Places and Postures: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Sitting in 5-Month-Olds

Lana B. Karasik, Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, Karen E. Adolph, Marc H. Bornstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Motor development—traditionally described in terms of age-related stages—is typically studied in the laboratory with participants of Western European descent. Cross-cultural studies typically focus on group differences in age-related stages relative to Western norms. We adopted a less traditional approach: We observed 5-month-olds and their mothers from six cultural groups around the world during 1 hr at home while they engaged in natural daily activities. We examined group differences in infants’ sitting proficiency, everyday opportunities to practice sitting, the surfaces on which sitting took place, and mothers’ proximity to sitting infants. Infants had opportunities to practice sitting in varied contexts—including ground, infant chairs, and raised surfaces. Proficiency varied considerably within and between cultural groups: 64% of the sample sat only with support from mother or furniture and 36% sat independently. Some infants sat unsupported for 20+ min, in some cases so securely that mothers moved beyond arms’ reach of their infants even while infants sat on raised surfaces. Our observations of infant sitting across cultures provide new insights into the striking range of ability, varied opportunities for practice, and contextual factors that influence the proficiency of infant motor skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1023-1038
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Sep 12 2015


  • cross-cultural
  • infants
  • motor development
  • sitting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology


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