Infants come to the world with a number of reflexes that allow them to thrive and survive until they develop motor sills that would help them explore and learn in their environment. The development of motor skills is important in infancy since it would dictate how able they are to take care of themselves and also signify growth and maturity. The normal development of children is used to check whether babies are progressing or maturing at the normal rate, for example, a two month old is expected to be able to turn his/her head or to start lying on his/her stomach, however babies vary in their motor skills acquisition and this should not be alarming. Motor skills development is influenced by genetics and the environment (Freedman & DeBoer, 1979).
Genetics have been found to influence motor skills development, firstly, the biological perspective says that infants learn how to crawl, sit up, walk and run because they are predetermined to do so. It’s like there is an internal chip in the infant that tells its body when to develop this skills. Genetics come into play when the infant inherits the characteristics of the parents, if the parent as a child started to walk earlier, then it is expected that the offspring would also have the same rate of development. Another influence of genetics to later motor skills development is in the learning of complex motor skills like writing. Left-handedness has been linked to genetic predisposition, such that a child who carries that certain gene for left-handedness may favor using his/her left hand and thus have better motor functions than the right hand (Francks, DeLisi, Fisher, Laval, Rue, Stein & Monaco, 2003).
Environmental influences may also affect the rate of motor skills development of the infant. In cultures where babies are often carried by their mothers will naturally take longer to learn how to walk and run (Bhavnagri & Gonzalez-Mena, 1997). A similar influence is based on the kind of environment the infant grows up in. if the infant is allowed to explore and learn his/her surroundings, he/she is more able to develop motor skills than if he/she is overly protected and restricted like if the family practices the use of mittens, then the grasping and hand coordination of the infant would take longer to develop because he/she cannot make use of his/her hands.
Parents can maximize the genetic and environmental influences in the motor skills development of their child by providing them with the right amount of physical interaction, interactive toys that exercise their motor skills and allow them to explore and touch their surroundings, as well as keeping them safe and far from harm. On the biological side, if they observe that the child tend to favor the left hand, then they should not interfere with it since forcing them to use the right hand may hamper their motor sills later in life.
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Francks, C., DeLisi, L., Fisher, S., Laval, S., Rue, J., Stein, J. & Monaco, A. (2003).
Confirmatory evidence for linkage of relative hand skill to 2p12-q11. American Journal of Human Genetics, 72; 2, 499-502.
Freedman, D. & DeBoer, M. (1979). Biological and Cultural Differences in Early Child
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