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As a parent, it can be hard to know what is best for your child. There are so many factors that influence child development. Some of them are in your control, whilst others aren’t. There are factors that are environmental, biological and psychological. Psychologists, scientists and child development specialists have spent years discovering and understanding each of these influences and the outcomes on child development.

It is generally agreed that any combination of several factors will have different consequences for a child’s development. This means that there is not one single factor that will determine a certain outcome. Most experts of child development agree that the interactionist approach is the main theory to explain child development. It is understood that there is an interaction between both biological and environmental factors which create a different outcome for each child’s development.

What Are Biological Factors?

Whilst you are now aware that child development is affected by several combinations of factors, it can still be confusing to understand what these factors mean. The biological approach to child development delves into the biological influences that have certain impacts on a child’s development. These will be discussed in detail within this article to give you a better understanding of the different influences your child will experience. In isolation, these factors alone cannot determine the outcome of your child’s development, however it can be useful for parents to understand these influences to give their child the best possible chance of healthy development and success.

Biological Factors which influence Child Development

· Nutrition

The influence of nutrition on child development can be seen in areas such as physical and cognitive health. If a child’s diet is insufficient or contains too many “empty calories,” this may affect the child’s growth and development processes. Nutrients and micronutrients are vital for proper brain function. Since the brain makes up roughly 2% of total body weight but consumes some 20-25% of total energy expenditure, it also relies heavily on nutrient intake.

As a parent, one of the key things you can do is provide your child with a healthy, balanced diet. Whilst other factors will interact to determine an outcome, it is vitally important that parents engage with providing a good diet to encourage healthy child development. Certain factors like genetics and hormones cannot be controlled but the nutrients received by a child can. This allows you to make a positive contribution to your child’s development.

· Genetics

Genetics play a huge role in how a child will develop. Genes provide the blueprint for who we are and how we behave. Despite this, it is the events and experiences that happens during our development that determines whether or not those genes are turned on or off.

The interactionist approach explains how both nature and nurture go hand in hand to determine certain characteristics. The environment plays a crucial role in triggering genetic influence which then manifests through behaviour. Biology influences how we develop, but a biological predisposition doesn’t determine the outcome of our children.

A parent’s role should therefore involve nurturing a child and providing a healthy and expressive environment to develop in. Certain dispositions can exist within a child, but the state of the environment will determine whether certain genes are expressed. Psychological research has demonstrated that children of schizophrenic parents are far more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia when developing within stressful environments. On the other hand, the children with schizophrenic pre-dispositions are far less likely to express the disorder when developing in a healthy, low stress environment. There are several overlapping factors within these findings, yet this evidence demonstrates an aspect of the relationship between genes and the environment.

· Gender

Gender is another of many key factors to take into account when studying child development. There are many differences between males and females based on biological variation. This is because children’s brains and bodies develop in accordance with their assigned gender at birth. This can mean that slight differences can have major consequences on future behaviour.

In some circumstances, male children are generally more active than female children. They are more curious about their surroundings, which often results in greater exposure to risk-taking situations. However, this does not mean that women are less capable of this behaviour; rather, they are just as equally capable of doing so but simply engage less frequently compared to men. Often the label of gender is used to hinder a child’s development due to the connotations associated with gender roles in society.

As a parent, it is important to understand the biological differences between children but not to place limitations upon them based on societal beliefs. This interaction within the environment will shape their behaviour and future personality.  Parents should allow children to express their own interests, preventing this can be harmful to their development and their views of their world as they grow.

What Role can Parents play in healthy Biological Development?

Within this article, we have discussed three key biological factors and their influence on child development. Genetics, nutrition and gender are all significant aspects to consider. As parents, it is important to be aware of these influences and ensure your actions are not hindering your child’s future potential.

There are many things that can affect the healthy development of a child from birth right up until adulthood. Not every factor can be controlled, and some will be influenced by the environment through several external experiences. It is a parent’s job to supply their children with the resources needed to grow and give them enough space to develop. This will ensure that a healthy development is achieved, and their full potential can be reached.