National Institute for Health and Care Research

The Current Evidence Base

A number of governmental bodies (such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the Early Intervention Foundation) provide guidance (including summaries) of the ‘best known evidence’ with regard to particular areas of intervention aimed at promoting child development.

For example, the Early Intervention Foundation offers a Guidebook comprehensively listing early intervention programmes that have been evaluated and shown to improve outcomes for children (recommended as part of the Supporting Families Programme guidance 2022-2025).

Two women with baby

Clinical practice focused on supporting early child development can be broadly separated into three domains:

  1. The infant / young child, focusing on both their normal development and developmental concerns that commonly arise
  2. The relationship between the caregiver and infant / young child, focusing on their interactions
  3. The caregiving and the wider environment, focusing on the capacity and capability to provide nurturing care to the infant / young child.

Assessment and treatment within these three domains can include the following:

  • Assessments and consultations of both an infant / young child and their parent / caregiver (e.g. a practitioner identifying the needs of a family)
  • Anticipatory advice or prevention strategies for parents / caregivers (e.g. advice on how to manage excessive crying)
  • Interventions including support to caregivers to provide for their young child (e.g. sleep management strategies).

The table below shows the key disciplines and theories that are involved in supporting the social and emotional development of young children. It is becoming increasingly common to see multi-disciplinary teams of researchers on major research projects, leading to more holistic research outcomes.

  • Developmental Psychology
  • Neuroscience
  • Child Psychotherapy
  • Midwifery
  • Health Visiting
  • Social Work
  • Social and Developmental paediatrics
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Speech and Language Therapy
  • Childhood Studies
  • Applied Health and Social Research
  • Attachment theories
  • Ecological Systems theories
  • Psychoanalytic theories
  • Cognitive Development theories
  • Biomedical theories
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