Human Development Stages From Infancy to Late Adulthood

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  • 0:05 Human Development
  • 0:44 Infancy
  • 1:18 Childhood
  • 2:05 Adolescence
  • 3:13 Adulthood
  • 5:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

Expert Contributor
Lesley Chapel

Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master's degree in History.

Human development is a process that continues throughout our lives. This lesson will take a look at the progression of human development from infancy to late adulthood with all the stages in between.

Human Development

Have you ever brought home a new puppy and then watched it grow up? How did your dog change as it got older? You may have watched your dog grow and develop from a cute and cuddly puppy, to a bit of a troublemaker, to a confident companion, and finally to a lazy old dog who sleeps all day. Each of these stages has different physical and emotional characteristics. Just like dogs, humans go through different developmental stages in their life, as well.

Typical human development is a pretty predictable process--most humans develop at similar rates. This pattern of development allows us to make generalizations about different stages, such as infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Let's take a closer look at each stage.


Infancy, typically the first year of life, is the first important stage of human development. Many physical milestones occur during this stage as an infant gains control over its body. However, infants must rely on others to meet most of their needs. They learn to trust other people as needs are met. They need to feel this security in order to properly develop both physically and emotionally.

Like your puppy, an infant needs to be loved and nurtured. As you met the needs of your puppy, he/she learned to trust and bond with you while he/she also developed physically.


The next stage of human development is childhood, during which children start to explore and develop a sense of independence. Eventually, children learn to make their own decisions and they discover that their actions have consequences. As they learn and grow, they develop a sense of self. Children need to be nurtured so that they develop self-confidence instead self-esteem issues. Achieving a healthy level of self-confidence helps children stay motivated to achieve. A child also needs guidance as they begin to test out new skills and gain confidence in their decision-making.

Do you remember when your puppy got big enough to start getting into things? You may have had to make sure to put your shoes up or your dog would chew them as he/she was learning what he/she should and shouldn't do.


During childhood, children begin to develop a sense of self and independence, and this process continues in the next stage of human development. During adolescence, young men and women are primarily concerned with finding their identity and expressing who they are in the world. Puberty causes many physical changes to take place, and adolescents must adapt to their changing bodies. All of these changes can make adolescence a confusing and stressful period. As adolescents try to find their place, they may experiment with different roles and make attempts to separate from authority figures. They are getting used to their bodies and trying to find out where they belong. They may try out different hairstyles and hobbies in an attempt to create an image of themselves they're comfortable with.

Eventually, your puppy wasn't really a puppy anymore - he/she was growing into a dog. He/she probably became a bit rebellious, too, and tested your authority from time to time. As you set firm and consistent rules, your puppy became comfortable with his/her personality and place in your home. Your overgrown puppy is very much like an adolescent.


Adulthood brings on even more new challenges and major decisions about school, career, and home life. Early adulthood involves few physical changes, but it's a time of important emotional development, as young adults decide where they want to live, who they want to live with, and what type of work they want to do.

Next comes middle adulthood, or middle age, when adults begin to deal with the physical signs of age: wrinkles, gray hair, and maybe a few extra pounds. On top of physical changes, most middle-aged adults also experience stress from dealing with older children and taking care of aging parents. Most adults have the life experience and emotional stability to deal with these challenges, but it's no wonder we use the term 'midlife crisis' for those who struggle with this period of human development.

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Additional Activities

Prompts About Human Development Stages:

Study Prompt:

Make a set of flash cards that briefly define the eight terms that are in bold provided in the lesson (human development, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, early adulthood, middle adulthood, late adulthood). It can help to use synonyms for definitions of the bolded terms.

Example: Late adulthood = senior citizen

Graphic Organizer Prompt 1:

Create a poster, chart, or other type of graphic organizer that explains the human development stage of infancy. Make sure your graphic organizer depicts the kinds of things infants need.

Example: Infants have to depend on adults for their physical and emotional needs.

Graphic Organizer Prompt 2:

Make a poster, chart, or some other type of graphic organizer that depicts the three stages of adulthood (early adulthood, middle adulthood, late adulthood). Be sure that your graphic organizer illustrates the physical and mental changes that are prevalent at each stage of adulthood.

Example: Gray hair may start to appear in middle age, but humans in middle adulthood tend to be equipped with emotional stability.

Essay Prompt:

Write an essay of approximately one to two pages that describes the human development stages of childhood and adolescence. Your essay should show the connection between childhood and adolescence, and also discuss the role of puberty in adolescence.

Example: The sense of independence that starts to develop during childhood is amplified during adolescence.

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