Difference Between Growth and Development In Psychology

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: September 25, 2023


Difference Between Growth and Development In Psychology

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Growth and Development are related terms, but still, they are significantly different. Every living being changes continuously, whether internally or externally. Psychology is the study of the mind. It is entirely related to the mind and studies changes within the mind, which is much more complex to understand. Growth is the term used for describing any change in a person's physical appearance, whereas development involves both internal and external growth. It is the overall growth experienced by a human being.   

Growth vs. Development in Psychology

Psychology is the study of the mind. It deals with what happens in the mind and behavioral changes. Growth and Development are closely related terms as they both talk about change. But still, they are significantly different. Growth is the term used to refer to the physical changes within a living being, whereas Development is a much more internal concept. It refers to the overall growth that one experiences. Development, though includes external growth, but it is more linked with psychology and refers to the changes within the mind. Development can be more prominently defined as the change a person undergoes internally, within his mind, and also, to some extent, the physical changes that have taken place within a person. When it is said to a person that he has considerably grown, it mainly means the growth of height, but when it is said that a person has developed considerably, it is the overall development experienced by that person, both internally and externally, over the years.

Difference Between Growth and Development in Psychology in Tabular Form 

Parameters of ComparisonGrowthDevelopment
MeaningQualitative applies to development because the focus is more on the overall change in a person's quality.Development refers to the overall change that a living being experiences.
Quantitative or QualitativeGrowth is quantitative because growth means changes in the physical structure of a living being such as an increase in height.Development is both internal and external, but mainly it is internal.
Time LimitThe body stops growing after a sudden period, when a living being attains it’s maturity.Development is a lifelong process and never stops because it is a continuous change in quality.
ReasonThe primary cause of growth is cellular change as the number of cells increases when an organism grows.Development is more psychological and happens mainly due to the gaining of experience in life.
LocationGrowth is external.Development is both internal and external but mainly it is internal.
ResultsThe result of growth is a change in the physical appearance of an organism.There is no such visible change for development. It is invisible but is there.

What is Growth?

Growth refers to the physical change that any organism experiences. It is quantitative because this change can be measured in quantity, as in how much a person has grown in height or the growth of muscles in an organism’s body that leads to a change in the physical appearance of that organism. Growth in an organism does not happen for a lifetime. It has a specific time, and an organism grows physically until it matures or attains maturity. Growth is the changes in the body structure that happen for a temporary period. It can be measured as the weight or height of a person can be measured. Genes within an organism are the basic driving factors of growth. Growth is hereditary. Hereditary and other biological factors determine the growth of a person. One can experience growth faster than another person in terms of height.

Cellular changes within an organism are responsible for an organism’s growth. The increase in the number of cells within an organism’s body leads to the growth of the body. When the body attains maturity, it stops growing. Growth is a visible aspect of the body. Hence, according to psychology, growth refers to changes in the physical structure of an organism. In the case of plants, however, the growth is unlimited. They continue to grow throughout their lifetime. In humans, the growth rate is not uniform because, at some stages of their life, they grow fast, whereas at some stages, the growth is slow. The growth rate is very high in the early stages of a person’s life but becomes slow in the later stages. The growth rate is also different for different parts of the body.

Types of Human Growth

There are five stages of human growth based on age. It starts from the very stage of infancy and continues till adulthood, after which growth in the human body stops happening because, in adulthood, the body reaches its maturity.

The various stages of growth are

  • Infancy
  • Toddlerhood
  • Childhood
  • Adolescence
  • Adulthood


Infancy is the stage of being a baby. It is a formal term for baby. In the stage of infancy, a baby rapidly grows. Physical development is very fast at this stage. It is the growing stage for the baby. During birth, a baby is approximately around 3kg in weight and is 18-20 inches long in height. But after one year of age, the growth increases three times. The first nine months are a period of extremely fast growth for a baby.


This stage comes after infancy and is approximately from 2-6 years of age. It is also called early childhood. They have fast social and emotional growth. In this stage, the growth rate is slightly slower than in the infancy stage. In this stage, the boys' height is generally larger than the girls. The head, however, grows at a slower rate, and the other parts of the body experience a fast growth rate. Muscles undergo rapid development, because of which hands and feet grow rapidly.


This period is approximately from 6 to 12 years of age. In this period, the growth rate is initially slow. The body grows slowly at this stage, but hands and legs grow faster. So, the structure of the body appears thin, but the growth in height is rapid in this stage, so the child appears tall. In this stage, there is a drastic change in the overall look of the child. Sex differences also begin to be visible at this stage due to puberty.


