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What Are the Four Major Areas of Child Development?

Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Kathy Kenny Ylaya Ngo · Updated Jul 31, 2023

What Are the Four Major Areas of Child Development?

It is important to know and understand the four major developmental areas of child development as this ensures that you, as a parent, can provide the much-needed support in each phase.

Child development is divided into several phases, spanning birth to the beginning of adulthood. Each stage aims to categorize the different changes that a child goes through. These stages also encompass the physical, emotional, psychological, and mental development of the child.

What Factors Affect Child Development?

Good nutrition is essential to your child’s development.

Child development is further formed by:

  • Events during the child’s prenatal life
  • Genetics

Other factors that can affect their development are the child’s learning capacity and environmental influences. These can be enhanced with therapeutic intervention if and when needed.

Early childhood development matters because it establishes the foundation for a child’s future. This has an impact on a child’s social and emotional health.

What Are the Four Major Developmental Areas of Child Development?

There are four major developmental areas of child development. These are

  1. Social development
  2. Emotional development
  3. Physical development
  4. Cognitive development, also known as intellectual development

It is important to understand what are the four major developmental areas of child development and the benchmarks of each aspect. This is so that parents may be guided on how and when to seek medical intervention for their child.

1. Social Development

Social development pertains to gaining knowledge and skills that a person needs to successfully interact with other people. These are the skills that teach children how to create positive and healthy interactions. This helps children engage in a calm, clear, and respectful manner.

Children who are able to develop social skills are considerate and can take responsibility for their actions. They have self-control and can assert themselves when needed. This is learned mostly from experiences with their peers, as well as what they see from their parents and other adults.

2. Emotional Development

Emotional development refers to the emotional response of a person to certain events, as well as the feelings they express when in a certain situation. This also refers to the changes in one’s own feelings and the appropriate ways of expressing them.

Children who develop strong emotional skills are able to express love, joy, sadness, anger, frustration, and gratitude in an appropriate way. They can control their reaction and tell other people what they are feeling and why they are feeling that way. They can also recognize the emotion that they feel and react to it accordingly.

what are the four major developmental areas of child development

3. Physical Development

Physical development is not just about the physical changes in shape and size. It also includes the physical maturity of the body, as well as physical coordination and the ability to control their muscles.

There is a predictable pattern that children follow when it comes to physical development, but it is important to note that each child develops at his own rate. Time for active play and exploration can do wonders in the physical development of children.

4. Cognitive Development

Cognitive development is all about learning the use of language, organizing ideas, solving problems, ability to reason, and the physical growth of the brain. It is very important to develop cognitive skills because this will help your child to properly assess and process everything around him.

Some of the ways that you can help your child’s cognitive development are to allow your child to make choices. Let them explore ways of solving a problem, and allow them to figure things out on their own. You should also give them the chance to make thoughtful decisions and to learn things on their own with little guidance and/or intervention.

What Are the Common Issues With the 4 Major Developmental Areas of Child Development?

There are several challenges that may arise during a child’s development stage. These may be caused by

  • Genetics
  • Medical factors
  • Prenatal circumstances
  • Lack of exposure to stimuli

In the discussion of “nurture versus nature,” genetics are what most people refer to when discussing “nature.” Genes dictate the characteristics an individual may have such as physical attributes.

The other factor that poses a challenge to child development would be the environment, also referred to as the “nurture” factor. When talking about the “environment,” this refers to a child’s home, school, or community.

What Can Parents Do to Help Their Child?

There are a lot of things that a parent can do to help their child as they go through the four major developmental areas of child development.


The first is to shower your child with affection and attention. Hugging and listening to them will help them feel supported.

Reading to your child

This has been proven in many studies. A child who has a parent who reads to them has better vocabulary and a bigger perspective about the world they live in. You can also limit their screen time and TV time to no more than 2 hours of educational viewing daily.

Keep your child engaged

Engage with your child through singing, dancing, talking, reading, and eating with them. This will help build a stronger relationship with you and help them nurture a positive relationship with themselves as they develop ideas about self-worth. Nurture their sense of wonder and curiosity as well, so that they are excited to learn.

Nurture good habits

Lastly, you can teach your kids proper behavior. It is important to show consistency in rules, following through with consequences, and reinforcing good behavior.

Key Takeaways

After learning what are the four major developmental areas of child development, it is also important for parents to understand that the development journey will differ from child to child. As long as your child still falls under the acceptable time frames for each developmental milestone, you need not worry. If you are concerned about his development, consult your pediatrician.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Kathy Kenny Ylaya Ngo · Updated Jul 31, 2023

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