Dr. Laura Claxton
Department of Health and Kinesiology
Lambert Fieldhouse, Room 304A
PhD, Developmental Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
MS, Developmental Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
BA, Psychology, University of Oregon, Eugene
Cognitive development; Infant motor development; Postural stability in newly sitting and standing infants
Dr. Claxton investigates 1) the factors that impact how infants and young children learn to balance (such as learning to sit, stand and walk) and 2) identifies the mechanisms through which balance abilities lead to developmental changes in other developmental domains (such as cognitive and language abilities). For example, when infants first start to stand and walk, they are very unstable and fall a lot. This instability is often attributed to factors such as poor balance abilities, weak muscles, and an underdeveloped brain. However, Dr. Claxton’s research has demonstrated that if you give infants a toy to hold onto, they are able to stand three times longer and demonstrate more advanced control over their balance. These findings challenge traditional views of postural development and improvements in stability, which focus on more maturational and physiological explanations and demonstrate that infants are more advanced in their balance control than previously thought.
Current projects include exploring fall behavior in infants, and how object-interactions impact infant gait and posture. Dr. Claxton is also a member of an interdisciplinary research team funded by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency which is investigating how transitioning from crawling to walking can affect children’s health. Dr. Claxton’s lab is also a data collection site for the PLAY project, a nationwide, interdisciplinary, NIH funded project, whose goal is to develop a data set from across the country documenting the behaviors of infants and mothers during natural activity in their homes. The data from all of the sites will be combined (over 900+ infants and mothers) for collaborative analysis to a variety of research questions.
Amanda Arnold (PhD - 2019)
- Dissertation title: The Impact of Object Carriage on Walking Abilities and Language Development in Infancy
- Current position (2021): Assistant Professor in the Department of Health, Exercise, and Sport Studies at Denison University