Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Upton I 50
Psychological Development/Cultural Psychology: evidence now suggests that environmental factors influence the timing of motor skill development. For example, there is support for the idea that the early motor development often seen in African infants is linked to parenting behaviours (Super, 1976(1); Cintas, 1989(2)). Parents in African cultures have been shown to help the development of motor skills by providing opportunities for infants to develop muscle tone and strength, for example by placing them in an upright position. Likewise, Jamaican mothers traditionally expect early motor development and work to encourage this by massaging and stretching their baby’s limbs (Hopkins, 1991)(3). Jamaican infants born and raised in the traditional way in the UK continue to show this earlier development. However, those not raised in the traditional way show no difference in the age at which they gained these skills when compared to their non-Jamaican peers. This demonstrates clearly that this difference is not genetic, but based on environmental factors such as infant handling.
Stages: Infants may also miss out milestones. In the African Mali tribe most infants never crawl (Bril, 1999)(4). Adolph (2002)(5) describes infants in the USA who also bypass the crawling phase, either moving around by rolling or not trying to get around until they are upright. Environmental factors such as parenting behaviours are likely to be important here as well: the reduction in the number of infants crawling coincided with late twentieth-century recommendations to lay babies to sleep on their backs in order to reduce the risk of SIDS (Davis et al., 1998)(6).



1. Super, C. (1976) Environmental effects on motor developments: the case of ‘African infant precocity’. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 18: 561–7.
2. Cintas H.M. (1989) Cross-cultural variation in infant motor development. Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, 8: 1–20.
3. Hopkins, B. (1991) Facilitating early motor development: an intracultural study of West Indian mothers and their infants living in Britain, in Nugent, JK, Lester, BM and Brazelton, TB (eds) The Cultural Context of Infancy, Vol. 2. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
4. Brill, B. (1999) Dires suries enfants selon les cultures, in Bnl, B, Dansen, PR, Sabatier, C and
Krewer, B. (eds) Propos sur l’enfant et l’adolescent. Quel enfans pour quelles cultures? Paris:
L’Harmattan.
5. Adolph, J.O.E. (2002) Learning to keep balance, in Kali, R (ed.) Advances in Child Development
and Behaviour. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
6. Davies, B.E., Moon, R.M., Sachs, M.C. and Ottolini, C.Y. (1998) Effects of sleep position on infant motor development. Pediatrics, 102: 1135—40.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Cultural Psychology
Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011


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