Iron deficiency anemia in infancy and reach and grasp development

Tal Shafir, Rosa Angulo-Barroso, Jing Su, Sandra W. Jacobson, Betsy Lozoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study assessed 9 kinematic characteristics of infants' reach and grasp to test the hypothesis that iron deficiency anemia (IDA) delays upper extremity motor development. Reach and grasp movements, recorded with a 3D-motion capture system, were compared in 9- to 10-month-old infants (4 IDA vs. 5 iron-sufficient [IS]). Based on normative motor development data available for 6 characteristics, the results indicated poorer upper extremity control in IDA infants: 2 characteristics showed statistically significant group differences despite small n, and the other 4 had strong indications for such results (effect sizes [Cohen's d] > 1.2). The remaining 3 measures, for which normative studies do not show developmental changes in this age period, showed significant or moderate-to-large effect differences. Poorer upper-extremity control in IDA infants in the short-term in this study and in the long-term despite iron therapy in other studies suggests that a motor intervention may be warranted when IDA is detected in infancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-375
Number of pages10
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by Grant Number P01 HD039386 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, B. Lozoff, Principal Investigator. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development or the National Institutes of Health. We are grateful to the study families and to student coders for their help in video coding. The entire group of investigators participating in the Brain and Behavior in Early Iron Deficiency Program Project contributed to our thinking and understanding of effects of ID on early motor development.


  • Anemia
  • Fine-motor
  • Infants
  • Iron deficiency
  • Motor development
  • Reach and grasp

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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