Stages of Human Growth and Development-Postnatal (Part-I)


The Postnatal phase of human development starts from birth till the death of an individual and is further divided into various stages. Each stage has its typical characteristics and the hazards (challenges) associated with it.

The postnatal has been divided into the following phases as per Elizabeth Hurlock.

  • Infancy (0-2 weeks)
  • Babyhood: (3rd week-2 years)
  • Childhood (3rd year-Puberty)
  • Adolescence (Puberty-19 years)
  • Adulthood (20 years-40 years)
  • Middle Age (40yrs-60yrs)
  • Old Age (60-death)

Now let us discuss each of these phases in detail:

Infancy stage

Characteristics of Infancy stage

  1. This phase is the shortest stage of all the stages                as it lasts for about two weeks from birth of the child.               
  2. This is the first time the child gets exposure to external environment as it comes out of mothers womb.
  3. Major adjustments takes place in terms of –   
  •  temperature change
  • breathing
  • food intake through mouth
  1. Warmth and affection of the caregiver is very crucial at this stage.
  2. Proper initial nutrition needs to be started and is crucial for the later development.

During this period warmth of the care giver in the form of close physical contact plays a very crucial role in the personality development of an individual.

It is also to be noted that it is very important to be careful about the initial nutrition of the infant. The first thing given to the infant should be mother’s milk. In some cultures practice of giving honey etc. is done which should be discouraged and the people should be made aware about it. Mother’s milk is initially a yellowish coloured thick fluid called colostrum. 

The infancy stage is further divided into two sub-phases, that is-

  1. Partunate: It starts from birth and last till about 15-20mins; the duration till the umbilical cord is cut and tied.
  2. Neonate: It starts after the umbilical cord is cut and tied and lasts till two weeks.Now the infant is an independent being ready to survive in the external environment.

Hazards of Infancy period

In the previous section we discussed the typical characteristics of infancy period. The following section explains the challenges or the hazards associated with this phase:

  1. Malnutrition: If the mother is unable to feed the child, it may lead to malnutrition or if the mother is malnourished and is not getting proper nutrients in her food that will also lead to malnutrition in the child as the quality of milk may get affected.
  2. Diseases: This period is prone to diseases like measles, diarroehea, Tetanus etc. as the infant has a weak immunity and is sensitive to the external environment.
  3. Anxiety: Lack of warmth and affection leads to anxiety. The infant develops a sense of insecurity if the caregiver is unable to provide warmth and affection to the child during this phase.


The next phase after Infancy is the babyhood phase which has its own typical characteristics. The following section details out the same:

Characteristics of babyhood:

  • Babyhood starts from 3rd week of birth till 2 years
  • This is called as the true foundation stage
  • Rapid growth and change takes place during this phase. The baby starts to respond to people and objects
  • It is the age of decreased dependency. The child wants to be independent as it gains muscular strength.
  • It is the age of increased individuality. Unique physical appearance starts to show and the child shows tastes towards specific food. It also tries to eat with its own hands.
  • Beginning of socialization process takes place. The baby wants to be in group and emotional attachment develops.
  • Creativity starts developing at this stage.
  • Sex role typing begins at this stage. Peoples’ attitude play a major role in sensitizing the baby of gender differences. The baby develops liking of toys of specific sex.
  • It is a hazardous age. Physical hazards can take place in the form of accidents or illness. If psychological foundations go wrong it may lead to maladjustments in later life.

Developmental tasks of Babyhood

Every phase needs to complete certain tasks for a smooth transition to the next phase. These are typical to each phase and are called as developmental tasks. The developmental tasks of babyhood is discussed in the following section:


  • Motor or muscular development leading to motor skills like walking crawling, running etc.
  • Increase in height, weight and other physical proportion
  • Development of bones, teeth, sense organs and nervous system
  • Intake of solid food


  • Speech and communication: cognitive development, expression through gestures and incomplete sentences
  • Emotional patterns like anger, fear, joy, affection etc. develops
  • Onset of socialization as family relations develop
  • Show interest in play
  • Personality development starts

Hazards of Babyhood

This phase also has certain challenges associated with it for which preventive measures needs to be taken.

Physical hazard

  • Mortality: the baby is very sensitive and needs physical protection as slightest of negligence may lead to mortality.
  • Illness: The baby has a very weak immunity and are prone to several diseases. In the absence proper immunization the baby may suffer from various disease.
  • Accidents: As the baby starts to walk during this phase they are prone to accidents if they fall down or lose their balance.
  • Malnutrition: Malnutrition can also be one of the reasons for high rate of mortality during this phase.
  • Foundation for obesity: malnutrition may also lead to obesity in the individual.

Psychological Hazard

  • Excessive crying may lead to stomach upset, night walking or nervousness, feeling of insecurity
  • If motor development is delayed baby develops negativity which persists and further hampers learning
  • Encouraging baby talk may lead to delay in speech development
  •  Lack of opportunity to learn, to be social may lead to low self-esteem and lack of confidence.


After reading this article you might have been able to get an understanding of the distinctive features of each phase of development. In continuation to this, in the next article the childhood phase has been discussed in detail.

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