Physical factors that influence child development

Updated March 23, 2017

The myriad facets of human development can make thoughtful parenting challenging. Because medical science and psychology are always learning more about how child development works, the road map to child development will likely continue to change over the coming years and decades. However, there are many physical factors in child development that are well established.


Nutrition plays a critical role in child development. Getting the right amounts of protein, calcium and vitamins affects brain, skeletal and sensory development. Children need vitamins A, C and D for immune system development, calcium for bone development and protein

for brain and muscle development. Iron is important for proper blood development and is one of the nutrients in which babies around the world are most deficient. A broad array of nutrients will support all of the bodily systems children are growing and developing. Deficiencies in any particular nutrient group, or general malnutrition can be very harmful and lead to developmental delays and behavioural difficulties such as hyperactivity, mood swings and attention disorders.


Holding, touching and affection are also crucial to an infant's emotional and neurological development. Numerous studies, including those by Dr. James Prescott of the Institute of Humanistic Science, show that children who do not receive sufficient physical contact and affection suffer developmental setbacks. Prescott's work emphasises that a lack physical bonding produces an unbonded child who is prone to becoming antisocial, violent, sociopathic and psychopathic as an adolescent and adult.


Children are born with brains that aren't full developed. As they age, their neural pathways become coated with myeline -- a lipid-based electrical conductor that makes it possible for neural energy to transmit from one part of the brain to another. When myelination occurs, children develop new capabilities -- cognitive and physical. While many factors affect mylelination, movement is among the most important. Babies need time wriggling on their stomachs to help trigger the myeline development needed to crawl. Crawling in turn triggers the brain to begin the process of myelination to allow walking. Making sure children have the time and freedom to move appropriately to their stage of development helps further development.

Premature Birth

Premature babies may start with challenges because they come out of the womb before their gestational process is complete. Premature babies often develop slower than babies who were carried to term. In cases of extreme prematurity, babies may need occupational therapy to learn to suckle and even to better develop their ability to hold their necks and crawl.

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About the Author

Eric Feigenbaum started his career in print journalism, becoming editor-in-chief of "The Daily" of the University of Washington during college and afterward working at two major newspapers. He later did many print and Web projects including re-brandings for major companies and catalog production.