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)
Toddlerhood (Age 2 to 4)
Early school age (Age 4 to 6)
Early moral development
Middle childhood (Age 6 to12)
Early adolescence (Age 12 to18)
Membership in the peer group
Romantic and sexual relationships
Later adolescence (Age 18 to 24)
Autonomy from parents
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.
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Sources & Additional Resources
Book: Newman, B. M., & Newman, P. R. (2018). Development through life: A psychosocial approach (13th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage.
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