As a parent, your child’s growth and development is of prime importance to you. There are several factors that affect the growth and development of your child and it is essential to have an understanding of each of the factors, both internal and external. 

While growth and development are terms that are used interchangeably, they are distinctly different. Growth refers to the changes in physical characteristics such as height, weight, size, etc., while development refers to qualitative changes to growth, that result in maturity. Development can be both physical as well as mental.

7 Factors Affecting Growth and Development of Your Child

1. Genetics: Genetics/Hereditary, also known as inheritance or biological inheritance is the transmission of physical characteristics from you to your children through your genes (the basic physical and functional unit of inheritance). Genes have an effect on most of the physical characteristics of your child such as height, weight, body structure, the colour of their eye, the texture of their hair, and even intelligence and aptitudes. For example, if you are tall, it is most likely that your child will also inherit this trait and be tall.

Not only this, various disorders and health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc., may also be passed on to your child through your genes, thereby affecting the growth and development of your child.

2. Sex (gender): The sex of your child is another major factor affecting the physical growth and development of your child. Boys tend to be taller and physically stronger than girls. On the contrary, most girls mature faster during adolescence, while boys take a longer period of time to mature. An adolescent is anyone who is between the age of 10 to 19 years and adolescence is the transition phase of your child from childhood to adulthood. 

The physical structure of your child’s body also depends on their gender. While boys are more athletic, girls might not be a fan of sports or rigorous physical activities.

3. Hormones: The endocrine system is composed of many glands which include the hypothalamus, pituitary, pineal, thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, adrenal, and pancreas. Hormones are produced and secreted by these glands, that regulate the growth and development, metabolism, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, mood, etc., of your child's body. The timely functioning of most hormones is required for the normal physical growth and development of your child. 

The main growth hormones in your child are:

  • Growth hormone (GH) produced by the pituitary gland (a small oval-shaped gland at the base of the brain) that helps children with overall growth and development.

  • Thyroid hormone, critical for the growth and development of your child’s brain. It also regulates your child’s heart rate, blood pressure, and energy levels.

  • Sex hormones control the development of sex organs. Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone and estrogen is the primary female sex hormone. 

4. Environment: Environmental factors refer to the external conditions (sum total of physical and psychological situations) that affect your child’s growth and development. 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/her social environment and relationships with family and peers. 

A peaceful, loving family and school environment builds strong social and interpersonal skills in your child, which will enable them to excel in their academics and extracurricular activities. 

Pollutants like lead, manganese, mercury, and pesticides through water or food, can hamper growth, cause physical abnormalities, and weaken your child’s immune system.

5. Nutrition: Your child’s body needs the right amounts of nutrition to build and repair itself. Malnutrition (lack of sufficient nutrients in the body) can cause deficiency diseases that can adversely affect the growth and development of your child. Make sure your child eats a balanced diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. These are required for the development of the brain and the body.

6. Exercises: Exercises or physical activities are very important for the growth and development of your child. Exercise primarily refers to normal playtime and sports activities that help the body gain muscular strength and bone mass. 

Proper exercise will help your child grow well, keep him/her healthy and fight off diseases by strengthening the immune system. Encourage your child to play for about 1 hour every day, if possible, play outdoors. Exposure to sunlight is also essential during the early growth and development stages of your child.

7. Socio-economic Factors: The socio-economic status of your family determines the quality of opportunities that your child gets. Children from financially well-off families have access to better nutrition and formal education. Poorer families may not have access to educational resources and good nutrition to reach their full potential.

To summarize, some of the above-mentioned factors are controllable and you can decide how to manage those for your child’s growth and development. But some factors are beyond your control and will play their part. Besides nutrition and exercise, pay close attention to your child’s behaviour, attitude, rest, and sleep patterns too.

A  physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy child is a joy to every parent! Consult your doctor to know more.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.