Factors Affecting Child Growth and Development

Factors Affecting Child Growth and Development

From the moment a child is born, they embark on a journey of growth and development influenced by many factors. How children grow and develop depends on internal and external environmental factors, some of which we have no control over. They can significantly impact the child’s physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional development. While genetics play a role in determining a child’s growth trajectory, environmental and socio-cultural factors significantly influence their development. Having a good understanding of factors affecting growth and development helps us raise them better. This article explores critical factors affecting child growth and development, including nutrition, physical activity, family dynamics, cultural beliefs, and access to education and healthcare.

Video: Factors That Influence the Growth and Development of a Child

How Are Growth and Development Defined?

Although growth and development are synonymous, they have different meanings biologically. Growth refers to the incremental changes in physical characteristics such as height, weight, size, etc. In contrast, development refers to qualitative changes to growth in an orderly and meaningful fashion, resulting in maturity. Growth and development contribute to each other, are inseparable, and co-occur.

For example, by the time they grow to be 8 months, most babies can weigh around 8 to 10 kilograms and sit up. Understanding the definition of growth and development accurately is paramount to your efforts for your child’s welfare.

Why Is the Proper Development of a Child Important?

The proper development of a child is of utmost importance as it lays the foundation for their future success and well-being. During the early years of a child’s life, their brain undergoes rapid development, and their experiences during this critical period shape the trajectory of their cognitive, emotional, and social development.

  • Proper development in children is essential as it enables them to reach their full potential in all areas of life. Children who receive adequate nutrition, love, and care, have access to education, and are provided with opportunities to learn and explore the world around them, are more likely to develop the skills and abilities necessary to thrive as adults.
  • Moreover, proper development in children sets the stage for healthy relationships and social connections. Children with positive experiences in their early years are likelier to have more vital social skills, empathy, and emotional regulation, enabling them to form meaningful connections with others and navigate social situations effectively.
  • In contrast, children who experience neglect, abuse, or trauma during their early years are at risk of developing a range of developmental and behavioural issues. As a result, these children may struggle with cognitive and emotional regulation, have difficulty forming healthy relationships, and may be more prone to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

10 Factors That Influence the Growth and Development of a Child

Nature and nurture both contribute to the growth and development of children. Although what’s endowed by nature is constant, nurture tends to make a big difference too. Here are a few factors affecting children’s growth and development.

1. Heredity

Heredity is the transmission of physical characteristics from parents to children through their genes. It influences all aspects of physical appearance such as height, weight, body structure, the colour of the eye, the texture of the hair, and even intelligence and aptitudes. Diseases and conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc., can also be passed through genes, thereby affecting the growth and development of the child adversely. However, environmental factors and nurturing can bring the best out of the already present qualities in the genes.

2. Environment

The environment plays a critical role in the development of children and it represents the sum total of physical and psychological stimulation the child receives. Some of the environmental factors influencing early childhood development involve the physical surroundings and geographical conditions of the place the child lives in, as well his social environment and relationships with family and peers. It is easy to understand that a well-nurtured child does better than a deprived one; the environment children are constantly immersed in contributes to this. A good school and a loving family builds in children strong social and interpersonal skills, which will enable them to excel in other areas such as academics and extracurricular activities. This will, of course, be different for children who are raised in stressful environments.

3. Sex

The sex of the child is another major factor affecting the physical growth and development of a child. Boys and girls grow in different ways, especially nearing puberty. Boys tend to be taller and physically stronger than girls. However, girls tend to mature faster during adolescence, while boys mature over a longer period of time. The physical structure of their bodies also has differences which make boys more athletic and suited for activities that require physical rigour. Their temperaments also vary, making them show interest in different things.

baby boy and girl

4. Exercise and Health

The word exercise here does not mean physical exercise as a discipline or children deliberately engaging in physical activities knowing it would help them grow. Exercise here refers to the normal playtime and sports activities which help the body gain an increase in muscular strength and put on bone mass. Proper exercise helps children grow well and reach milestones on time or sooner. Exercise also keeps them healthy and fights off diseases by strengthening the immune system, especially if they play outside. This is because outdoor play exposes them to microbes that help them build resistance and prevent allergies.

5. Hormones

Hormones belong to the endocrine system and influence the various functions of our bodies. They are produced by different glands that are situated in specific parts of the body to secrete hormones that control body functions. Their timely functioning is critical for normal physical growth and development in children. Imbalances in the functioning of hormone-secreting glands can result in growth defects, obesity, behavioural problems and other diseases. During puberty, the gonads produce sex hormones which control the development of the sex organs and the appearance of secondary sexual characteristics in boys and girls.

