Early Literacy Research Library (ELRL) - Article

Parenting and Child Development: A Relational Health Perspective

Frosch, C.A., Schoppe-Sullivan, S.J., O’Banion, D.D. (2021) Parenting and Child Development: A Relational Health Perspective. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 15(1), 45-59.,

Access: FREE/Open Access

Publication year


study description


core topic(s)

Early Relational Health , Pediatric Primary Care

Exposures, Outcomes, Other

Child Behaviors and Skills , Child Development (general) , Parent Behaviors and Skills , Parent Knowledge, Attitudes, and Beliefs , Parent-Child Relationships/Interactions , Social-Emotional , Technology and Digital/Screen-Based Media


We focus our discussion here on the construct of relational health as a tool for promoting socioemotional and physical health among young children.


Relational health.

outcomes evaluated

Socioemotional and physical health outcomes.


Topics Discussed: Relational health within primary care: The parent-provider relationship; Relational health within families: The parent-child relationship [Parent-child attachment relationships: parental sensitivity and reflective functioning; Mothering, fathering, and grandparenting; Coparenting relationships]; Parental Characteristics that contribute to parenting and relational health [Psychosocial resources and mental health; parental developmental history and adverse experiences in childhood]; Child characteristics that contribute to parenting and parent-child relational health [Temperament; Age; Special health care needs]; Contextual and process variables that may affect relational health [Parent-child feeding practices; The household environment: Family chaos, technology, and social media use; Cultural context and relational health]; Reducing risks to relational health: Screening and referral.




This review presents a parent-child relational health perspective on development, with an emphasis on socioemotional outcomes in early childhood, along with brief attention to obesity and eating behavior as a relationally informed health outcome. Also emphasized here is the parent–health care provider relationship as a context for supporting healthy outcomes within families as well as screening and intervention efforts to support optimal relational health within families, with the goal of improving mental and physical health within our communities.


A relational health science approach offers a wider lens for understanding how parent-child relationships may affect children’s development. A relational health approach recognizes both partners’ contributions to the establishment and maintenance of relational processes and highlights the potential value of the health care provider as a relational partner for parents and children.


Not discussed.