Objective: To assess the psychosocial development of well nourished and malnourished children aged 0-6 years and to identify the microenvironmental factors influencing their growth and development.
Design: Multicentric cross-sectional.
Setting: Rural Communities.
Subjects: Total of 3668 children of whom 2212 were well nourished and 1456 were malnourished.
Methods: Weight for age index to assess nutritional status. Cut-off < 75% NCHS standards used based on Gomez grades II and III being malnourished and Normal and grade I being well nourished. ICMR Developmental Screening Test to assess psychosocial development and modified WHO parental interview schedule to assess family and micro-environmental factors.
Results: Malnourished children attained developmental milestones at a later age. Developmental delay among the malnourished was especially observed in areas like vision and fine motor, language and comprehension and personal social. The delay was to the extent of 7-11 months in these areas in different age groups. Paternal involvement with child care especially, father spending time, telling stories and taking child for outing was found to be important for positive psychosocial development. Other significant factors included parents teaching child, small family size and paternal occupation. Child's appetite, absence of health problems, parental age and family having own house and electricity were the factors significantly related to better nutritional status of children.
Conclusion: Factors identified in the study are important for the development of relevant intervention at the home level. Appropriate multifaceted community based programmes such as the ICDS are also required for stimulating growth and development of backward rural children.