If you go back to your childhood days, chances are, that you remember your grandmother talking about certain timelines about when a child would start crawling, walking and talking, because she had the knowledge about the factors that affect growth and development of a child.
As a parent, caregiver or even as a teacher, you may have wondered why does a child who can hold a ball with both hands is unable able to grasp an object properly with one hand, or why a child can grasp an object with one hand but cannot hold a crayon and scribble on a paper?
If yes, through this article, you will get the answers for all those questions.
To start with, let us look at the 10 most important factors that affect growth and development of a child.
In this article:
- What is Growth and Development?
- What is the Difference between Growth and Development?
- Factors that Affect Growth and Development of a Child.
- How is Growth Measured?
- How is Development Measured?
The human life starts with a pin-head-sized fertilized cell, which is nurtured in the mother’s womb for nine months and then brought to this world we live in. From the day of birth, the baby is under constant interaction with his/her environment.
In the process and as an outcome of the interactions with the environment, physical changes occur in terms of size and weight, which is growth; along with some qualitative changes in the intellectual and psycho-social arenas, which is referred to us development.
While the process of growth and development is ongoing, rapid and significant; development is rapid and tricky during the initial years of life.
It therefore becomes important that the parent, caregiver or teacher gains knowledge and comprehend well about the pattern and trends of the growth and development of a child. Only then will they know what to expect from the child, how to guide and how to enrich the child’s environment to provide and facilitate optimum development.
What is Growth and Development?
Like most people, you too may find the terms growth and development sounds very similar or the same. However, in the field of education, especially early childhood education, the terms are completely different. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that the two terms are related to one another.
Growth: The term Growth is defined early progressive increase in the size of the body or parts of the body of a child. It is a process by which the body reaches its point of complete physical growth, meaning the growth from the fertilized egg at the time of conception to the fully grown body of an adult.
Development: The term Development refers to the progressive series of orderly and coherent acquisition of various abilities. It is a gradual process of change and differentiation from a simple level to a more advanced level of complexity, thereby leading development to maturity.
In the definition above, the term “progressive” underlines that the changes are directional, and leap forward rather than backward. The term “orderly and coherent” indicate that there is a clear relationship between the changes taking place with what precede or follow those changes.
Together, the definition of growth and definition of development indicate that the two concepts are indeed separate, but as a process, they are simultaneous and interdependent. A simple example is, a stunted growth in a child may often lead to deficits in many aspects of development.
What is the Difference between Growth and Development?
Having seen the definition which may (or may not) seem complex to understand, the following may provide you with some more clarity in understanding the differences.
- Growth is something that denotes the structural and physical changes within the body of the individual right from conception to the adulthood. Development refers to the growth and scope of both physical and mental progress a person is capable of achieving.
- Growth refers to increase in body size, length, height, weight, etc., whereas development reference to overall changes in shape, form or structure, resulting in the improved acquisition of skills.
- Growth is indicative of nature, whereas developmental is not indicative of nature.
- Growth denotes quantitative changes, whereas development denotes qualitative changes.
- Growth occurs externally and stops at a certain stage, whereas development is something that occurs internally and never stops. It is an ongoing continuous process.
- Growth quantifies physical progress, whereas development quantifies the cognitive, emotional and social progress (or the overall psychological process).
The 10 Factors that Affect Growth and Development of a Child
The growth and development of a child depend on two major (more than just important) factors:
- Genetic (Influence by nature)
- Environmental (Influence through nurture)
Though the potential and limitations of a child’s growth and development are determined by genetic factors, the environment related factors aids in enhancing the achievement of the genetic potential.
It therefore becomes important to understand that though the genetic factors can never be changed, the environmental factors can be altered or changed so as to tune with and aid in accomplish the genetic potential.
Environmental Factors that Influence Growth and Development of a Child
For all practical reasons, environmental factors that influence growth and development can be both favourable and unfavourable.
Favourable Environmental Factors
- Adequate and balanced nutrition
- Emotional support by means of love, security, recognition, independence and acceptance of the child
- Adequate play
- Effective language training, etc.
Unfavorable Environmental Factors
- Hormonal imbalances
- Lack of love, care, affection and recognition
- Improper play behavior, etc.
How is Growth Measured?
As growth is a quantitative measure, it measured using:
- Head circumference
- Mid upper-arm circumference, and
- Teeth eruption, etc.
How is Development Measured?
Development is measured by two ways:
- Developmental milestones
- Developmental tasks
What are Developmental Milestones?
Developmental Milestones are the skills that a child should acquire within a stipulated period.
What are Developmental Tasks?
Developmental Tasks are specific tasks that should be accomplished by every individual within a span of time in their life.
The success in achieving developmental tasks would lead to success and happiness; whereas not achieving them leads to difficulty in accomplishing further (higher and better skilled) tasks and ultimately unhappiness.
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.