Factors that Affect Physical Development in Children

There are many physical factors that can affect a child’s development and which can begin at the moment of conception.

One of the factors that will influence the development of the foetus will be to do with age. Teenage mothers can often be too immature to bear the responsibility of a baby will tend to live in an unstable environment with neglected health.  Older mothers have a higher risk factor of bearing a Down’s child.

A poor diet can cause malnourishment, leading to prematurity, physical and neural defects and still birth. Disease can range from rubella, mumps, diabetes to STD’s to name but a few, and all can have a negative impact on the unborn child.

Stress and anxiety can cause biochemical changes in the body that communicates the stress that the mother is feeling to the foetus. Worse still, the mother may try to cope with her stress and unhappiness by using alcohol or drugs to dull her perception of reality, which again can cause damage to the foetus.

If this wasn’t enough, the baby will then have to go through the process of birth which can end up in a number of ways including a cesarean, forceps or suction delivery, all of which carry their own risks, such as infection and damage to the child. This will culminate with an Apgar scoring system to see how well baby is doing.

Premature babies tend to lag behind because they still need assistance to survive. Most babies have caught up with their peers on terms of physical development by the time that they are 4 years old, whilst some can be slow to achieve physical and cognitive milestones.

Factors that affect physical development:

Genetic and hereditary

A number of studies have shown than physical growth both in body and height is governed by hereditary factors. They suggests that weight can also be observed to follow similar patterns that correlate with growth spurts. Puberty signifies a marked growth spurt with a rapid increase in size and weight. Each experience of puberty will vary in each individual with the total duration lasting about 4 ½ and girls starting theirs at around the age of 11 and boys at 13.


Physical growth is dependent on the kind of food that we eat and how much of it that we consume. Nutritional content is very important and without the correct diet, height and size can become impaired leading to low weight or obesity.

Education and family income can also play a part in child development. In wealthier countries the association between wealth and being thin can come from people being intellectually informed about their diet, and having the means to afford such luxuries such as health clubs and low fat foods. Evidence also shows that parents will model unhealthy eating habits for their children, who are also dependent on their parents for what is put on the food table.


The pituitary gland initiates change in the body by secreting a hormone into the bloodstream and will also indirectly trigger other glands to release chemicals too. Puberty will herald important physical changes not only in growth and height but it also signals the onset of sexual maturity.

All the above factors will have some determination in determining when these changes come about, and can include genetic, physical exercise (for example ballerinas and gymnasts find that they start their periods later than the norm),family factors involving conflict and psychological distancing between father and daughter, economic background and self perception and behavioural issues.

Gross and fine motor skills

All of us are individuals and we will learn to do thing in unique ways. For example when a baby is born he will slowly learn to use processes such a crying, laughing and smiling, and will practice mastering the skill of self automation. Some babies may find novel ways of using their skills such as moving around on their bottoms instead of crawling, or even pulling them upright and leaving out the crawling stage altogether.

Initially we can see that motor skills develop in line with maturation of the neural and muscular systems, but where gross motor skills can be said to be a reaction to global influences and exposure to a certain stimulus, fine motor skills will be enhanced by available opportunity and a supportive environment.

In conclusion, there are many factors that can be considered to have a major influence on the development of a child. In comparison to other animals on the planet the human being takes a long time to reach full maturation.

Theorists suggest that he reason for this is that we are influenced by the confines of our environment, with factors such as culture, nutrition and the opportunities for experience shaping our physical make up, and allowing us time to build the necessary knowledge and skills to survive in a complex society of modern life.