Toddlers' postural adaptations to different support surfaces

Thomas A. Stoffregen, Karen Adolph, Esther Thelen, Kathleen M. Gorday, Yang Yi Sheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


This study was undertaken to determine whether young children, after only a few weeks standing experience, could respond adaptively to the dynamical constraints imposed by different support surfaces. The spontaneous postural motions of young children (13-14 months old) were observed as they stood on surfaces that differed in length, friction, and rigidity. There were no externally imposed perturbations to stance. Children's postural control was remarkably adaptive: There were few falls on any of the surfaces. Moreover, the children showed surface-specific utilization of manual postural control (holding onto wooden poles), suggesting that manual control is an adaptive strategy for postural control. Finally, kinematic analysis suggested that, in some instances, children were able to employ independent control of the hips, contrary to previous models which had suggested that hip motions could not be controlled before the age of 3 years. Small, slow hip movements useful in controlling spontaneous sway (unperturbed stance) may serve as a basis for the development of larger, faster hip movements that are associated with imposed perturbations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-137
Number of pages19
JournalMotor control
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1997


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