Because baby walkers enable precocious locomotion in very young, otherwise prelocomotor infants, walker experience might be conceptualized in terms of early enrichment. However, walker devices prevent visual access to the moving limbs by design. Therefore, prelocomotor walker experience may be conceptualized in terms of early deprivation, reminiscent of that created in a classic series of animal experiments on the critical role of visual feedback in developing motor systems. This study analyzed motor and mental development in 109 human infants, with and without walker experience, between the ages of 6 and 15 months. Walker-experienced infants sat, crawled, and walked later than no-walker controls, and they scored lower on Bayley scales of mental and motor development. Significant effects of walker type, frequency, and timing of walker exposure were observed. Considering the injury data along with the developmental data, the authors conclude that the risks of walker use outweigh the benefits.
Address for reprints: Roger V. Burton, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Park Hall. State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY. 14260; E-mail: [email protected]
This study was supported, in part, by grants from the Diamond Research Fund and the Center for Children and Youth at the University of Buffalo/Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy.
© 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.