Very Early Childhood Development

Authors: Frances Aboud, Aisha Khizar Yousafzai


This chapter discusses mental development from birth to age 24 months in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), focusing on cognitive and language domains, while touching on socioemotional, fine motor, and gross motor development, by (1) describing the measurement of these domains in order to provide an operational definition of the term mental development: (2) examining conditions that derail early child development, which arise during the prenatal period and continue throughout the next 24 months; and (3) presenting the results of several systematic reviews and meta-analyses to show the effects of stimulation and nutrition, along with disease-related interventions to promote mental development. The risk factors of greatest importance concern low-quality psychosocial stimulation at home; inadequate child nutrition; infections from environmental vectors, such as trachoma and malaria; and maternal nutrition and mental health during the first 1,000 days. Interventions include psychosocial stimulation, prenatal and postnatal nutrition, improvements in the physical environment, and maternal mental health care.


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