Research conducted by the Child Development Research Group in the Tropical Medicine Research Institute has made significant contributions to the understanding of the importance of early nutrition and the home environment for children's development and the impact of psychosocial stimulation for disadvantaged and/or undernourished children. The work has provided critical evidence that has contributed to the increasing attention given to early childhood development in the work and policies of agencies such as the World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF). This review concerns research which documented the impact of malnutrition on children's development and for the first time demonstrated the benefits and necessity of psychosocial stimulation for improvement in development. Subsequent research was critical in establishing the importance of linear growth retardation (stunting) as a risk factor for poor child development. A twenty-two-year study of stunted children has demonstrated benefits through to adulthood in areas such as educational attainment, mental health and reduced violent behaviour, from an early childhood home visiting programme that works through mothers to promote their children's development. The group's research has also demonstrated that it is feasible and effective to integrate the stimulation intervention into primary care services with benefits to children's development and mothers' child rearing knowledge and practices. The group is currently conducting a study to provide information needed for scaling-up of parenting programmes through evaluation of a new approach to improving parenting through health centres and a modified home visit programme.