Developmental Tasks in Children and Teens

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Let’s learn about developmental tasks

Developmental Tasks in Children and Teens

Robert J. Havighurst first introduced the idea of developmental tasks (Newman & Newman, 2018). A developmental task is a set of skills learned and mastered by a specific stage of development. He believed that the core of human development is the process where children (and adults) work to learn the tasks expected of them by the society they live in. Developmental tasks are also commonly referred to as “developmental milestones.”

You may notice that these tasks change as a child grows because each society has age-specific expectations for development and behavior. Milestones involving physical, emotional, intellectual, and social growth, as well as growth in one’s self-concept, all make up a large part of a child’s resources for dealing with the challenges of life as they grow. Think of these as tools that a child needs to function well in society, feel secure in themselves, and thrive.

Some of these tasks are listed below by the age that they typically develop during, though these are not always accurate for every child.

Infancy (first 24 months)

Maturation of sensory/perceptual and motor functions
Sensorimotor intelligence: Processing, organizing, and using information
Emotional development

Toddlerhood (Age 2 to 4)

Elaboration of locomotion
Language development
Fantasy play

Early school age (Age 4 to 6)

Gender identification
Early moral development
Peer play

Middle childhood (Age 6 to12)

Concrete operations
Skill learning
Team play

Early adolescence (Age 12 to18)

Physical maturation
Formal operations
Emotional development
Membership in the peer group
Romantic and sexual relationships

Later adolescence (Age 18 to 24)

Autonomy from parents
Gender identity
Internalized morality
Career choice

List adapted from Cengage Learning (2018).

These are general guidelines and a child who does not meet each one is not guaranteed to be developmentally delayed. If you have any concerns regarding your child’s behavior or development, you should always consult your child’s doctor.

Want to go in more depth with milestones and tasks? Check out our free pediatric speech and occupational screeners.

Learn more about Speech-Language Pathology

Learn more about Occupational Therapy

Sources & Additional Resources

Book: Newman, B. M., & Newman, P. R. (2018). Development through life: A psychosocial approach (13th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage.

Article: Europe: Pediatrics in Review: Developmental Milestones

Article: Developmental Trauma Disorder: Toward a rational diagnosis for children with complex trauma histories.

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