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1.4.3: Reflexes

  • Page ID
    41322
  • Infants are equipped with a number of reflexes which are involuntary movements in response to stimulation. These include the sucking reflex (infants suck on objects that touch their lips automatically), the rooting reflex (which involves turning toward any object that touches the cheek), the palmar grasp (the infant will tightly grasp any object placed in its palm), and the dancing reflex (evident when the infant is held in a standing position and moves its feet up and down alternately as if dancing). These movements occur automatically and are signals that the infant is functioning well neurologically. Within the first several weeks of life these reflexes are replaced with voluntary movements or motor skills. 12

    Infants and children grow and develop at a rapid pace during the first few years of life. The development of both gross and fine motor skills helps a child go from a completely dependent newborn to an independently functioning toddler in about a 3-year span. 13

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\): Some Common Infant Reflexes (Lifespan Development: A Psychological Perspective (page 74) by Martha Lally and Suzanne Valentine-French is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 (modified by Antoinette Ricardo))
    Reflex Description Image Reflex Description Image
    Sucking Suck on anything that touches the lips
    clipboard_e81fa2c15ec325b36c21ca037ec67e578.png
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\) (Image is in the public domain)
    Moro A sudden noise or loss of support to the head and neck will cause infants to spread out their arms and legs then quickly contract the limbs inward
    clipboard_e3a59e2ebb4d91c9d17a2664d8bd08984.png
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\) (Image is in the public domain)
    Rooting Turning the head when the cheek is touched
    clipboard_e7f42e464bc4b346acb9e61988ecaa29f.png
    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\) (Image is in the public domain)
    Tonic Neck When lying on the back with the head to one side infants will extend the arm and leg on that side while flexing the limbs on the opposite side (looks like a fencer pose).
    clipboard_e49effa757793feae1f87f1cceda43cc3.png
    Figure \(\PageIndex{4}\) (Image by Samuel Finlayson is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)
    Grasp Fingers automatically grip anything that touches the palm of the hand
    clipboard_eae91439dea53c96fbbcf54502083200a.png
    Figure \(\PageIndex{5}\) (Image by Raul Luna is licensed under CC BY 2.0)
    Stepping Legs move in stepping like motion when feet touch a smooth surface
    clipboard_e821218ccfdd9e68a75b79950bef630b6.png
    Figure \(\PageIndex{6}\) (Image is in the public domain)
    Babinski The toes will fan out and curl when the sole of the foot is stroked from heel to toe
    clipboard_ec8cc9b8d6b411cefbae284237158c64c.png
    Figure \(\PageIndex{7}\) (Image by Medicus of Borg is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

    Contributors and Attributions

    12. Lifespan Development - Module 4: Infancy by Lumen Learning references Psyc 200 Lifespan Psychology by Laura Overstreet, licensed under CC BY 4.0

    13. Children’s Development by Ana R. Leon is licensed under CC BY 4.0

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