Key aspects of physical development

Updated April 17, 2017

Physical development is a process that continues from the womb to the grave. Although major developments occur early in the formative years of life, people also change significantly through puberty, adulthood and into their years as a senior citizen. Although their bodies are not developing in the traditional sense of the word, they are still changing.

In The Womb

Around two months (8 weeks) into the pregnancy, the foetus begins to experience the sensation of touch. First, she has feeling in her cheeks, then genitals (10 weeks), palms (11 weeks) and soles of the feet (12 weeks). The foetus will feel the different body parts by sucking on her thumb and stroking her face. By the 32 week mark, almost every part of the fetus's body is able to feel heat, cold, pain and pressure.

Early Childhood

The first five years of life are crucial stages of development. During the first year, babies learn how to sit up, crawl, move their extremities, walk and talk. By age 2, their abilities expand greatly, and they can hold crayons, kick a ball, build, ride a tricycle and jump off of a step. Between 3 and 4, they can jump up and down, stand on one leg and draw a circle and a cross. At age 5, children have more control of their movements, dress themselves, skip and draw triangles and squares.

Elementary School

At the elementary age, children's gross motor skills develop more than their fine motor skills, which means that they are able to produce larger movements such as running, jumping and kicking. However, they have difficulty holding small objects, for example. As can be seen in many elementary school classrooms, children develop these fine skills by using scissors to create projects and using pens or pencils to write out the letters.


Another time of major physical developments, puberty usually begins in girls between the ages of 8 and 13 and in boys between 10 and 15. Therefore, puberty covers a wide span of time. Boys begin to grow facial hair, and their voices deepen. Girls' bodies fill out, and their periods begin. In both genders, hair also grows under the arms and around the pubic region. Both genders begin to use deodorant in order to combat their bodies' increased production of sweat.


Once puberty ceases and total physical maturation is reached, the body does not technically grow anymore, meaning that there is no increase in cell number. However, as the person ages, the body does go through some changes. By the time women are in their 50s, they have gone through the process of menopause, which ultimately stops both their period and their ability to give birth. After the age of 35, bone mass starts shrinking. Some people become shorter as a result. Wrinkles on the skin and grey hairs generally appear during adulthood as well.


Examining seniors is an important part of the study of physical development because it is the last stage of physical changes. Seniors often experience problems with their urinary systems, and according to Colgate, about 30 per cent of seniors have some sort of urinary control problem. About 33 per cent of people age 65 and older, and 50 per cent of people age 85 and older have problems with their hearing ability. Weight loss also becomes a problem, because the body's metabolism significantly slows down.

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About the Author

Jen Marx holds a Master of Arts in English and American literature. She is a consultant at a university writing center and has numerous print and online publications, including "Community College Campus News." Marx specializes in topics ranging from wedding planning to history to the environment.