Anthropology Paper I

Syllabus Section: 10. Concept of Human Growth & Development / Methodologies for human growth studies.

Human Growth and Development

In the context of human growth studies and development, Growth is define as an irreversible constant increase in size whereas development is define as growth in psychomotor capacity. Both the processes are highly dependent on genetic, nutritional, and environmental factors. Evaluation of growth and development is a crucial element in the physical examination of a patient.

Human Growth Studies and Their Significance

Biological changes keep happening in the life of humans and some of them are significant in the life and personality development of an individual.

These significant life events/changes in human life are important to learn in order to understand the dynamics of human growth with average growth patterns.

Additionally, with our increased awareness of the interplay of genetic-environmental factors on human growth with the prevalence of malnutrition, hunger, etc.,

They were having a direct impact on human growth, human growth studies have become important.

In order to carry out these studies, a number of techniques or methods are developed in order to observe, analyze and test human growth. These human growth studies help us in explaining the stages in the life of humans, growth patterns, and the development of progressive physical and mental abilities among human beings. It also helps in finding the health status and lags in growth among different sections of people in order to establish growth standards for them.

These growth study methods are broadly divided into three major types:
  1. Cross-sectional study
  2. Longitudinal Study
  3. Cross-Sequential Study
  1. Cross-Sectional Study
  • A cross-sectional study is the human growth study method involving a group of people from different age groups as the subjects under
  • All people are studied in one go for various developmental differences.
  • Thus, it gives details on the growth of humans with respect to age or the growth pattern of children in a community.
The merits of the cross-sectional method

Merits of the cross-sectional method include the quick and cheap method of growth study with the availability of subject during study and ease to carry larger population study. But the major demerits of this method include the lack of scientific generalization it suffers and its limited applicability of it to the only cohort under study, as it masks differences among individuals and gives a group average data. This method can’t be used to identify growth velocity and timings on particular phases of growth among individuals as an individual is studied only once. Also, its findings of it are more related to the growth rather than the development of human beings, thus restricting its use for scientific conclusions.

  1. Longitudinal Study: Longitudinal study is the human growth study method involving the same people for a range of time periods and measuring them more than once in order to observe the changes in their growth and development over time. It may involve the study of one characteristic, like case studies on the specific trait of humans- IQ, height, etc., or study of a group of characteristics, over a period of time. As it can help to ascertain the developmental relationship among different traits it is used widely to study the children and adolescents during critical phases of growth like early birth stages of infancy and the adolescent spurt, helping in the establishment of growth velocity and timings on particular phases of growth like the onset of a juvenile growth spurt.
The merits of longitudinal growth study

They include its sensitivity to individual patterns of change with age. Therefore, it can help in understanding the influence of genetics and environmental factors on the growth dynamics of children including the impact of major illness or disease. It avoids the major demerits of cross-sectional study like the application to one cohort only, lack of scientific scrutiny, etc., and can help government and other agencies to identify the benefit of specific health and nutritional interventions made by them. But this method suffers from certain demerits like loss of subjects during the study because of non-availability of the same individual across time for study. These studies are expensive, require high skills, and suffer from the issue of the “practice effect” by subjecting the same individual to repeated testing and the “Hawthrone Effect” by making the individual aware of being under study because of repeated study.

3. Cross-Sequential Study: It is an amalgamation of the cross-sectional and longitudinal study, to remove the inherent limitations and drawbacks of the two methods. Cross-sectional is more about growth or quantitative changes and longitudinal studies are more about developmental or qualitative changes in human growth. Cross-Sequential study some people under cross-sectional and some under longitudinal method to have a more realistic assessment and determine the differences that show up over time for the different groups of subjects.

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