Background: Care for child development has gained momentum in research and community based programming internationally. It encompasses various domains including cognitive, psychomotor, emotional, behavioural and social development, and a multitude of factors that have the potential to influence its trajectories. However the multidisciplinary nature of the child development initiatives is marred by the fact that there is a lack of unified perspectives across the disciplines, especially basic conceptual understandings generated in the fields of education and psychology which are not effectively exploited in public health programmes and epidemiological research.
Methods: The article suggests a four-point evaluation criteria to child development theories based on ability to communicate in (1) Cross-disciplines, (2) an Overarching facility to address various developmental domains, (3) the capacity to link child development with Lifelong developmental potentials and, most importantly, (4) Epidemiological capability to provide supporting empirical evidence for community based public health interventions (COLE criteria).
Results: Key child development theories have been reviewed by broadly grouping them into three categories on the basis of content and approach: descriptive theories, psychological construct based theories, and context-based theories. The strengths and challenges of these theories have been evaluated on the basis of COLE criteria.
Conclusion: Though most of the these theories can contribute at different level in child development initiatives but Context based theories have been particularly proposed to practitioners, researchers and policy makers for community based programming, principally for its potential to address issues of social inequality, poverty and child care practices which are at the core of public health initiatives and provide multiple level of opportunities to intervene.
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