What Child Issues Can Affect Cognitive Development?

Cognitive development -- the development of intelligence and problem-solving abilities that begins during infancy -- is influenced by a variety of factors 3. Providing an emotionally stable and stimulating environment for your little one helps ensure optimal cognitive development. When a child is not raised in such an environment or is deprived of positive experiences, learning disabilities and other cognitive delays might ensue.

Economic Status

According to a web page on the Princeton University website, children living in poverty are 1.3 times more likely to suffer from cognitive delays and learning disabilities than children born into higher-income families. Parents living at poverty level are often unable to provide the same educational opportunities and material advantages as families in a higher income bracket. Families who live in poverty might have unorganized homes and stressful lives that contribute to these cognitive outcomes in their children.


The National Sleep Foundation warns parents about the importance of sleep for children because it directly affects their cognitive development 23. During the early years when a child spends more time sleeping than awake, sleeping is the main activity of the brain. While your baby or toddler might be able to function just fine -- besides being a bit cranky -- without a good night's sleep, these sleeping issues can set him up for problems later in life. Poor sleeping habits in school-age children might result in hyperactivity and poor academic performance.


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that neglect in early childhood negatively affects brain and cognitive development in the early years and has repercussions that last into adolescence and adulthood 3. Experiences in a child's first years are the foundation of his intelligence, personality and emotions. When a child suffers from neglect and abuse, these experiences often lead to learning disabilities, and behavioral and mental health issues that have the capability to haunt a child for the rest of his life.

Parents' Education

According to the Encyclopedia of Language and Literacy Development, parental education has a strong connection to language and cognitive development of the child 3. Princeton University points to the expansion of higher education in the 1960s and 1970s, which improved overall infant health. Educated parents are more likely to provide an enriching and stimulating environment in which they engage in activities such as reading and playing with their child. Educated parents also have higher academic expectations of their child, which -- according to The Journal of Family Psychology -- correlates to higher reading and math scores 1.