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Baby walkers may impede child development

Although many parents use baby walkers as a way to give their infants exercise and experience moving about, new research shows that these infants are slower than other infants to sit upright, crawl, and walk. They also score lower on early tests of mental and physical development compared with other infants.

"Newer-style walkers, which have large trays that prevent infants from seeing their moving feet and from grasping objects around them, lead to greater delays in physical and mental development," said Roger V. Burton, PhD, co-author of the study.

The researchers from State University of New York at Buffalo and Case Western Reserve University studied the early mental and physical development of 109 predominately white infants from the Buffalo, New York area. About half had never used a walker, about a third used newer-style walkers with large trays that blocked the infants' view of their feet, and the remainder used older-style walkers that allowed them to see their moving feet and grab at objects around them. The research results appear in the October issue of the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

The infants were first tested at 6, 9, or 12 months of age, and again three months later, using a standard measure of physical and mental development. Parents provided information on when the infants achieved developmental milestones, such as sitting, crawling, and walking.

All of the infants scored within established norms, the researchers say. Nevertheless, those who used newer-style walkers sat upright, crawled, and walked later than infants who had never used a walker. Infants who used older-style walkers learned to sit and walk at about the same age as the no-walker group, but they learned to crawl at about the same age as the children who used the newer-style walkers.

On the developmental tests, the infants who used newer-style walkers had the lowest scores on physical and mental development. On the tests of physica
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Contact: Roger V. Burton, Ph.D.
psyburt@acsu.buffalo.edu
716-645-3650 x319
Center for the Advancement of Health
12-Oct-1999


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