• Social determinants;
  • early childhood;
  • developmental health;
  • cross-cultural overview

Aim:  This paper offers an overview of the current state of knowledge of the critical social determinants of child development and the complex ways in which these can influence health trajectories.

Methods:  We conducted an overview of the research conducted by medical and social scientists in the attempt to uncover the conditions under which children reach optimal health and developmental.

Results:  The first years of life represent a critical period during which trajectories of health vulnerability are determined by the complex interplay between biological, genetic, and environmental conditions.

Conclusions:  There are fundamental principles of optimal child development that apply to all human beings, regardless of language and culture.