What is the Causes of Individual Differences?

No two pupils are alike. They differ from each other in hundred and one respects. They differ in age, sex, hereditary potential, intelligence, achievement, interests, and aptitudes, needs physical, social, emotional and developmental. If there are forty pupils in a class there are forty problems to solve, if the teacher wants to be effective.

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For example, one child may listen to the teacher’s words of advice, the other may not be at all hearing them: one may foe a hard worker, the other may be lazy and lethargic one may do the home work quickly, the other may not submit it even after repeated warnings one may be intelligent, the other may be mentally retarded.

Each child is a unique individual and differs from every other and presents individual problems. Individual differences among children are related to their developmental state at any time. The developmental state refers on the one hand to the level of maturation and on the other to the resultant of the process of growth and effects of experiences.


The causes of individual differences are:

1. Difference in Growth Rate

Some children grow rapidly and some grow slowly. Some grow mentally at a faster rate, some at a very slow rate. Some grow physically and mature early; some grow late. The different parts of the organism grow at different rates. Each child has his own growth rate.

The result is the variety of ages that a child possesses. The different ages that a child as at one time may be a chronological age, a mental age, an educational age, a social age, a dental age, a grip age, an organism age and so on.


2. Difference in Socio-Economic Backgrounds

Some of the differences are caused by differences in socio-economic backgrounds. These differences are seen in pupils’ reaction patterns. Differences in socio-economic backgrounds may lead to differences in diet, cultural opportunities, ideals, attitudes and adjective actions or in family behaviour habits.

4. Interaction of Heredity and Environment

A large number of individual differences are caused by the interactive process of heredity and environment. To each child heredity provides a potential and the dynamic forces of environment act upon that a potential in a different way.


Let us illustrate how the interactive forces of heredity and environment produce differences in individuals. We may have for the sake of illustration one trait (intelligence) and at one end of the diagram we place the rod measuring the rate of mental maturity (I.Q.).

There are three children of the same parentage X or Y each. The hereditary potential for these children A.B.C or for P.Q.R is the same being represented by the equality of height of the cones. But as environmental factors influence members’ sets differently, the hereditary potential is realised in deferent amounts or degrees.

With least stimulating environments only a part of the potential is realised (A, P) and with very stimulating environments we have full realisation of the potential (C, R) the differences between the six children are due to interaction of hereditary potential and the environment.

Physiological Differences

The layman and the scientist both realise and recognise that differences exist among individuals in the innate ability to learn. Certain, a mongoloid or a micro cephalic do not learn with the facility of a normal individual.

It is a fact though it may not be obvious that among the pupils who appear to be normal, there are also enormous differences in degrees of ability. These differences are attributed to basic physiological differences.

The basic physiological differences may be, for example, due to visual difficulty or hearing difficulty or other sensory disability or glandular dysfunction or dietary deficiency. A child who appears to be normal may be having any or some of these difficulties with the consequent impairment of learning.

For example, visual difficulty which is evidenced by rubbing the eyes, learning forward to see the board, tilting the head, hearing difficulty which is displayed by turning one side of the head towards the source of sound, asking that questions be repeated, and other sensory difficulties like speech defects, inattention and listlessness cause individual differences in learning.

Teachers must recognize that some of the individual differences arise because of basic physiological differences. They must recognize that these differences exist and demand that teachers should not force all children to learn at uniform rate.

When children begin to show indifference, failure, boredom inattention, tantrums, they indicate through these symptoms that teachers are expecting too much or too little from them. Pupils with sensory difficulties should be given differential treatment.

Meaning of individual differences

In education, even since the most ancient times, students have been differentiated on the basis of age as difference in age levels entitles the children to differing levels of education.

As the child’s age gradually increases, the subjects of his education can be made more complex and difficult. In addition to differences in age, another factor that was partly taken into consideration is the difference in levels of intelligence.

Besides this, educational attainments were also considered to be important. In this manner, during the ancient and the medieval periods, individual difference was believed to be the capacity of attaining skills in a particular subject. In modern schools, other kinds of skills and abilities, and peculiarities of personality in individuals are also taken into consideration.

According to Skinner, “Today we think of individual differences as including any measurable aspect of the total personality.” From this definition of individual differences it is evident that it comprehends every aspect of the human personality, albeit all aspects that is in some manner measurable.

Aspects of this nature can be many such as variability, conformity, difference in the rate of learning and development of mutual relationship between the various characteristics of personality, etc. In this manner, various individual differences of physical and mental development, nature, rate of learning ability, specific abilities, interest and personality, etc.

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