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Though poverty, malnutrition, and disease are responsible for developmental deficiences in many of the world's children, the psychological environment also plays an important role, and is often more manageable than the major physical problems. Though variations in behaviour due to the environment may be primarily a function of the microsystem, the influences of that system are themselves shaped by higher-level factors within the system. Across a variety of cultures, urbanization and industrialization have been implicated as causing a reduction in family interactions, increased intergenerational conflict, and inadequate socialization of children. Parental values and direct parental interaction have been noted to be important for the cognitive development of school-age children and adolescents. Our ultimate goal must be to utilize our knowledge to devise comprehensive programmes for developing maximal competence in children across a wide range of dimensions.