3 Major Domains Of Child Development And Its 23 Sub-Domains

As a parent, caregiver or an early childhood teacher, to understand the importance and complexity of the changes that occur in a child, you should first be aware of the 3 major domains of child development and its 23 sub-domains, and then understand their interrelatedness and inter-twinning characteristics.

Knowing the domains and sub-domains will help you analyze the common, as well as unique age-related development change, identify the time of change, what causes these changes, how these changes influence their behavior, and whether the changes that happens in the child as universal or individualistic.

In this article

  1. The 3 major domains of child development
  2. Importance of the 3 major domains of child development
  3. Examples of development in each domain and their interrelatedness

The 3 Major Domains of Child Development

To address the major goals in the field of child development and to make the vast interdisciplinary field into smaller bites for purposes of convenience and comprehensive understanding, the field of child development is categorized into three major domains (or arenas): Physical, Psycho-social and Cognitive.

The 23 sub-domains come under (and across) the 3 major domains.

1. Physical

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Body size
  • Proportions
  • Appearance
  • Physiological functions
  • Perceptions
  • Motor abilities
  • Overall physical health

2. Psycho-Social

The Psycho-social development comprises the development of:

  • Emotions
  • Self-awareness and understanding
  • Interpersonal over skills
  • Friendships and relationships
  • Moral development
  • Behavior

3. Cognitive

The Cognitive development, also called as intellectual development, comprises the development in intellectual capacity of the child such as:

  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Metacognition
  • Language
  • Problem-solving
  • Reasoning
  • Imagination and
  • Creativity

Importance of the 3 Major Domains of Child Development

Having seen the 3 major domains of child development and the subdomains, it becomes crucial to understand the importance of the role of each and every domain contributing to the holistic development of a child.

It becomes important to note that not only are all the three major domains intertwined, the development in each domain leads to development in the other.

Any child born in this world uses brain to help us moving body and function in their day-to-day life. It starts at infancy and proceeds to old age. Hence human beings are always growing, learning and changing.

Examples of Development in Each Domain and Their Interrelatedness

Let us see an example of how the development of a child in one domain impacts the other domains.

Example 1

Let us take the physical development of a child (which is one of the 3 major domains) as an example.

A child may grow up physically looking in a certain way which may not fit into his/her peer group, because of which he/she can be made fun of or bullied by the other kids. The child may face this scenario at school and/or outside school.

Irrespective of where it happens, this scenario will play on the socio emotional domain of development, as the child may think less of oneself and develop a sense of insecurity and feel insecure.

As an outcome of feeling insecure, the child may feel low in self-esteem, which could in turn lead to issues in the physical health of the child.

Example 2

Let us look at another example to show the interrelated of the 3 major domains of development.

To write words, a child will required fine motor skills for better grip and coordination, which is a part of physical development. However, to start with, writing requires acquisition of language, which is part of cognitive development.

Once language has been acquired by the child as a skill, it later influences the way the child communicates with others, which is part of psycho-social development.

This is just one of the many examples which showcases the intertwining of all the three major domains of development which started with one objective: Writing.


In the final analysis, it becomes very important to remember that while there are indeed 3 major domains of child development, each of the three domains are not stand-alone entities that exist as separate compartments.

They are all interrelated and intertwined during the process of growth and development of a child and continues beyond childhood – well into adulthood.

Also Read | 8 Most Important Positive Character Traits Every Child Should Have

Disclaimer: The content in this page and across this website are for informational and educational purposes only. In case of any concerns about your child’s growth and development, please contact your professional child healthcare provider.