The Cultural Context of Motor Development: Postural Manipulations in the Daily Life of Bambara Babies (Mali)

Article (PDF Available)inInternational Journal of Behavioral Development 9(4):439-453. · December 1986with 785 Reads 
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DOI: 10.1177/016502548600900403
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The present study is the first exploratory step of a larger investigation focusing on the influence of culturally-related caretaking practices on motor development. Four Bambara infants between 4 and 23 weeks of age were observed for two full days with a paper-and-pencil event-recording technique and with video films. We took down the infant's 'postural time-table', i.e., the different spatial positions experienced during everyday life (prone, supine, sitting, standing...) and the different postural adjustments required by maternal manipulations during caretaking and transportation.
  • ... A more comprehensive observational study was conducted by Bril and Sabatier (1986), who used paper and pencil recordings to document body position for 2 full days in the lives of 4 Bamabara infants (Mali). The youngest infant (1 month) spent the most time supine (33%) and reclined (39%), whereas the oldest infant (6 months) spent the most time in a sitting position (39%). ...
    ... Although prior work finds a consistent pattern of results, generalization is limited by restricted activity contexts (Franchak et al., 2018;Thurman & Corbetta, 2017), short observation times (Franchak et al., 2018;Karasik et al., 2015;Thurman & Corbetta, 2017), reliance on retrospective reports (Hnatiuk et al., 2013;Majnemer & Barr, 2005), and narrow age ranges (Bril & Sabatier, 1986;Franchak et al., 2018;Hnatiuk et al., 2013;Karasik et al., 2015;Majnemer & Barr, 2005). Moreover, inconsistent coding schemes used across investigations that tested infants of di↵erent ages and in di↵erent settings preclude direct comparisons. ...
    ... Although some past work has reported the frequencies of body positions in everyday life (Bril & Sabatier, 1986;Karasik et al., 2015;Majnemer & Barr, 2005), the current study is the first to measure across a wide age range to estimate changes in body position frequencies over the first year of life. Some changes-decreases in time spent held and increases in time spent sitting and upright-dramatically altered the composition of infants' daily experiences. ...
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    Developmental theories depend on characterizing the input to potential learning mechanisms—infants’ everyday experiences. The current study employed a novel ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to measure two aspects of the physical context of those experiences: body position and location. Infant body position was selected because it relates to the development of a variety of other skills. Caregivers of 3‐, 6‐, 9‐, and 12‐month‐olds reported infants’ body position—held, supine, reclined, prone, sitting, or upright—in response to text message notifications over a week to capture infants’ experiences across the entire range of their daily activities. Findings revealed a tremendous disparity in the distribution of body position experiences over the first year. Younger infants spend more time held, supine, and reclined, whereas older infants spend more time sitting and upright. Body position experiences differed substantially between same‐age infants who possess a motor skill (e.g., ability to sit or walk) compared with those who did not, suggesting that developing motor skills change infants’ everyday experiences. Finally, the success of the methodology suggests that similar EMAs might be used to study a wide range of infants’ naturalistic experiences.
  • ... Infant members undergo various stretching exercises. Then the lower limbs are brought back to the forehead and the upper limbs in the back [7]. The four limbs of the infant are bent until the body describes a ball [8]. ...
    ... The four limbs of the infant are bent until the body describes a ball [8]. The body is rubbed, handled with shea butter [7]. All joints are manipulated by flexion-extension, rotation, adduction, abduction and supination movements. ...
    ... The spine is carefully massaged and manipulated by pressure on the various muscles of the back, on the buttocks and on each spinous process of the vertebrae [9]. Finally, the matron holding the infant by the ankles, the wrist and by the head shakes the whole body of the latter [7]. What is the effect of massage and body mechanical manipulations that we have just described on the motor development of 830 newborns in Benin? ...
  • ... In their review, Karasik and colleagues [30] note that in several communities in Mali, and with Bambara infants, for whom caregivers massage and exercise babies as part of their daily routines, infants walk earlier. Interestingly, in these cultures a series of interactive social motor activities with the infant are employed by the infant's mother or grandmother, such as tossing the child in the air, exercising the infant [47,48], and/or massaging the baby while bathing [47]. This data may point again to the involvement of social input relations in walking, yet offer different characteristics for the interactions. ...
    ... In their review, Karasik and colleagues [30] note that in several communities in Mali, and with Bambara infants, for whom caregivers massage and exercise babies as part of their daily routines, infants walk earlier. Interestingly, in these cultures a series of interactive social motor activities with the infant are employed by the infant's mother or grandmother, such as tossing the child in the air, exercising the infant [47,48], and/or massaging the baby while bathing [47]. This data may point again to the involvement of social input relations in walking, yet offer different characteristics for the interactions. ...
