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Life Span Motor Development

Life Span Motor Development

by Kathleen M. Haywood

Make it easy for students with little or no background in the movement sciences to understand motor development across the life span. The fourth edition of Life Span Motor Development contains more than 130 video clips on an interactive CD-ROM, access to 28 downloadable laboratory activities, and other features that bring the subject to life. The inclusion of


Make it easy for students with little or no background in the movement sciences to understand motor development across the life span. The fourth edition of Life Span Motor Development contains more than 130 video clips on an interactive CD-ROM, access to 28 downloadable laboratory activities, and other features that bring the subject to life. The inclusion of the labs and video clips into the textbook offering effectively replaces the learning activities guide from the previous edition, allowing students to have one book for all their coursework relating to motor development.

More reader friendly than ever, the widely used introductory text to life span motor development is an excellent resource that leads students through the principles, research, and applied practice of motor development from infancy to older adulthood. It will help students meet the minimum competencies identified by AAHPERD's Motor Development Academy as they prepare for the Praxis exam for physical education.

Life Span Motor Development, Fourth Edition, continues to present current topics in motor development from a unifying model of constraints approach.  Students learn to improve their problem-solving ability by looking not only at the individual but also at the environmental and task factors that may affect growth and motor development. In addition, a life span approach has been integrated throughout the text, illustrating the range of motor skills in humans ranging in age from infants to adults. 

In the fourth edition, the material has been streamlined into 17 chapters, and the following features have been added, making it more usable for teachers and students alike: 
· Inclusion of more than 130 video segments of developmental sequences on a CD-ROM that requires no registration or unlock code
· Web access to 28 hands-on laboratory activities that present opportunities for students to systematically observe motor development levels across a variety of skills
· Learning activities in every chapter that help students apply information to real-life situations
· Observation plans for assessing motor skills via developmental sequences

The following are popular features retained from the third edition:
· Real-life experiences that are applicable to each chapter's content
· Chapter objectives that list the most important concepts within the chapter
· A running glossary of terms in the margin throughout each chapter
· Assessment boxes to ensure that students learn about evaluation techniques and instruments in a consistent way
· Interactive reflection questions throughout the text to help students master the material and test their learning as they progress
· Concept elements that point out the theme of a discussion amid chapter details
· Summary and synthesis reviews that help students integrate the different concepts from each chapter into a constraints perspective
· Discussion questions that provide a quick review of topics covered in each chapter

This user-friendly textbook will appeal to students and help passive readers become more active thinkers who understand how to apply information to solve practical problems.

Editorial Reviews

Revised and updated edition (first was 1986) of an undergraduate motor development text presenting comprehensive information on the principles, research, and applied practice of motor development throughout the life span. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

Human Kinetics Publishers
Publication date:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: The Developmental Perspective

Learning and performing motor skills is a lifelong challenge. The process begins early in life with the attainment of postural control and grasping skills. continues with the acquisition of locomotor skills and manipulative skills, such as throwing. During childhood, basic skills are refined and combined . to movement sequences to produce complex skills. Adolescents continue acquire movement sequences and improve their abilities to match motor skills to the goal of a task and the environment in which it is performed. Throughout infancy, childhood, and adolescence, the physical body is growing and maturing. Perception of the surrounding world becomes keener, and rental capacity increases as mental skills improve. Social skills, too, are acquired as new relationships are formed. With all these changes, the performance of motor skills must be accommodated and modified.

Motor skills are usually perfected during late adolescence and young adulthood. Elite athletes exemplify the ultimate in motor skill development. Such ,killed performers have maximized their motor performance based on their physical size and condition and their cognitive and social experiences. Developmental changes are most dramatic early in life, but they do not cease with adulthood-physiological changes continue to occur, and environmental ..experiences refine individuals' perceptions, mental skills, and social relation ships. Perhaps adults attempt to perform skills in new ways, but both new and well-learned skills must continue to accommodate these ongoing, though subtle, changes. This is particularly true as individuals age beyond young adulthood, and the pace of physical, mental, and social changes increases.

The Life Span Perspective

Movement patterns change continually over the life span. This ongoing change poses important questions for educators. For example, what influences the potential for skilled performance? Is it determined by genetics, or can parents and educators provide experiences to promote skill development? Does skilled performance necessarily decline after young adulthood? By studying the developmental process with its many facets and intricacies, we can begin to unravel the answers to questions such as these.


