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Wait Before You Worry: “Normal” Falls in a Wide Range

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Development & Learning

Parents anxiously await the day when their child rolls over, sits on her own, or starts to walk. So when other children seem to be getting to these milestones quicker, moms and dads naturally worry. But such worry is probably groundless. The normal range of developmental markers is much larger than you might think.

A recently-completed longitudinal study followed 222 Swiss children from birth through the toddler years. Researchers then conducted tests of motor skills and intelligence at seven intervals between the start of elementary school and the end of high school. They discovered that the timing of key accomplishments varied greatly and had no bearing whatsoever on children’s overall ability and development.

For example, the study found that children learn to sit up anywhere between four months and thirteen months. They begin to walk anytime between eight-and-a-half months and twenty months. In other words, the normal range for these accomplishments is really large. But kids who were “early” were not more capable, either in motor skills or intellectual ability, at any point throughout school. Kids who were “late” didn’t lag their peers in any way. Early or late, it didn’t matter.

The researchers point out that if a child isn’t walking independently by 20 months that there might be an issue and that this should certainly be checked out. But so long as a child seems otherwise healthy and alert and engaged in life, parents can take a wait-and-see attitude. They can be pretty confident that their child will suffer no long-term effects from being the last in the playgroup to achieve a milestone.

© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All right reserved.

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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Dr. Patricia Anderson is a nationally acclaimed educational psychologist and the author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.” Dr. Anderson is on the Early Childhood faculty at Walden University and she is a Contributing Editor for Advantage4Parents.