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    Walking is of interest to psychology, robotics, zoology, neuroscience and medicine. Human's ability to walk on two feet is considered to be one of the defining characteristics of hominoid evolution. Evolutionary science propses that it emerged in response to limited environmental resources; yet the processes supporting its emergence are not fully understood. Developmental psychology research suggests that walking elicits cognitive advancements. We postulate that the relationship between cognitive development and walking is a bi-directional one; and further suggest that the initiation of novel capacities, such as walking, is related to internal socio-cognitive resource reallocation. We shed light on these notions by exploring infants' cognitive and socio-communicative outputs prospectively from 6-18 months of age. Structured bi/tri weekly evaluations of symbolic and verbal development were employed in an urban cohort (N = 9) for 12 months, during the transition from crawling to walking. Results show links between preemptive cognitive changes in socio-communicative output, symbolic-cognitive tool-use processes, and the age of emergence of walking. Plots of use rates of lower symbolic play levels before and after emergence of new skills illustrate reductions in use of previously attained key behaviors prior to emergence of higher symbolic play, language and walking. Further, individual differences in age of walking initiation were strongly related to the degree of reductions in complexity of object-use (r = .832, p < .005), along with increases, counter to the general reduction trend, in skills that serve recruitment of external resources [socio-communication bids before speech (r = -.696, p < .01), and speech bids before walking; r = .729, p < .01)]. Integration of these proactive changes using a computational approach yielded an even stronger link, underscoring internal resource reallocation as a facilitator of walking initiation (r = .901, p
  • ... Others studied the "time table" for the motor milestones of infants. Bril (Bril & Sabatier, 1986) explored the effect of culture (i.e., an environmental constraint) on the onset of upright postures. Hopkins (Hopkins & Westra, 1989) studied the role of infant-rearing handling and maternal expectations on the attainment of the motor milestones of sitting, crawling, and walking. ...
    In 1989, Clark and Whitall asked the question, “What is motor development?” They were referring to the study of motor development as an academic research enterprise and answered their question primarily by describing four relatively distinct time periods characterized by changes in focus, theories or concepts, and methodology. Their last period was named the process-oriented period (1970–1989). In hindsight, it seems clear that their last period could be divided into two separate historical time periods: the information-processing period (1970–1982) and the dynamical systems period (1982–2000). In the present paper, we briefly revisit the first three periods defined by Clark and Whitall, and expand and elaborate on the two periods from 1970 to the turn of the century. Each period is delineated by key papers and the major changes in focus, theories or concepts, and methodology. Major findings about motor development are also described from some papers as a means of showing the progression of knowledge.
  • ... In some societies people believe that infants will be hurt if lifted by an arm, or if the head is not constantly supported; in contrast, a typical West African grandmother gives the baby a rather robust massage, during which she does not fear to lift it by pulling on an arm, hold it up by the head, or stretch it by pulling on the hands and feet. Bril and Sabatier (1986) and Bril, Zack and Nkounkou-Hombessa (1989) analyzed the link between the diversity of settings and childrearing practices. Regarding the postures infants fi nd themselves in, for example, French babies spend more than half of the day time in a horizontal position in contrast to Bambara babies in Mali who were more often in a semi-vertical or upright sitting position. ...
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    This chapter examines the learning processes in informal education and their impact on cognitive development
  • ... Other studies on psychological development in infancy, summarised by Super (1981a/b;Super & Harkness, 1997), similarly showed a direct link between the rate of motor development and the opportunity for practice, and this in relationship to parental ethnotheories and childrearing practices. For example, in many parts of Africa, sitting alone and walking are considered to be important developmental landmarks, are actively encouraged, and occur on the average three months earlier than in France (Bril & Sabatier, 1986;Zack & Bril, 1989), while crawling is usually discouraged and hence develops later. ...
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    Psychology, including cross-cultural psychology, as well as other social sciences including anthropology, are born and have grown up in the last century mainly in Europe and North America. Hence they are inculturated in the Western "minority" world, disregarding what Kagitçibasi (1996) has called the "majority word" in which most of the human populations live. As such, we cannot hold this against these sciences; after all, each one of us is born and raised in a particular group, of which we learn the rules and the tricks, and which gives us our identity. It only becomes a problem when we compare these rules and tricks to those of others, and believe that our own are better, if not the only valid ones, and when we try to set them up as models and impose them on others. Ethnocentrism is surely one of the most universal processes! How can we overcome it? Unfortunately, most textbooks of psychology are based on Western theories and research, and it is therefore difficult to decide what is and what is not appropriate in Africa. Until there are truly African textbooks of psychology, some elements of (cross-)cultural psychology should be useful.
  • ... those activities, such as stretches and postural manipulations for the promotion of walking. 25 When determining appropriate developmental milestones in Kenya, it is important to understand the typical trajectory of children living in this setting. Developmental assessments, such as the Kilifi Developmental Inventory 26 in Kenya and Malawi Developmental Assessment Tool, 27 have used local populations to develop and norm assessments for the cultural context in which they are used. ...
