Child development refers to the step-by-step progress that children make during predicted time periods. Practitioners measure a child’s acquisition of physical, social and emotional, intellectual and language skills against expected levels of progression, which are called developmental milestones.
A developmental delay is said to occur if a child does not reach a milestone within a certain expected time period. For example, if the normal age range for a child to handle a pencil with control is 5 years, but at 6 six years old the child still cannot control it properly, this would be considered a developmental delay.
Delays could occur in the child’s physical, social and emotional, intellectual and language development. Delays might happen in one or more areas of development or they could place in all areas. Additionally, because growth in each area of development is related to growth in the other areas, if a difficulty arises in one area, a child is put at greater risk of developmental delay in other areas of development.
The majority of children encounter few difficulties, but some are brought up in circumstances that make them more vulnerable to developmental delays than others.
A child’s development can be influenced by:
Risk factors which are likely to increase their susceptibility to delays
Protective factors that decrease the likelihood of delays
There are a number of factors that will affect the development of the physical, social and emotional, intellectual and language skills that are required for later life. A child may be more vulnerable to poor life outcomes because of risk factors that originate from their own personality and behaviour as well as factors that stem from their family, home, learning and community environments.
Risk factors and protective factors
Factors that can affect a child’s development can be grouped into four main areas as follows:
The child – health, personal characteristics, motivation and behaviour
Their family / home circumstances – relationships with parents, siblings and carers and the home environment in which the child lives. A strong family groups can teach and provide role models for children, and can provide a source of social and emotional support for adults as well as children
Their learning background – exposure to formal education at play groups, nursery and school and informal learning in the home environment
Their community environment – the