What Is Development?


Development is a multifaceted process that creates growth, progress and positive change in people’s lives. It includes economic development (or an increase in people’s income), social development (literacy and health), and environmental development, or the improvement of the quality of the environment. It also involves eradicating poverty, hunger, disease and illiteracy, providing basic needs, such as food, water, housing and sanitation, and improving people’s opportunities to make choices.

There is no single test to determine whether a country has achieved development status, but one way to measure it is by looking at a country’s per capita income, which measures the value of the goods and services produced in a country divided by its population. Developing countries typically have lower per capita incomes than developed ones.

Throughout history, many different approaches to understanding development have emerged. Some, like maturational meta-theory (proposed by Arnold Gesell), assume that development occurs in fixed sequences and argues that it is impossible to teach children skills ahead of schedule because they will only learn them once their nervous systems are mature enough. Other theorists, such as behaviorists and Vygotsky, assumed that learning is a continuous process based on environmental experiences and brain processes.

Some theorists, such as those who endorse lifespan or ecological systems models, believe that development can take on a variety of patterns and pathways depending on the specific cultural, historical, and societal contexts in which it unfolds. This is known as contextualist meta-theory.