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    Objective . To understand the perspectives of clinical providers and caregivers regarding early childhood development (ECD) in children born to HIV-infected mothers in Kenya. Methods . This was a qualitative study of provider and caregiver perspectives on ECD at 5 Kenyan HIV clinics, using semistructured interviews and focus group discussions. Constant comparison and triangulation methods were employed to elucidate the concepts of ECD. Results . Twenty-five providers and 67 caregivers participated. While providers understood ECD in terms of milestones, caregivers strongly equated ECD with physical growth. Factors affecting ECD, such as nutrition, perinatal effects, and illness, were perceived differently by providers and caregivers. Both groups generally believed that HIV-infected children would have typical ECD if adherent to their HIV treatment. Conclusions . Important considerations regarding ECD in this population were uncovered. Understanding provider and caregiver perspectives’ on ECD in HIV-exposed children is critical for promoting ECD in this community.
  • ... 13 Culture-based variations in motor development have been documented in many populations around the world. 12 Gross motor precocity has been demonstrated in children living in Jamaica, 14,15 Uganda, 16,17 Kenya, 18,19 Mali, 20 and Nigeria. 21 The gross motor acceleration observed in these populations has been attributed to culture-specific caregiving practices including formal handling routines, positioning, and cultural beliefs and expectations. ...
    AimTo investigate whether standardized motor development screening and assessment tools that are used to evaluate motor abilities of children aged 0 to 2 years are valid in cultures other than those in which the normative sample was established. Method This was a systematic review in which six databases were searched. Studies were selected based on inclusion/exclusion criteria and appraised for evidence level and quality. Study variables were extracted. ResultsTwenty-three studies representing six motor development screening and assessment tools in 16 cultural contexts met the inclusion criteria: Alberta Infant Motor Scale (n=7), Ages and Stages Questionnaire, 3rd edition (n=2), Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, 3rd edition (n=8), Denver Developmental Screening Test, 2nd edition (n=4), Harris Infant Neuromotor Test (n=1), and Peabody Developmental Motor Scales, 2nd edition (n=1). Thirteen studies found significant differences between the cultural context and normative sample. Two studies established reliability and/or validity of standardized motor development assessments in high-risk infants from different cultural contexts. Five studies established new population norms. Eight studies described the cross-cultural adaptation of a standardized motor development assessment. InterpretationStandardized motor development assessments have limited validity in cultures other than that in which the normative sample was established. Their use can result in under- or over-referral for services.
  • ... Cross cultural studies examining the development of locomotion in humans have shown that different rearing practices can lead to different time courses in the onset of walking (Adolph & Robinson, 2013). For example, in Uganda mothers engage in rearing practices that are intended to facilitate the onset of walking (Bril & Sabatier, 1986;Hopkins & Westra, 1988;Rabain-Jamin & Wornham, 1993;Super, 1976). Bouncing, shaking, and rubbing the legs of their infants quickens the onset of motor development with the children walking as early as 7 months of age. ...
    This study examined the effect of maternal behavior on the expression and postnatal development of a reflexive behavior in rat pups. In neonatal rats, the leg extension response (LER) is a bilateral hyperextension of the hindlimbs in response to maternal anogenital licking (AGL). Past research has found that intranasal application of zinc sulfate (ZnSO4 ) to the dam induces hyponosmia, thereby reducing the incidence of AGL. In this study, pregnant dams received intranasal application of air (control), distilled water (control), or ZnSO4 on the day before birth and every other day thereafter until postnatal day 9 (P9). The LER was experimentally evoked in pups, using a vibrotactile device, at P1, P5, or P10. Pups born to ZnSO4 -treated dams showed significantly shorter bilateral LER durations and significantly smaller ankle angles than pups born to control dams. Reduction of overall maternal AGL approached significance, and afternoon AGL was significantly reduced. These data suggest that maternal behavior influenced development of the LER in rat pups, demonstrating the influence of maternal care on behavioral development during the perinatal period.
  • Chapter
    Seeking to understand and integrate aspects of children’s mobilities that have been neglected, in Chapter 3 we challenge the rootedness of children’s mobilities in the fixed places of home and school, discussing children’s mobilities, spaces, and practices with reference to a zooming in and out of space, ensuring that we attend to micro- and macro-spaces of children’s mobilities as well as the spaces in between. We illuminate a range of often hidden everyday mobile practices with an attention to scale and to how each mobile practice can be seen from diverse scales: from the corporeal movements of babies to the interregional or international migratory movements of children and young people, these are seen as phenomena that can be looked at from diverse geographical scales, from the micro-corporeal movements to the relations and interdependencies at wider scales involved in all forms of movement.
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    In order to clarify the extent and cause of African infants' precocity in motor development, as reported by Geber and others, 64 babies and their families were intensively studied in a rural Kenyan community. It was found that the motor skills of sitting and walking, which the Kenyan babies acquired early (by American standards), are (a) specifically taught by the caretakers and (b) can be practised in the course of their usual daily routines. They are not advanced in skills which are not taught or practised. Middle-class urban Kenyan children from the same ethnic background were found generally to be intermediate in both environmental encouragement and rate of advancement. Preliminary results from other groups in Kenya suggest that encouragement of motor development is widespread and that for behaviors which are differentially encouraged among groups, the average age of attainment is predictable from environmental measures.