following  except          a.Childhood   b.Puberty   c.Adolescence   d.Manhood   e.Adulthood.

    7.——— is the transferring of genes from parents to offsprings.  A.genetice   b.genetics   c.Heredity   d.Puberty.


    Define Growth and Development

    What are the factors responsible  for growth and development.

    State the various stages of Development.


    See also





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