Does Physical Development Influence Children's Emotional Development?

Physical, mental and emotional development occur simultaneously throughout childhood and adolescence 3. Emotional development encompasses how a child experiences, expresses and manages emotions, and her ability to establish healthy relationships with others, according to the California Department of Education 5. As a child's body physically changes, it can influence whether healthy psychological and emotional development takes place.

Healthy Emotional Development

The milestones of emotional development are different for each stage of infancy, childhood and adolescence. Infancy is a time of learning to trust in others and interact with the world. In "The Creative Curriculum for Preschool," put out by Teaching Strategies, achieving a sense of self, learning to take responsibility and behaving in a pro-social way are described as important aspects of emotional development in early childhood 5. Middle childhood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a time for developing healthy friendships, learning to think independently and dealing with peer pressure 2.

Impact of Physical and Learning Disabilities

Children with physical or learning disabilities may be at risk for unhealthy or delayed emotional development. Learning disabilities can exacerbate emotional issues and prevent the development of healthy peer relationships, according to Jean C. Gorman, author of "Teaching Exceptional Children," appearing on LD OnLine, a resource for learning disabilities and ADHD 1. Because a child's physical disabilities are more visible and intrusive, it can be difficult for her to gain the social benefits of playing with other children. A research report by SSTA Research Centre for the Saskatchewan School Board says that children with disabilities may be slower to develop emotions and weaker in expressing those emotions, and may have difficulty forming attachments, which impacts identity development.

Obesity and Emotional Development

Childhood obesity is more prevalent than ever before in society and there are strong implications, not only for a child's physical health, but psychological development as well 23. Social discrimination and low self-esteem are common issues for overweight or obese children, according to Lauren Marcus, Ph.D. and Amanda Baron, M.S.W., writing for The Child Study Center, which helps to improve the treatment of child psychiatric disorders through scientific practice, research, and education. Because of the societal pressures surrounding the "ideal" body type, overweight or obese children are at higher risk for developing eating disorders or suffering from an unhealthy body image.

Fostering Healthy Emotional Development

Parents who actively and intentionally play a part in all areas of their child's life can foster healthy physical, mental and emotional development. Interacting directly and participating actively in discipline, and emotionally identifying and helping a child connect with family history can positively impact psychological and emotional development, according to Jerome Kagan, Ph.D., in his 1999 article for "Pediatrics," the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics 4. When parents have a healthy relationship with their child, the negative impact of disabilities, obesity or other physical issues on emotional development can be minimized.