Motor performance undergoes many age-related charges during an individual's life span.

Traditional Focus on Children

It is traditional to think of solely as the process of skill acquisition in children-that is, the progression from unskilled performance in very young children to intermediate skill mastery during childhood, to relatively skilled performance during late adolescence. Working from this perspective, a motor developmentalist studies motor behavior by testing children of different ages and monitoring the course of their skill acquisition. The presumption that motor development concerns only children and adolescents has developed because the majority of study in motor development has concentrated on the early years of the life span. But researchers now recognize that the study of development in general and motor development in particular should encompass the entire life span. By studying the processes underlying behavioral change throughout the life span, motor developmentalists seek not only to describe such changes but also to explain them.

In this text, the field of motor development concerns the study of processes underlying behavioral change throughout the life span.

Increasing Interest in Older Adults

A growing segment of the human population consists of older adults. Increasingly, older adults seek to improve the quality of their lives through healthful and enjoyable physical activities, so we can no longer view older adulthood as a period of sedentary living and illness. We recognize that development does not stop at puberty with the cessation of physical growth, or at age 21, or at any other landmark of young adulthood. Changes in motor behavior, both substantive and qualitative, occur during older adulthood, too. Motor patterns vary with age from birth to death (VanSant, 1989). Because the earliest developmental research focused on children's motor behavior, many aspects of motor behavior in older adults are largely unexplored, and specific scientific knowledge of changes in motor skill is sparse. Gaining more complex knowledge and a better understanding of motor behavior in older adults is an important challenge for motor developmentalists.

Significance of the Life Span Perspective

Students-even those who anticipate working only with children or adolescents-can gain a fuller appreciation of motor development by viewing it from a life span perspective. Consider, for example, that children and older adults often display similar motor behavior. Both groups are relatively slower than young adults in their reaction time to a visual stimulus (see Figure 1.1). But are the causes of this difference in behavior the same for children and older adults? No. Children and older adults cognitively process information about the visual stimulus in different ways. We will discuss differential causes of behavior in more detail throughout the text.

Behavior is the product of many influences.

Our understanding of behavior is based on the integration of many influences-psychological, sociological, biological, physiological, cognitive, mechanical, and so on. Similarly, our greatest understanding of motor development is based on the integration of many behavior changes within a phase of development. We cannot possibly study all behavioral influences at once. Even though the discussions in this text may focus for a time on a particular aspect of behavioral change, the goal of developmentalists is to explain behavioral change throughout life from a global viewpoint. We encounter a broader range of causes and effects from this viewpoint, which in turn provides the basis for a more complete understanding of the factors involved in behavioral changes. More importantly, perhaps, a life span perspective ,enables students of motor development to better understand motor behavior and to consider ow educators and health professionals might be able to influence individuals' optimal motor development throughout life.


In discussing motor development in this text, we emphasize a life span perspective that relates to the processes underlying changes in motor behavior throughout life. The study of motor development involves both the description and the explanation of changes in motor behavior. Ultimately, motor developmentalists integrate knowledge of various biological, psychological, sociological, cognitive, and mechanical factors that influence behavior at particular levels of development. This method is quite different from studying changes as a function of time, such as when we study a particular motor behavior in several age groups to identify the differences among those groups or to establish norms or averages for particular ages. Developmentalists go beyond this descriptive level to study the processes underlying change that account for age-group differences.

Because changes in motor behavior occur from infancy through older adulthood, we must consider a broad range of influences on behavioral change. Consequently, we view motor skill development with a knowledge of preceding processes as well as potential effects.

Terminology In Motor Development

Understanding the terms used in the study of the developmental process will facilitate your learning. Every field of study develops its own terminology. Sometimes these terms hinder students' ability to read and comprehend pertinent literature, especially students new to the field. It can be frustrating to discover that a word you use in everyday conversation has a specific, different meaning when used in a scientific context. Yet precise communication among those interested in the topic often requires these specific meanings. Let's examine some common motor development terms.


To understand motor development, you must understand the terminology used in the field.

Growth and Development

Two basic concepts discussed in this text focus on the terms growth and development.


Although growth and development are sometimes used interchangeably, growth means a quantitative increase in size. With physical growth, the increase in size or body mass results from an increase in complete biological units that is, already-formed body parts (Timiras, 1972). This means that growth in height, for example, does not occur by adding a new section to each leg; rather, the legs, as biological units or body parts, grow longer. When each unit or part increases its size as a whole, the body increases its size, keeping its form.

