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Early Psychosocial Stimulation Benefits Stunted Children

One of the saddest observations of 21st century mankind is the fact that worldwide, 30 percent of all children under the age of five are stunted. Stunted, a term applied to growth retardation results from maternal and child malnutrition and is associated with poor intellectual development and behavioral problems in late adolescence.

A study performed over sixteen-years and published in the British Medical Journal Online First, finds that early psychosocial stimulation has better long term benefits for stunted children’s emotional outcomes and attention that nutritional supplementation.

In the study, researchers set out to determine whether dietary supplementation or psychosocial stimulation given to stunted children early in life had any long term benefits for their psychosocial functioning in late adolescence.

In 1986-7, they identified 129 stunted children (age 9-24 months) living in poor neighbourhoods of Kingston, Jamaica. Children were assigned to one of four groups: control (no intervention), supplementation with 1 kg milk based formula each week, stimulation (weekly play sessions with mother and child), or both, for two years.

In 2002-3, 103 adolescents aged 17-18 years were re-examined to assess their psychosocial functioning (self esteem, anxiety, depression, and antisocial behaviour).

Those who had received stimulation reported less anxiety, less depression, and higher self esteem, and parents reported fewer attention problems. Supplementation had no significant effect.

Psychosocial stimulation in early childhood had sustained benefits for the psychosocial functioning of stunted children, say the authors. The next challenge is to develop interventions that can meet the needs of the enormous number of stunted children, they conclude.

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Source: British Medical Journal

Early Psychosocial Stimulation Benefits Stunted Children

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2016). Early Psychosocial Stimulation Benefits Stunted Children. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 18, 2018, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 27 Jun 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Jun 2016
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