Developmental Disability - Causes of Developmental Disabilities

Causes of Developmental Disabilities

There are many social, environmental and physical causes of developmental disabilities, although for some a definitive cause may never be determined. Common factors causing developmental disabilities include:

  • Brain injury or infection before, during or after birth;
  • Growth or nutrition problems (prenatally, perinatally, or postnatally);
  • Abnormalities of chromosomes and genes;
  • Birth long before the expected birth date - also called extreme prematurity;
  • Poor maternal diet and absent or minimal health care;
  • Drug abuse during pregnancy, including alcohol intake and smoking;
  • Drug-related prenatal developmental insult, such as thalidomide;
  • Severe physical maltreatment (child abuse), which may have caused brain injury and which can adversely affect a child's learning abilities and socio-emotional development

Developmental disabilities affect between 1 and 2% of the population in most western countries, although many government sources acknowledge that statistics are flawed in this area. The worldwide proportion of people with developmental disabilities is believed to be approximately 1.4%. It is twice as common in males as in females, and some researchers have found that the prevalence of mild developmental disabilities is likely to be higher in areas of poverty and deprivation, and among people of certain ethnicities.

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