A developmental process generates growth and progress, such as economic expansion or increased literacy. Development is also the improvement of an organization’s culture, which helps employees learn new skills and improve their performance at work.
A person’s developmental path may vary according to her cultural background, and the environment. Many theories of development assume that pathways of change are either (1) normative and universal, like the sequence of cognitive tasks outlined by Piaget or the stages of identity negotiation described by Erikson, or (2) differential and specific, such as the range of options available to people who negotiate their way out of childhood poverty.
For example, the fact that someone is an immigrant does not prevent her from overcoming obstacles to professional success or finding personal happiness. But adolescent development is different in cultures that value family ties, emphasize traditional rites of passage or have few choices for young adults. In this regard, the theory of Erikson and other socialization theorists has been challenged.
A more recent and broad view of human development has emerged. The United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development asserts that everyone is entitled to participate in and benefit from the economic, social and cultural development of their societies in a manner that ensures “full respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.” This human rights-based perspective focuses attention on addressing the root causes of inequality within a country. It also encourages researchers to study development from multiple perspectives, including ecological, political and economic.