2.10 Biological Forces: Definition & Examples

Jan 18, 2020 | ch2 Biological Bases of Behaviour, Courses, Intro to Psychology

Biological forces can have a profound influence on whether a person develops a healthy brain and body. We’ll learn the definition of biological forces and explore some examples of how they contribute to or inhibit the development process.

What Are Biological Forces?

Think back to when you were a small child, and imagine all of the things that contributed to your development. There were, of course, people that helped to shape your identity and understanding of the world, like teachers that contributed to your intellectual development. But, what about the other non-human factors, like food or the environment? What role do you suppose those factors played in your overall development?

In the cycles of human development, nutrition and the environment fall into a category known as biological forces, which are the non-social, natural forces that influence a person’s development, or maturation. Biological forces include all of the natural or environmental contributions, from food and water to carcinogens and viruses.

For example, during their very early years, children have certain nutritional needs in order to develop adequate brain and body function. Children need to be exposed to a proper diet and exercise. Without these basic things, their development can be slowed or seriously interrupted. Similarly, there are internal biological forces (such as cancerous cells) that can inhibit or interrupt development.

While these factors are tremendously significant in the early stages of development, it is important to note that they continue well past puberty and early adulthood, generally affecting a person during their entire lives.


Among the easiest biological forces to identify is nutrition, which plays a critical role in human development from birth to death. For example, if a very young child eats nothing but fast food for two out of three meals a day, this will seriously impact their development because they will not be getting adequate nutrients and will be consuming an alarming number of calories. Likewise, imagine what would happen if a child got absolutely no exercise in their formative years. The lack of this essential factor might lead to obesity or mental health problems. It could also establish a pattern of sedentary habits in a child’s later years.


Although factors that influence human development are most easily observed once a child has been born, they actually begin before birth and include a number of genetic influences. For example, if a child is conceived by a parent with sickle cell anemia, they have the potential to inherit those genes. In this case, sickle cell anemia becomes a significant biological factor in the development of that person.

This is only one example of genetics in biological forces. There are, in fact, a wide variety of things that a child could be exposed to before they are born that would affect their development. If, for example, a pregnant woman ignores dietary restrictions or smokes while she is pregnant, these actions could become serious biological forces that would have long-term effects on the development of a human being.

Environmental Factors

In the previous examples, biological forces have been described as something that children take into their bodies (i.e. food) or something that is genetically passed down to them, like diseases. However, there is another important set of biological factors that is equally important: environmental factors.

Consider the area that you live in right now, including the air quality or proximity to power lines and cell phone towers. Maybe you’re a smoker or you live in a home with someone that smokes. These are also important influences on human development that fall into the category of biological forces. If, for example, a child is raised in a home with parents who regularly smoke cigarettes, that child will be exposed to second-hand smoke that could negatively influence their development. Similarly, if you live in an area with high levels of radon, this, too, would become a biological force in your development.

Interaction with Other Forces

In the human development cycle, biological forces play an important role in determining how adequately or inadequately a person’s brain and body will develop, but biological forces are just one of three important factors in the development process. In addition to biological factors, there are also psychological forces (which include the development of personality and good mental health) and sociocultural forces (which include personal relationships and aspects of culture).

Although this lesson focuses on the role of biological forces in development, it is important to remember that all three areas interact with each other to produce a certain outcome. In the best case scenario, a child will begin life without any genetic abnormalities, eat a healthy diet and exercise, get positive reinforcement and affection from others, and participate in their culture and heritage. This would be an example of each area of development interacting in the best possible way to produce a healthy, well-developed person.

Lesson Summary

In the context of human development, biological forces are considered to be any non-social factor that influences the development of a person’s body and brain, such as food or exercise. Among the most identifiable of these forces is nutrition, which provides a child with one of the most essential needs for development. Another important biological force is genetic influences, which can include inherited traits or diseases that affect how a person develops.

Although they are often spoken of separately, biological forces are only one factor that contributes to development. In fact, biological forces intersect with psychological and sociocultural forces to produce a fully developed human being.

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