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Words that Portray Various Aspects of Children's Growth

In cell biology, the phenomenon is based on (1) the substance or the size of the cell increases, (2) the number of cell increases, and (3) the substances between the cells increases.

However, when we see a child grow up, we see various aspects of the growth and development that cannot be described in one word. Thus, various terminologies are used to describe the child's growth and development, which sometimes is the cause of confusion among specialists dealing with children's issues. In this article, I would like to try to sort out, in my own terms, the many words that are used to describe the child's development and growth.

First of all, I would like to refer to the words, "growth" and "development." Although these words are not normally used as distinct from each other, it seems that after examining them carefully, they both have specific meanings that are unique to each term.

The word referred to as, growth (seicho) in Japanese also means "growth" in English. However, in Japanese, we usually refer to the morphological meaning pointing to the quantitative change in the growth of the child. More specifically, this type of growth we see in the child is something measurable, such as height or weight. I still recall the times when I was in elementary school, we used to mark a wooden pillar with a ruler, to mark our growth in height.

On a different note, the word "development" in Japanese (hattatsu) and English both refers to the qualitative change in the child's growth. In other words, this type of development refers to various functions of the child. Some functions may be measurable if measured by a special scale, but these types of changes in the child are very sensitive and varied. For example, "intelligence" or "emotions" of a growing child belong to this type of development, as are the development of physiological power of organs, such as the heart and lungs.

Thus, for these two aspects of the child's progress in growing up, "growth" emphasizes fundamental biological phenomenon, while "development" carries implication with it that there is room for learning. The experiences, practices, training, and education combined with the biological phenomenon all add to the child while growing up.

Since the process of growth and development interacts with each other and sometimes cannot be well differentiated, I would like to use the Japanese term hatsuiku, which includes both the meaning of growth and development, hereafter.

Starting from being a fertilized egg to developing into a fetus, then a newborn, then an infant, then a toddler, then a schoolchild, to an adolescent and finally into an adult, all the developmental and growth changes including the biological and more abstract growth, is what may be referred to as hatsuiku. It is the comprehensive structure of the fertilized egg growing to become an adult and completing one life cycle.

Although hatsuiku is a specific term for this type of growth and development in Japanese, there is no equivalent term in English, besides what I have described here. This is partly because the Japanese language allows for various combinations of the Chinese characters to imply slightly different meanings for each word, emphasizing various aspects of growth and development using those characters.

In medicine, the other Japanese word seiiku, using the characters referring to "growth" and "cure or raise," is being used more and more. Of course, because of the usage of characters, there is no English equivalent that catches the subtle connotations, but even in Japanese, it is often not deciphered as differing from the above mentioned growth and development. Seiiku is often used in the treatment of newborn babies and originates from the word with the negative meaning of "seiiku limit". We often use this word when a premature baby does not have strength to grow on his/her own and even present medical technology cannot aid in this process. In other words, it is when the baby cannot grow on his/her own strength, and there is no way of "raising" the child. Therefore, seiiku means not only "growth" and "development," but also the ability of "growth" and "development" by "care and raising".

There is the word for maturation in both Japanese and English. This is the stage when one has reached adulthood and has developed and grown fully. In the connotation of this word also, lies the implication of biological growth, such as in the skeletal system.

I have attempted to sort out the words that are used in relation to and in explaining various aspects of "growing up" and to introduce the Japanese terms hatsuiku and seiiku. However, I must say that I am far from coming to a conclusion. For example, even when talking just about the biological formation of the brain, we do not call it growth, but development. Thus, the terminology used in describing a child's process of growing up is very delicate and subtle differences can have complex implications. I would appreciate to hear what you think about this issue and hear of any other ways of describing child's growth and development, especially if you have more words to share with us from your own language.
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