6. Nutrition

Nutrition is a critical factor in growth as everything the body needs to build and repair itself comes from the food we eat. Malnutrition can cause deficiency diseases that adversely affect the growth and development of children. On the other hand, overeating can lead to obesity and health problems in the long run, such as diabetes and heart disease. A balanced diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and fats is essential for the development of the brain and body.

7. Familial Influence

Families have the most profound impact in nurturing a child and determining the ways in which they develop psychologically and socially. Whether they are raised by their parents, grandparents or foster care, they need basic love, care and courtesy to develop as healthy functional individuals. The most positive growth is seen when families invest time, energy and love in the development of the child through activities, such as reading to them, playing with them and having deep meaningful conversations. Families that abuse or neglect children would affect their positive development. These children may end up as individuals who have poor social skills and difficulty bonding with other people as adults. Helicopter parenting also has negative effects as they render children dependent on the parents even as young adults and unable to deal with difficulties in life on their own.

8. Geographical Influences

Where you live also has a great influence on how your children turn out to be. The schools they attend, the neighbourhood they live in, the opportunities offered by the community and their peer circles are some of the social factors affecting a child’s development. Living in an enriching community that has parks, libraries and community centres for group activities and sports all play a role in developing the child’s skills, talents, and behaviour. Uninteresting communities can push some children to not go outside often but play video games at home instead. Even the weather of a place influences children in the form of bodily rhythms, allergies and other health conditions.

9. Socio-Economic Status

The socio-economic status of a family determines the quality of the opportunity a child gets. Studying in better schools that are more expensive definitely has benefits in the long run. Well-off families can also offer better learning resources for their children and they afford special aid if the kids need it. Children from poorer families may not have access to educational resources and good nutrition to reach their full potential. They may also have working parents who work too many hours and cannot invest enough quality time in their development.

Child standing on football

10. Learning and Reinforcement

Learning involves much more than schooling. It is also concerned with building the child up mentally, intellectually, emotionally, and socially building the child up so they operate as healthy, functional individuals. This is where the development of the mind takes place, and the child can gain some maturity. Reinforcement is a component of learning where an activity or exercise is repeated and refined to solidify the lessons learned. An example is playing a musical instrument; they get better at playing it as they practice playing the instrument. Therefore, any taught lesson must be repeated until results are obtained.


1. Which Is the Biggest Factor Affecting Child Development?

No single factor has the most significant impact on child development. Rather, it combines several factors, including genetics, nutrition, physical activity, environmental factors, sociocultural factors, and access to education and healthcare. Each of these factors plays a unique role in shaping a child’s growth and development.

2. Can the Factors Be Improved to Encourage Growth in Children?

Yes, many factors that affect child growth and development can be improved to encourage healthy growth and development in children. For example, parents can provide a nutritious diet for their children, encourage regular physical activity, provide a safe and nurturing environment, and support their children’s education and social development to see them nurture well. 

Although nature contributes much to child growth and development, nurture contributes much more. As mentioned earlier, some of these factors may not be controllable, and you’ll have to make do with what you have. But there are certain things you can ensure for your child. This includes ensuring that your child gets enough rest every day because his development heavily depends on how much sleep he gets. In addition, pay close attention to your child’s nutritional and exercise levels, as these, too, play an essential role in promoting your child’s timely and healthy growth and development.


1. Hussain. A; Growth and Development of Children; Folklore Research Department, Gauhati University; https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3771757; January 2021

2. Dabar. D, Das. R, Nagesh. S, et al.; A Community-based Study on Growth and Development of Under-Five Children in an Urbanized Village of South Delhi; Journal of Tropical Pediatrics; https://academic.oup.com/tropej/article/62/6/446/2453234; December 2016

3. Butchon. R, Liabsuetrakul. T; The Development and Growth of Children Aged under 5 years in Northeastern Thailand: a Cross-Sectional Study; Journal of Child and Adolescent Behaviour; ResearchGate;  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/314225308_The_Development_and_Growth_of_Children_Aged_under_5_years_in_Northeastern_Thailand_a_Cross-Sectional_Study; January 2017

4. Child Development and Early Learning; National Library of Medicine; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310550/

5. Environmental factors contributing to child vulnerability;oecd-ilibrary.org

Also Read:

Stages of Child Growth & Development 
Role of the Family in Child’s Development
Personality Development Tips for Children

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