What Factors Affect Intellectual Development in Childhood?

Through play, young children develop many cognitive and intellectual abilities and learn to interact with their environment.
Children benefit from having consistency in their lives that helps them grow intellectually, emotionally, and socially.
Without corrective glasses, nearsightedness can make it difficult for children to see the blackboard at school.
The first five years of a child's life are thought to be the most important.
Emotional well being is also important in the intellectual development of a child.
Lack of proper nutrition can affect intellectual development in childhood.
Fluoride is an environmental factor that can affect childhood intellectual development.
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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2015
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Impairment, neglect, lack of nutrition and environmental poisoning are some of the factors that can affect intellectual development in childhood. The first five years of life are thought to be the most important in terms of not only social and emotional development, but also intellectual growth. If intellectual stimulation, such as children being spoken and read to, doesn't occur regularly or it can't be processed due to an impairment or the effects of a toxin, thinking and learning can be greatly affected.

Environmental poisons and the intellectual growth of children can be closely related. For instance, many studies have been done on lead poisoning in children, and the findings often suggest a negative affect on intellectual development. Even low levels of exposure to lead may have one of the worst impacts on intellectual development in childhood. Lead was once used widely in house paint, but due to study findings it's been banned in many parts of the world. Children can be exposed to lead by consuming flaking paint that contains lead, such as that on an old window sill, and it could affect their intellectual development.


Fluoride is another environmental factor that is thought to affect childhood intellectual development. Exposure to too much of it, even as a fetus, may harm brain tissue as well as the central nervous system. Lack of proper nutrition can affect intellectual development in childhood as well, since the body, including the brain, can't grow properly without needed nourishment. Studies show that school-age children who are hungry may have difficulty thinking and learning. This is why some schools provide breakfast and/or lunch programs for children who, due to poverty or neglect, don't have enough food at home.

Neglect can be one of the strongest influences on intellectual development in childhood. Babies and children need to be spoken to and interacted with, such as through reading stories and teaching about shapes, colors, letters and numbers. Even more than actual teaching, they need communication with adults to develop language and thinking skills. Emotional problems may also interfere with a child's ability to learn and develop at a normal rate. Hearing or vision impairments, especially those that aren't detected and treated early, may also hinder a child's intellectual development.


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Post 4

@browncoat - The problem with using those cases as examples is that in every case the child would have had nutritional deficiencies as well, which would have been affecting their intellectual development.

The human brain is an amazing, elastic thing and there have been people who recovered from huge trauma in the early parts of their lives.

Post 3

@croydon - She is an interesting case, but do remember that she was only struck with her disabilities when she was a toddler and became sick with something that was probably scarlet fever.

She had almost two years of being able to use her eyes and ears and to drink in the world and shape her brain.

If she had been blind and deaf from birth and they had only attempted to talk with her at eight years of age, she might not have been so capable of understanding.

There have been cases where children have been raised by wolves or other animals or in complete isolation and they are almost always unable to adjust to human life if they aren't recovered by the time they are six or older. Young children simply need to learn to talk and be exposed to human communication or their brains won't develop the ability to do so after a certain point.

Post 2

Something I found very interesting was reading Helen Keller's biography and speculating on her development through childhood. She was blind and deaf and had no way to communicate except through touch with her family until she was eight and she met her teacher. After that, it took a while, but she quickly learned how to speak through sign language and even to speak aloud. She ended up going through university and becoming a beloved intellectual force in the world.

I suspect this was possible because, even though she was blind and deaf, she describes understanding her mother's loving influence and adventures with her friends and so forth. She was still treated with love and given things to stimulate her curiosity and this helped to save her intellect until it was set free for the rest of the world to admire.

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