Sometimes growth also is used to refer to an increase in the magnitude of intellectual ability or in social aptitudes (Rogers, 1982). In this text, however, we use the term to refer to physical growth, not social or cognitive growth. The physical growth period (change in absolute size) for humans is typically between conception and ages 19 to 22.


As a complement to growth, development implies a continuous process of change leading to a state of organized and specialized functional capacity-that is, a state wherein an individual can fully carry out an intended role (Timiras, 1972). Development may occur in the form of quantitative change, qualitative change, or both. Motor development, then, is the sequential, continuous age-related process whereby an individual progresses from simple movements to highly organized, complex motor skills, and finally to the adjustment of skills that accompanies aging. This process is not limited to the physical growth period; development continues throughout a person's life.

Motor Development

The term motor, when used with other terms such as development and learning, refers to movement. Hence, motor learning deals with aspects of learning involving body movement and is not necessarily age-related. In discussions of both the development and learning of movement, the term motor behavior is often used. Newcomers to the study of motor development often find it difficult to distinguish between motor development and motor learning. Roberton (1988, p. 130) suggests we apply three questions to make this distinction:

1. What is behavior like now, and why?

2. What was behavior like before, and

3. How is behavior going to change in the

Specialists in both motor learning and motor development ask the first question, but only the developmentalist goes on to ask the second and third questions. The motor learning specialist studies motor behavior in the short term, as a function of practice of a certain skill or the instructional strategies used by teachers. The developmentalist is interested in present behavior only as a point on a continuum of change.


Another term often used along with growth is maturation or, more specifically, physiological or physical maturation. Physical maturation is a qualitative advancement in biological makeup and may refer to cell, organ, or system advancement in biochemical composition rather than to size alone (Teeple, 1978). Typically, maturation connotes progress toward physical maturity, which is the state of optimal functional integration of an individual's body systems and the ability to reproduce.


Physiological changes occur throughout life, although these changes take place much more slowly after the physical growth period. The term aging used broadly, applies to the process of growing older regardless of chronological age. More specifically, physical aging refers to continuing molecular, cellular, and organismic differentiation. Aging changes reflect an earlier state of development and foreshadow future changes; hence, physical aging is inseparable from the developmental processes (Timiras, 1972).

Age Periods

Developmentalists describe specific age periods by delineating characteristics of growth and development that set these age periods apart. Researchers define the age periods somewhat differently because rarely are sharp, clear divisions discernible between the periods. Aside from events such as birth and menarche (the first menstrual cycle in girls), the age periods Mend from one to another, reflecting the continuous nature of growth, development, and maturation. In a few cases, common terms apply to more than one chronological age period, as you will see by examining the time frames listed in Table 1.1. Note also that some age periods, such as childhood, are subdivided...

Meet the Author

Kathleen M. Haywood, PhD, is a professor and associate dean for graduate education at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, where she researches life span motor development and teaches courses in motor behavior and development, sport psychology, and biomechanics. She earned her PhD in motor behavior from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1976.

Haywood is a fellow of the American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education and the Research Consortium of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD). She is also a recipient of AAHPERD's Mabel Lee Award. In addition, Haywood has served as president of the North American Society for Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity and as chairperson of the Motor Development Academy of AAHPERD.

Haywood is also the coauthor of the first and second editions of Archery: Steps to Success and Teaching Archery: Steps to Success, published by Human Kinetics. She resides in Saint Charles, Missouri, and in her free time enjoys fitness training, tennis, and dog training.

Nancy Getchell, PhD, is an associate professor at the University of Delaware in Newark. She has taught courses in motor development, motor control and learning, research methods, and women in sport. For nearly 20 years, Getchell has focused her research on motor development.

Getchell currently serves as section editor for the Growth and Motor Development Section of Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. She is a member of the North American Society for Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity, the International Society of Motor Control, and the American Alliance for Health,Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD). Getchell has also served as the chairperson of the AAHPERD Motor Development and Learning Academy.

In 2001, Getchell was the recipient of the Lolas E. Halverson Young Investigators Award in motor development. She earned a PhD in kinesiology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1996.

Getchell resides in Wilmington, Delaware, where she enjoys hiking, playing soccer, and bicycling.

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