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Baby walkers may impede child development

l development, infants who used older-style walkers received lower scores than the no-walker group, but the differences were not statistically different. On mental performance, those who used older-style walkers scored somewhere between the no-walker and newer-style walker groups.

The researchers believe that use of newer-style walkers leads to physical developmental delays because the walkers' large trays restrict infants' view of their moving legs, depriving them of visual feedback that would help them learn how their bodies move through space. Baby walkers also prevent infants from exploring and grabbing at things around them, which is critical to their early mental development.

"Although in some infants the effect of walker use on mental development was measurable for as long as 10 months after initial use, it is likely that normal infants who use newer-style walkers will catch up to their no-walker peers when they walk and are no longer restricted by being put into a walker," said Burton.

According to the researchers, 70 to 90 percent of parents of one-year-olds use baby walkers. A 1994 report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) cited baby walkers as responsible for more injuries than any other product for children. A 1992 petition by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups called for an outright ban on baby walkers, which have been associated with at least 11 deaths since 1984.

"When the danger factor is considered in conjunction with the developmental data presented by our study, the risks seem to outweigh any possible benefits of early walker exposure," said Burton.


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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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