Motor development research: I. The lessons of history revisited (the 18th to the 20th century)

Jill Whitall, Nadja Schott, Leah E. Robinson, Farid Bardid, Jane E. Clark

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In 1989, Clark and Whitall asked the question “What is motor development”. They were referring to the study of motor development as an academic research enterprise and answered their question primarily by describing four relatively distinct time periods characterized by changes in focus, theories or concepts and methodology. Their last period was named the process-oriented period (1970-1989). In hindsight, it seems clear that their last period could be divided into two separate historical time periods: the information-processing period (1970-1982) and the dynamical systems period (1982-2000). In the present paper, we briefly revisit the first three periods defined by Clark and Whitall, and expand and elaborate on the two periods from 1970 to the turn of the century. Each period is delineated by key papers and the major changes in focus, theories or concepts and methodology. Major findings about motor development are also described from some papers as a means of showing the progression of knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345–362
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Motor Learning and Development
Issue number2
Early online date12 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 8 Aug 2020


  • motor development
  • history
  • information processing
  • dynamical systems

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