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What Factors Contribute To The Various Areas Of Development Of A Child?

Physical development: the physical development of a child depends on many factors, however, the most influential component clearly seems to be the environmental influences during both the pre and post natal stages of growth. From the moment of conception, a growing fetus needs the proper nutrients and conditions to grow into a healthy baby. During this stage brain development occurs and can be greatly influenced by its mother's actions and practices. A malnourished mother will not only cause irreversible damage to the fetus, but can cause a termination of the pregnancy as well. A mother addicted to drugs or alcohol can cause even greater damage, causing the child to not only be underdeveloped with premature birth and low birth weight, but also have lifelong disorders as well. America has more newborn deaths than any other country in the world, as stated in our text, due to the inadequate prenatal care we give expectant mothers. Although there are genetic factors that can cause problems with development to arise at this stage, clearly the health of the mother is the key factor in developing a healthy fetus and newborn child.

Once the child is born, environmental factors continue to influence the outcome of the physical development of the child. A child who does not receive proper nourishment will surely fall behind in development, as will a child born under the influence of alcohol or some other drug. As the child grows it is important to not only give the child the proper nutrition, but the proper exercise and exposure to its environment as well. A child who sits in a playpen in front of a television all day will develop less quickly than an active child will. A child who is left in the dark for most of its early life will have poor brain development that will affect its life forever. Although genetics can also play a part in development it is ultimately up to the mother and father to ensure their child develops properly and healthily.

Speech/language development:

Speech and language development relies on a variety of factors as well, including environmental, cultural, and genetic factors. Even though a child may develop sounds and words at an early age from pre-wired tendencies, it is likely the responsiveness or unresponsiveness of the mother and father will affect the child's development. A child who has an attentive caregiver will be more likely to develop its speech and language practices quicker than a child whose parents don't respond to him or her at all. Moreover, if the household itself is quiet and the parents do not even speak to each other, the child will have no examples to learn by. This is where cultural factors can affect the speech and language portion of a child's development.

Once a child begins to speak, it is important that the language portion of words and sounds are taught to him or her from the environment. A child may not develop past making sounds or simple words if access to learning these tools is not provided. It would seem that somewhere between the Learning Perspective and the Interactionist Perspective lies my own belief of how a child learns to speak and use language.

Intellectual development:

Environment can affect a child's intelligence development in a variety of ways that may not seem obvious. Treating a child like a "little adult" and giving the child not only access to learning materials but a clear sense of culture and responsibility can affect the child's own motivation and desire, which I believe are ultimately the deciding factors for intelligence levels. A lazy child who is permitted to self-indulge all day will lack the necessary drive to obtain knowledge when compared to an active, responsible child who has learned tolerance and diversity through the wide array of stimuli our rich culture called Earth provides. Limitations, which may be genetically predisposed, should never be a factor when determining intelligence development. True intelligence relies not solely on test scores but in a wide range of ideals and beliefs that can not be measured through standard testing.

Social/Emotional development:

A child's social and emotional development can be affected by predisposed traits, however, environmental factors certainly play a significant part. One can argue that a child may be shy because he or she inherited the characteristic from a parent, for example, but it can also be said that the child may have picked up the reserved nature by learning from example. Opportunity for social interaction with peers as well as adults can affect the development as well. If a child is home all day interacting mainly with adults, it may be more difficult for him or her to be socially appropriate with peers when finally sent off to school. However, after the initial resistance the child is young enough to learn appropriate social exchange through modeling and reinforcement. A child may also be superior to his or her peers having learned adult level social characteristics, and this can affect development as well. Although caregivers can affect the social actions of a child, it is imperative that the child be exposed to peers as soon as possible, as peer interaction is surely the most pertinent influential factor in a child's social development.

Emotions can also be affected by a variety of conditions. A negative home environment in which the child is subjected to harsh words or pessimistic attitudes can cause a severe reaction in the child's emotional development. As a child develops into a teenager, it is important for the caregiver to foster appropriate emotional support as the child goes through the difficult and emotional stages of puberty. Although the child will eventually turn to peers for emotional support, many emotions ripen at this stage and it is important that the child's adult caregivers help the child deal with them fittingly.

Moral development:

Culture is unquestionably the underlying influence of moral development, although parental regard for these standards is necessary for proper expansion of morality. Morals can be learned through a multitude of ways within any given culture, but the most influential way to ensure the child clearly internalizes a sense of ethics is to teach them. This role can belong to the parents, and also older siblings, teachers, and in some cultures entire tribes or towns. For a child to have a clear understanding of the rules, that is, what is wrong and what is right, is one thing. For a child to understand why something is wrong or right is another story entirely. Teaching children at a young age to behave a certain way "because I said so" or for fear of punishment is not only hindering moral development but also possibly causing just the opposite. If a child is helped to pass through the stages of moral development rather than just acquiring them on his her own, a highly moral and tolerant contributing member of society can be developed much faster. For example, take a young child who is not exposed to societal rules outside of the home environment or cultural differences. He or she may develop a need to understand them at a later age, but if a parent or caregiver helps to teach them before an interest is sparked they will be further along in their moral development.


To conclude, although the development of a human being can be viewed as a simple computation that includes genetics + environment + culture, it is much more complex than that. There is no true answer as to what makes us one way or the other, although I truly believe that the environmental influences outweigh and challenge any argument that states clear guidelines for development as fact. We are all individual, and that is mainly because we all develop under a variety of differing environmental factors.

The role of heredity versus environmental influences on a child's development is a controversial issue, and there is much research to support one side or the other playing a larger role. Although a child may inherit a certain proposed level of intelligence, the environment during the early stages of development can alter this. For example, a child who is simply a fast developer may appear to be more intelligent than his or her peers, and be given more opportunities to foster the growth of their intelligence. This is why I believe every child should be equally given exposure and opportunity to develop their intelligence across many subjects, including foreign language acquisition and the arts. On the other hand, a child who develops at a slower rate may have the inherited factors that help him or her to develop a higher intelligence at some point later on.


Best, John W. & Kahn, James. Research In Education 10th Edition, 2005. 71-108, 152 - 225.

Ellis, H.C & Reed Hunt, R. Fundamentals of Cognitive Psychology , 1993. 273-299

By Michelle Smith - A native New Yorker who writes about anything whenever the mood strikes.  

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