Promoting child and family social and emotional wellbeing, and constipation and encopresis

1 May 2013

The foundations of good social and emotional development are formed in early infant-parent and caregiver relationships (Centre for Community Child Health, 2009). In developing those relationships, families and caregivers ensure that their child develops on a healthy trajectory. With strong foundations, each child can go on to develop the capacity to manage life’s struggles and celebrate the joy that life brings.

The child and family health nurse also has a role in helping families and caregivers to develop and maintain the relationships that enhance children’s development. Good social and emotional development, which stems from these early relationships and plays a role in children’s lifetime mental health, is fundamental.

For some children, issues with social and emotional development in early childhood can be an indicator of mental health problems. Around half of all childhood mental health problems continue into adulthood (Bayer et al, 2009) and are associated with subsequent social, educational and financial costs for the individual and the community. As the costs both financial and other can be so significant, helping children and families to encourage healthy social and emotional development is essential.

Children all deserve the opportunity for healthy social and emotional development, the foundation of good mental health. One of the ways child and family health nurses support children’s healthy development is by working with children and their families to develop and maintain good social and emotional development and ultimately, mental health. 


Constipation is a common childhood problem that around a third of children will experience. It is defined as the infrequent passage of hard stools.

Young, toilet-trained children might experience constipation for a range of reasons—too busy playing for a toilet break, because it hurts to go to the toilet, or because they do not want to use the toilets at preschool or kindergarten. Passing large, hard stools can lead to anal fissures and the pain subsequently experienced at future poos can lead to a cycle of avoiding the toilet because it hurts.

Low dietary fibre intake, slow transit time, coercive toilet training and, in rare cases, abnormal contraction of the sphincters and pelvic floor, can also cause constipation. There are a number of other rare causes for constipation, including Hirschsprung’s disease, thyroid deficiency and cow’s milk allergy.

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