Stages of Human Development – Information and characteristics

We explain what the stages of human development are, their characteristics and what marks the beginning or end of each one.

stages of human development
Each stage of development brings bodily, mental, emotional, and social changes.

What are the stages of human development?

The stages of human development are the different phases that human beings go through in life, that is, from birth to death, and that are repeated in a similar way in each individual.

These stages can be organized into different models and schemes for their study, and thus there are very different proposals of what are the basic features of each stage or their approximate age ranges, depending on the author consulted and the point of view: psychological, biological, social, etc.

In fact, the first models in this regard emerged in the mid-18th century, the work of scientists such as the encyclopedist Philippe Guéneau de Montbeillard (1720-1785), who was measuring the changes in height of his son from birth to eighteen years of age. , to try to establish a model of growth and development.

However, from a very broad point of view, the course of human life includes the following stages:

  • Early childhood, from birth to around 6 years of age.
  • Childhood, from 6 to 12 years of age.
  • Adolescence, from 12 to 21 years of age.
  • Adulthood, from 21 to 60 years of age.
  • Old age, from 60 years of age until death.

The age ranges are very approximate, since each individual is different, but in each one of them there are certain recognizable changes of body, mental, emotional, social and physiological type, according to the predefined pattern of existence in our DNA, which they more or less define the expected experiences at each stage of the life cycle.

We will discuss each one separately below.

Prenatal stage

Life begins its journey with birth, since it is the moment when existence becomes completely independent of the maternal body. That is the reason why we begin to keep track of our lives from then on.

The entire existence prior to birth can be considered as the “pre-natal” stage of life. It extends from conception to delivery and during which the body of the individual is formed and acquires its basic minimum conditions to come into the world.

There is no consensus in the scientific community as to when exactly the individual begins to live and stops being simply part of the maternal body, that is, when we stop being a set of cells and become an individual.

Early childhood

stages of human development early childhood
Only at the end of childhood can the individual move autonomously.

Early childhood or early childhood is the initial stage of human development, in a strict sense: starts at birth and ends around 6 years of age, when the individual enters childhood.

In this first stage the individuals are in a state of extreme helplessness and vulnerabilitySince, unlike animals, our brain completes its evolution and development long after it has left the uterus.

Normally we call individuals at this stage “babies”, and we know that initially they are devoid of speech, of sphincter control and that they relate to the world through crying. The diet depends on breast milk, since there are no teeth, and psychomotor skills are minimal.

However, throughout early childhood these basic communication traits between the inside and the outside begin to form as the individual prepares for a more independent existence. A) Yes, the first autonomous movements occur (first crawling, then walking) and the first words are spoken, entirely by imitation of the parents.

At the end of early childhood, an individual must:

  • Move autonomously and interact at will with objects in the environment.
  • Express themselves in a spoken way, recognize their peers and play with them.
  • Being able to recognize primary emotions and their most basic expressions (crying, laughing).
  • Manage the rudiments of literacy.


Childhood or second childhood is a more advanced stage of initial human existence, in which there is the proper development of basic psychosocial and cognitive skills, which is why it coincides with the beginning of formal schooling. For many specialists it is a crucial stage in the constitution of the individual, key to defining the personality of the individual.

Childhood can be thought of as a plateau between early childhood and the turbulence of adolescence, throughout which the individual gradually and constantly increases in stature, also gaining expressive, motor and social abilities more refined, and thus being able to interact in more complex ways with the world.

At the end of childhood, an individual must:

  • Manage more complex conceptual tools (mathematics, verbal communication, etc.) and establish more complex socio-affective relationships (friendship, companionship, etc.).
  • Primary management of logical thinking, formal management of literacy and ability to associate ideas and concepts.
  • Socialize continuously and intensely through recreational activities, and form the first social bonds outside the home.


stages of human development adolescence
The adolescent values ​​his relationships with his peers over his family environment.

Adolescence is one of the most complex stages of human development. It consists of a stage of great and profound changes at the mental, physical and emotional level., which serve as a bridge and preparation between childhood and early adulthood. It is a stage of much emotional turbulence and continuous physiological modifications, the purpose of which is the reproductive maturation of the individual.

Adolescence, broadly speaking, is divided into two different stages, which are:

  • Early adolescence (12-15 years). A first phase of more violent changes that break with childhood and show the beginning of sexual maturation of the body: appearance of pubic and body hair, beginning of menstruation and ejaculation, considerable increase in height, breast enlargement in women , enlargement and thickening of the male genitalia, increase in weight and height, and appearance of sexual desire.
  • Late adolescence (15 to 21 years). In this stage the process of reproductive preparation of the individual is completed, with less pronounced changes in the physical and physiological, but great behavioral, emotional and psychological changes. It is a stage of rebellion, in which the individual seeks to leave home and values ​​their relationships with their peers over their family environment.

By the end of adolescence, the individual is expected to:

  • Has matured reproductively, with noticeable physical and physiological changes, that is, it already shows external signs of sexual maturity.
  • Be able to ask existential and philosophical questions, and can tackle complex matters with relative cognitive fluency.
  • Show your definitive personality, exhibiting your own social, emotional and psychological tendencies, although highly influenced by social and group pressure.
  • It already has traits of belonging to a community, on which it is based to define its “identity”: urban tribes, sports groups, etc.
  • Have an active libido (sexual desire).


Adulthood is the intermediate stage of life, and therefore the longest of all. Adults are fully responsible individuals (legally, socially and affectively), who occupy a place in society and look out for their own interests. This is the stage in which individuals normally they exercise a trade, form a family and reproduce, fully assuming its place in the whole of the species.

However, given its size, it is convenient to think about adulthood in two different stages:

  • Early adulthood (between the ages of 21 and 40). In this stage the self-identity is fully developed and the individual usually forms a family and reproduces itself. Intellectual capacity reaches more complex levels and physical capacity is at its peak. Regarding the emotional panorama, the turbulences of adolescence are left behind and a more stable stage begins.
  • Full adulthood (between the ages of 40 and 60). Lucky vital plateau, in which intellectual abilities reach their highest point, while the body begins to show its first signs of deterioration. It is a stage in which individuals tend to rethink their existence, judge their life path and prepare for old age. Full adults often occupy leadership positions in society.

Throughout adulthood, individuals typically:

  • They reach the peak of their physical, psychological and emotional development.
  • They have a complex but full sense of identity, and they recognize their place in the world.
  • They reproduce, form families or have deep interpersonal relationships, which occupy a significant place in existence.
  • They forge a trade, a profession or a place in society, through work and experience.
  • They mature completely physically and begin to show signs of aging: graying of the hair, loss of flexibility, hair loss in men, and decreased libido.

Old age

stages of human development old age
The elderly can play leadership roles or choose a quieter life.

Old age or old age is the final stage in human development, in which the bodies of individuals manifest their symptoms of deterioration and diseases and ailments appear as a result of time. It can be a more or less painful stage, depending on the model of life that was led, and in the same way it can be marked by loneliness or by family life, since grandchildren appear at this stage.

Most of the elderly withdraw (or aspire to do so) from the workplace and they undertake calmer existences, although many still play leadership and advisory roles in society. This also implies a significant change in their needs and aspirations, which become more urgent medically and more reflective mentally, as individuals prepare to face death.