Global Health and Development in Early Childhood

Posted: 9 Jan 2015

See all articles by Frances E. Aboud

Frances E. Aboud

McGill University - Department of Psychology

Aisha K. Yousafzai

Aga Khan University

Date Written: January 2015


Health and nutritional risks co-occur in the lives of children under the age of 2 years who live in developing countries. We review evidence showing how these risks, in addition to inadequate psychosocial stimulation, prevent children from developing expected cognitive and language abilities. A systematic review and meta-analysis of 21 interventions aimed at enhancing stimulation and 18 interventions that provided better nutrition—all conducted since 2000—revealed that stimulation had a medium effect size of 0.42 and 0.47 on cognitive and language development, respectively, whereas nutrition by itself had a small effect size of 0.09. The implementation processes of these interventions are described and compared. A number of unresolved issues are outlined and discussed, including ways to maximize parental health behavior change, assess mediators that account for intervention effects, and expand the assessment of young children's brain functions that underlie language and cognition and are affected by nutrition and stimulation.

Suggested Citation

Aboud, Frances E. and Yousafzai, Aisha K., Global Health and Development in Early Childhood (January 2015). Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 66, pp. 433-457, 2015, Available at SSRN: or

Frances E. Aboud (Contact Author)

McGill University - Department of Psychology ( email )

1205 Dr. Penfield Ave.
Montreal, Quebec H3A 1B1

Aisha K. Yousafzai

Aga Khan University ( email )

Stadium Road, P.O. Box 3500
Karachi, 74800

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