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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

SUNY Albany: When Did Your Child First Walk? The Answer May be an Indicator of Future Success

A child who stands earlier with assistance is a predictor of better developmental skills, independent of gestational age or birth weight, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.

The study, conducted through the Upstate KIDS program at the University at Albany SUNY School of Public Health in partnership with the New York State Department of Health and the National Institutes of Health, found that the associations between early childhood milestones and later success existed across the normal range of development and were in particular observed for adaptive skills and cognitive abilities.

“Clinically, our findings suggest that infant age when achieving a motor milestone may be an important indicator of later child development,” said Dr. Erin Bell, associate professor of environmental health sciences at SUNY Albany. “The predictive value of an easy-administered simple assessment, such as age at achievement of standing, for later adaptive and cognitive skills in children provides parents and clinicians with additional information for assessing child development.”

The Upstate KIDS study tracked gross motor development at 4, 8, 12, 18 and 24 months. Each child’s mother reported when her child sat up without support for the first time, crawled for the first time and stood and walked for the first time with and without assistance.

The results imply that the importance of normal progression of infant motor development to subsequent developmental status may not be limited to children with developmental disabilities. Rather, within the normal range, achieving a gross motor milestone earlier than peers may have favorable effects on adaptive skills and cognitive performance in childhood.

The findings are consistent with previous investigations that highlight the influence of the speed of development during infancy on later cognition. The study found no association between infants’ age of milestone achievement and children’s personal/social or communication skills. The researchers suggest further investigation is needed to explore whether the continuity between infant motor milestone and development is restricted to adaptive or cognitive domain only or it also exists in other domains of development.

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