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Infant Social Development across the Transition from Crawling to Walking.


The onset of walking is a developmental transition that sets in motion a cascade of change across a range of domains, including social interactions and language learning. However, research on the unfolding of such change in the infant across this transition is limited. This investigation utilized a longitudinal design to examine the effect of walking acquisition on infant social development and parent perceptions of the infant to explore how changes in these factors relate with infant language development. Parents reported on infant social behaviors and their perception of the infant, as well as motor and language development, in 2-week intervals from 10.5 to 13 months of age. Mixed linear models revealed infant initiation of joint engagement (e.g., pointing, bringing objects to the parent) and following of the parent's joint engagement cues (e.g., point following, gaze following) increased as a function of infant walking experience, particularly between 2- and 4-weeks after the onset of walking, independent of age. Additionally, the parent's perception of the infant as an individual increased between 2- and 4-weeks after the infant began to walk. Finally, the unique relations of infant walking experience, following of social cues, and the parents' perception of the infant as an individual with infant language development were examined. Infant following of joint engagement behaviors and parent perception of the infant as an individual were related to receptive, but not productive, vocabulary size. Additionally, infant walking experience remained a significant predictor of infant receptive and productive language. These findings provide insight on important factors that change as the infant begins to walk. Future research utilizing more direct assessment of these factors is described, as well as general patterning of developmental change across the transition from crawling to walking.

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