Infant Motor Development: Traditional or Maturational?

Which view of infant motor development do you agree with: the traditional maturational view or the dynamic systems view? Why?

The dynamic systems view of infant motor development reminds me of graded potentials during neuronal action. If you remember, graded potentials change the electrical charge of a neuron, but are not powerful enough to bring about a full-blown action potential. Through neurotransmitters and sodium/potassium exchange neurons receive information from other neurons, via the synapses, constantly. Some raise the relative voltage of the neuron…some lower the relative voltage of the neuron. The sum total of all of this action is the resultant electrical charge of the neuron. In the same way, the dynamic systems view takes into account several different systems acting in concert, which eventually brings about motor function. To this end, motor development in infants is not a genetically preprogrammed series of maturation, such as what Gesell proposed, but rather the interplay of genetic predisposition acting collaboratively with environment forces (gravity), internal functioning (musculoskeletal feedback), arousal, and several other contextual variables. It is overly simplistic to assume that developmental milestones, such as walking, are genetically preprogrammed. This view is tantamount to the short-fallings of phrenology in explaining intelligence levels or astrology in explaining behavioral patterns. Maturation gives us a timeline of events that can happen out of sequence, concurrently, or in the case of physical or mental defect, not at all.


Boyd, D. and Bee, H. (2006). Lifespan development (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Allyn Bacon.

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