If adults are carrying an object and start to experience a loss of balance, they frequently maintain hold of that object instead of dropping it. In these loss-of-balance situations, adults tend to maintain hold of the object, instead of freeing both hands to aid in balance recovery. The current study investigated the ontogeny of this behavior by examining if infants also maintain hold of objects when experiencing a fall. Sixteen newly standing infants were video-recorded while standing and holding a toy and standing while not holding a toy. Similar to adults, when infants experienced a loss of balance, they did not drop held objects. However, maintaining hold of objects only partially interfered with the use of upper-limb protective strategies while falling. These results suggest that the tendency to maintain hold of an object while falling is present early in development and with little independent standing experience.
The authors are with the Dept. of Health and Kinesiology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.