Children's development

This section considers the area of child development and areas for consideration when assessing a child's circumstances.

Knowledge of child development is essential for all workers who come into contact with children and for their managers.

Brandon et al., 2011, p.4

There are several different theoretical models which identify the importance of considering a child's development, however they all are based in the same idea that at the point when a child is assessed, who they are is a result of all their experiences to that point. In court, the test as to whether a child has achieved and maintained a reasonable standard of health and development is through comparison to "that which could be reasonably expected of a similar child." It is therefore important that as practitioners there is an awareness of what the norms of development are expected to look like, whilst balancing this with the needs of the individual child. The NSPCC (2006) hasten that "milestones are an important concept but should be used within a context that recognises each individual's potentialities" (p.2).

The Assessment Framework identifies dimensions of child development which assessments should consider:



The following table considers the principle areas of change and development by stages of a child's life and who can provide advice/guidance when undertaking assessment:

StagePrinciple areas of change and developmentWho can provide advice and/or information?
Up to preschool / nursery

Forming secure attachment to caregivers

Developing gross and fine motor skills

Developing means of communication and early language skills

Development of expressions of emotion with increasing complexity over time

Developing ability to differentiate themselves as an individual from others

Development of skills in relation to self-control and compliance

Health visitor




Primary school

Developing friendships with peers

Increasing capability to complete complex physical tasks and improving co-ordination

Increasing ability to concentrate for longer periods of time

Increased stability in moods and starting to demonstrate capacity for empathy and worry

Developing sense of values (right, wrong, what is fair, etc.)

Developing ability to regulate behaviour to specific surroundings and circumstances

Able to say what they want and what they are thinking

Developing literacy and numeracy skills


School Nurses


After-school clubs


Adolescence / Secondary School

Forming a cohesive sense of self-identity

Increasing ability to reason with others and consider hypothetical events

Developing and maintaining close friendships across both genders

Achieving academically and developing skills required for further education and work

Questioning the values and beliefs with which they were raised

Experimenting different avenues and exploring choices open to them


School Nurses


After-school clubs

 Adapted from: NSPCC, 2006.  The Developing World of the Child: Seeing the child.