Saturday, September 29, 2012

Factors that Influence Motor Skill Development

                  Biological/Genetic Factors that Influence Motor Skill Development

Impaired Sight

Esther Thelen's dynamic systems theory described how babies couple the abilities to perceive and act (Santrock, 2008). According to this theory, children learn how to do new things (for example, develop motor skills) because they are motivated to do so, at least in part, by their ability to perceive, hence, see. Having impaired sight affects the perception and motivation of a blind child. Hartle and Clark (2011) believed, however, that the constraints of blind children don't have to negatively affect their development. Although blind children are not stimulated by visual cues that motivate them, there are other ways to alter the environment so children still receive the motivation (Hartle & Clark, 2011). Visually impaired children can learn by doing with other experiences such as touching the parents' hands while they perform an action, and using the voice to simultaneously explain what they are doing (Hartle & Clark, 2011)


Congenitally deaf infants commonly have deficient vestibular function that can effect balance and the child's ability to move and maintain posture (Kaga, Shinjo, Jin, & Takegoshi, 2008). Kaga, Shinjo, Jin, and Takegoshi (2008) found a lack in vestibular function impaired children's motor functions such as controlling the head, sitting, and walking. Although some delay in development was found, there was also evidence of compensation in other vestibular functioning as well as sight and intellect, that helped the children continue to develop. For example, Kaga, Shinjo, Jin, and Takegoshi described a child, who in infancy had marked delays in controlling his head and walking, although during adolescence, he developed normal skills despite the vestibular deficiency. Early identification of faulty vestibular function can help parents learn how to help the child develop normally. Kaga, Shinjo, Jin, and Takegoshi believed in the importance of evaluating deafness and deficient vestibular functioning in infants to eliminate the common misdiagnosis of brain damage or other motor dysfunction.

                                                      Two Environmental Factors


If children do not have experiences that develop musculature during gross motor skills, their fine motor skills will be delayed. Santrock (2008) explained how muscular development follows a proximodistal pattern, so development starts at the center of the body, then moving outward. The development of motor skills start with the major muscle groups, like flailing the arms and legs, then develops into more refined movements, until eventually the refinement takes place in the fine motor skills such as holding a pencil or handling a fork or spoon. Huffman and Fortenberry (2011) described the stages of fine motor development as a progression in which muscles are developed in sequence. One must master one stage prior to moving toward the next stage (Huffman & Fortenberry, 2011). Caregivers can help the child develop finer motor skills by making sure he or she has adequate opportunity for growth at each stage along the progression of muscle development.

Infants who Receive Care at Public Child Care Centers
Considering differences in attention received by the infant, Souza, Santos, Tolocka, Baltieri, Gibim, and Habechian (2010) found some evidence of deficiencies of motor skill development in infants who attend public child care centers during the first 17 months of life. If this deficiency is solely from lack of attention or lack of practice of movement because of the constraints of public child care, it might be easily remedied with adequate, or perhaps compensatory parental behavior with the child at home. Rezende, Beteli, and Santos (2005) found differences in day care centers may directly affect motor development in children attending such facilities. Some children thrived and developed normally in similar child care centers. Perhaps this information will help parents understand the importance of choosing a facility that will engage the child in normal practice for developing motor skills. Even for parents whose options for child care are limited, additional interaction with the child at home may compensate for deficiencies in the day care environment.


In the above four examples, biological and environmental factors were mitigated with extra care. I found it particularly striking that in a variety of cultural settings as described by Santrock (2008), infants seem to develop normally. Even in deficient circumstances or physical defects, compensatory care from parents and caregivers can contribute to normal development.


Hartle, M., & Clark, J. (2011). Reweighting and constraint: The development of movement in young blind children. Future Reflections, 30(1), 6-10.

Huffman, J. M., & Fortenberry, C. (2011). Developing fine motor skills. Young Children, 66(5), 100–102.

Kaga, K., Shinjo, Y., Jin, Y., & Takegoshi, H. (2008). Vestibular failure in children with congenital deafness. International Journal of Audiology, 47(9), 590–599.

Rezende, M. A., Beteli, V. C., & Santos, J. D. (2005). Follow-up of the child's motor abilities in day-care centers and pre-schools. Revista Latino-Americana De Enfermagem, 13(5). doi: 10.1590/S0104-11692005000500003

Rule, A. C., & Stewart, R. A. (2002). Effects of practical life materials on kindergartners’ fine motor skills. Early Childhood Education Journal, 30(1), 9–13.

Santrock, J. W. (2008). A topical approach to life-span development (3rd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Souza, C., Santos, D., Tolocka, R., Baltieri, L., Gibim, N., & Habechian, F. (2010). Assessment of global motor performance and gross and fine motor skills of infants attending day care centers. Revista Brasileira De Fisioterapia, 14(4), 309-315.

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