Four Factors Influencing Physical Development, Abilities, and Fitness in Children in Modern Society

On this page, we name and discuss the FOUR factors that influence the physical development, abilities and fitness of the child in modern society.

Childhood is a critical period for physical development, laying the foundation for lifelong health and well-being. While genetics play a significant role, various external factors also significantly influence a child’s physical development, abilities, and fitness. Modern society, with its fast-paced lifestyle and technological advancements, has brought about unique challenges and opportunities in this regard. In this article, we explore four key factors that are shaping the physical development of children today.

Four Factors Influencing Physical Development, Abilities, and Fitness in Children in Modern Society

The four factors influencing physical development, abilities, and fitness in children in modern society are:

  1. Technology and Screen Time: Excessive use of screens like smartphones, tablets, and TVs leads to a sedentary lifestyle, which can contribute to obesity and delayed motor skill development.
  2. Nutrition and Diet: Modern diets often consist of processed foods high in sugar and fats, leading to poor nutrition that can negatively affect physical development and contribute to obesity.
  3. Physical Education and School Programs: The reduction or elimination of physical education in schools due to budget constraints or academic pressures limits exposure to physical activities, affecting motor skills and overall fitness.
  4. Social and Cultural Factors: Cultural beliefs and social norms can influence the types of physical activities children engage in, potentially limiting their physical development. For example, some cultures may prioritize academics over physical activities, or societal norms may dictate what activities are “appropriate” for boys and girls.

1. Technology and Screen Time

One of the most glaring influences in modern society is the ubiquity of screens—be it smartphones, tablets, or televisions. Excessive screen time often leads to a sedentary lifestyle, contributing to obesity and related health issues. Lack of physical activity can result in delayed motor skill development and lower levels of overall fitness. While technology can be educational and engaging, it’s essential to balance screen time with physical activity to ensure holistic development.

Example: A child spends 4-5 hours a day playing video games or watching videos on a tablet, resulting in minimal time for outdoor play or physical exercise.

2. Nutrition and Diet

The modern diet, rich in processed foods and high in sugar and fats, poses a significant challenge to physical development. Poor nutrition can lead to a host of problems, including obesity, delayed physical development, and even stunted growth. On the flip side, awareness about the importance of balanced diets, fortified with essential vitamins and minerals, can positively impact a child’s physical development. However, the availability and marketing of unhealthy foods often overshadow these healthier options.

Example: A child regularly consumes fast food, sugary drinks, and processed snacks, lacking essential nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals, leading to weight gain and reduced energy levels for physical activity.

3. Physical Education and School Programs

Educational institutions have a considerable impact on a child’s physical development. However, many schools are reducing or entirely eliminating physical education programs due to budget constraints or academic pressures. The lack of formal physical education can result in limited exposure to a variety of physical activities, thereby affecting the development of motor skills, strength, and endurance. Physical education should be an integral part of the school curriculum to promote physical development and instill the importance of fitness from a young age.

Example: A school cuts back on its physical education program to allocate more time for academic subjects, depriving students of the opportunity to develop various motor skills like running, jumping, or swimming.

4. Social and Cultural Factors

Cultural beliefs and social norms significantly influence the types of activities children engage in, which in turn affects their physical development. For instance, some cultures may prioritize academic achievements over physical activities. Similarly, societal perceptions about gender can limit the types of physical activities considered “appropriate” for boys and girls, affecting their physical development differently. Understanding and addressing these social and cultural influences is essential for encouraging healthy physical development for all children.

  • Example 1: In some cultures, boys are encouraged to participate in sports like soccer or basketball, while girls are subtly discouraged from such activities, leading to uneven physical development opportunities based on gender.
  • Example 2: A family values academic achievement over physical well-being, resulting in the child focusing more on homework and study, with limited time spent on physical activities.

Theoretical Evidence

Theoretical evidence can offer a more structured understanding of how these factors influence physical development in children. Below are some theories and frameworks that lend insight into each of the four areas:

  1. Technology and Screen Time
    • Theory: Uses and Gratifications Theory
    • Evidence: This theory suggests people use media for various reasons including entertainment, information, or social integration. When applied to children, this theory can explain excessive screen time as fulfilling one of these needs, often at the expense of physical activity.
  2. Nutrition and Diet
    • Theory: Behavioral Economics Theory
    • Evidence: This theory posits that the immediate, easily accessible rewards (like fast food) are often chosen over long-term benefits (like a healthy diet). Thus, children might opt for immediate gratification, adversely affecting their physical health.
  3. Physical Education and School Programs
    • Theory: Social Cognitive Theory
    • Evidence: According to this theory, behavior, environment, and personal factors all interact to influence one’s behavior. In schools without physical education, children lack both the environment and the role models to encourage physical activity, affecting their long-term physical development.
  4. Social and Cultural Factors
    • Theory: Gender Schema Theory and Cultural Capital Theory
    • Evidence: Gender Schema Theory suggests that societal norms shape gender-specific behaviors, including physical activity. Cultural Capital Theory argues that social assets like norms and values can affect a child’s opportunities and choices, including those related to physical activities.

These theories provide a theoretical framework for understanding the influences on physical development, abilities, and fitness in children. They help researchers, educators, and parents understand not only the ‘what’ but also the ‘why’ behind these influences.


In today’s fast-evolving world, various factors impact the physical development, abilities, and fitness of children. From technology and diet to educational systems and social norms, these elements can either pose challenges or offer opportunities for enhancing physical health. By understanding these influences, parents, educators, and policymakers can take proactive steps to ensure that children grow up to be physically active and healthy adults.

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