What Is Development?

Development is the growth and evolution of people, ideas and places. In a broad sense, the term describes good change that is beneficial to humans and society. However, the concept of development is highly subjective, ranging from the evolution of a software program or website to the improvement of a city’s housing stock through a re-development project.

Countries are usually considered to be in a state of development or underdevelopment based on their level of economic growth, which is determined by examining the GDP per capita. Countries with traditional economies are generally considered to be developing, while those with technology-based economic systems are classified as developed countries.

For individuals, development can be described through psychosocial stages that a person experiences throughout their life. For example, Erikson’s model of human development, which broke from Freud’s emphasis on sexuality, explains that each period of life is characterized by a challenge or crisis that the individual must face, such as stage one, infancy, trust versus mistrust; stage two, toddlerhood, autonomy versus shame and doubt; stage three, preschool years, initiative versus inferiority; stage four, adolescence, identity versus role confusion; and stage five, middle adulthood, generativity versus stagnation.

Internationally, development encompasses efforts to alleviate poverty in the world and promotes human rights. Various governments and organizations sponsor and conduct development projects worldwide, including the World Bank and the UN Development Program. For-profit businesses and their charitable foundations, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are also major contributors to development.