Adolescence is the period of transition from childhood to adulthood. It is the teenage period. It is a very significant period of growth and changes in the body. In this period, various changes like physical, social, and intellectual changes take place within a person. Moreover, the height and weight rapidly increase in this period. Sex differences become strongly visible at this age. The secretion of sex glands starts from this age, which leads girls to womanhood and boys to achieve manhood. Pubic hair grows rapidly at this stage, and primary and secondary sexual characteristics are also apparent. Boys experience a major change of voice, and their voice cracks at this age. Hormonal changes occur at this stage, which leads to sex drive.


Adulthood is the last stage of growth in the body, after which growth stops, or it happens very slowly in case of an increase in height because of attaining maturity. The individual attains sexual maturity at this stage.

What is Development?

Development, according to psychology, refers to the overall changes experienced by a person during his lifetime. It is qualitative because it depends on the change in quality. There is nothing quantitative here that can be measured. The changes of development, unlike growth, are both external and internal because they refer to the overall change of an organism. The changes in development are not visible to the eyes, and they happen throughout one's life, as there is no limit. Development, even if it involves external growth, is more often used to refer to the internal growth of an organism. It is understanding the overall aspect of a person's growth, like behavioral, social, intellectual, emotional, and other changes in a person. The physical development of an individual happens due to genes, but the behavior change happens mainly due to society. Development is a gradual process, just like growth, and takes time. It always follows a pattern, which is why it can be said that development is also predictable. The process of development is from general to specific.

So, development is not dependent only on genetic factors like growth, but external societal factors are also important. E.g., a child physically grows properly if he receives all the proper nutrients at the right time. But along with the body, the mind also grows internally, which means he gains experience gradually, and changes in his emotions and behavior also occur gradually. So, this is what development is. Hence, development can be regarded as mental growth.

Types of Development

Development is a lifelong process and continues till death. Humans experience four stages of development in their entire life, which are: -

  • Physical Development
  • Cognitive Development
  • Emotional Development
  • Sexual Development

Physical Development

Physical development means physical growth. Physical growth occurs rapidly during infancy and toddler years but becomes slower as a person becomes old. Moreover, some organs grow faster than others initially. The brain also develops significantly by the age of five. The childish face goes away along with growth, and children start developing resistance to germs.

Cognitive Development

Children learn about the world and society through various playful activities in this stage. They start getting separated from their caregivers in the gradual development process as they get to spend less time with their family members, and in the process, they start gaining independence. Adult people start making decisions for themselves.

Emotional Development

Children gradually start developing social skills. They start developing relationships with people outside their home, beyond their caregivers, and start making friendships with the people they like and hate those that they don't like. So, emotionally, they develop.

Sexual Development

As they grow, children gradually learn about the male and female sex and the body functions of the different sexes. In the adolescent period, which is the transition period from childhood to adulthood, individuals develop as sexual individuals and become sexually aware. They begin distinguishing between the male and female bodies and undergo hormonal changes.

Main Difference Between Growth and Development in Psychology (In Points)

  • Growth and development are closely related terms in psychology as they are both connected to change. According to psychology, growth is a term used to refer to the changes in the physical appearance of an organism, whereas development refers to the overall changes that a living being experiences throughout life. So, growth is external, and the changes are visible, whereas the changes that occur in development include both internal and external changes but mainly focus on the internal changes that an organism undergoes throughout its lifetime. Development is invisible, but the changes happen within an individual.
  • Growth is quantitative because growth is the changes that occur externally in a person's physical appearance. So, it can be measured as it is visible. However, development is qualitative because development is not visible as it is a combination of all the changes that occur in an individual. So, it cannot be measured. It focuses more on the quality, so it can be considered as mental growth, such as the character development of an individual, which refers to the character quality of the individual.
  • Growth is not unlimited. It occurs till a specific time when an individual attains maturity. It is more physical and external, so physical maturity is attained by an individual by the adult age. Development, however, is a lifelong process until death. An individual continues to develop throughout his life. It is more internal and psychological, so it can be considered spiritual, and spiritual development comes along with experience.
  • Growth mainly occurs due to cellular change as the number of cells increases when an individual grows. It is external. Development, on the other hand, is more internal and spiritual, so it comes along with the gaining of experience. Cellular change continues till a certain age because of which growth stops after that age or is very slow in terms of increase of height after attaining adulthood. Development continues till death, and the more experience a man gains, the more developed he becomes.


Hence, according to psychology, growth and development are closely related terms. Growth refers to the external changes in an individual’s physical structure, whereas development involves all the changes that occur in an individual, putting more focus on internal development, such as behavioral change. Growth stops occurring after an individual attains maturity, whereas development goes on until death. The main reason for the growth is cellular change in an individual's body, whereas development mainly occurs through gaining experience.


  • https://www.advocatesforyouth.org/resources/health-information/parents-13/
  • https://www.psychologydiscussion.net/educational-psychology/4-major-aspects-of-human-growth-and-development/1817


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"Difference Between Growth and Development In Psychology." Diffzy.com, 2024. Tue. 14 May. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-growth-and-development-in-psychology>.

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