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BMC Public Health. 2010 Apr 8;10(1):183. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-10-183.

Gauging knowledge of developmental milestones among Albertan adults: a cross-sectional survey.

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Alberta Centre for Child, Family, and Community Research, Calgary, Canada.



Parental knowledge of child development has been associated with more effective parenting strategies and better child outcomes. However, little is known about what adults who interact with children under the age of 14 years know about child development.


Between September 2007 and March 2008, computer assisted telephone interviews were completed with 1443 randomly selected adults. Adults were eligible if they had interacted with a child less than 14 years of age in the past six months and lived in Alberta, Canada.


Sixty three percent of respondents answered two (or more) out of four questions on physical development correctly. Fifteen percent of respondents answered two (or more) out of three questions on cognitive development correctly. Seven percent of respondents answered three (or more) out of five questions on social development correctly. Two percent of respondents answered three (or more) out of five questions on emotional development correctly. Parents and females were better able to identify physical developmental milestones compared to non-parents and males. 81% of adults correctly responded that a child's experience in the first year of life has an important impact on later school performance, 70% correctly responded that a child's ability to learn is not set from birth, 50% of adults correctly responded that children learn more from hearing someone speak than from television, and 45% recognized that parents' emotional closeness with a baby influences later achievement. Parents were most likely to use doctors/paediatricians, books, and nurses as resources. Among parents, there was no relationship between knowledge and parenting morale.


The majority of adults were unable to correctly answer questions related to when children under six years of age typically achieve developmental milestones. Knowledge of physical development exceeded knowledge about cognitive, emotional and social development. Adults were aware of the importance of positive experiences in influencing children's development. Strategies to improve awareness of developmental milestones combined with information on how to support optimal development may improve child development outcomes. Given that parents seek information about child development from health care providers there is an opportunity to ensure that providers are well informed about child development.

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