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Early exploratory behaviors have been proposed to facilitate children’s learning, impacting motor, cognitive, language, and social development. This study related the performance of behaviors used to explore oneself to behaviors used to explore objects, and then related both types of exploratory behaviors to motor, language, and cognitive measures longitudinally from 3 through 24 months of age via secondary analysis of an existing dataset. Participants were 52 children (23 full-term, 29 preterm). Previously published results from this dataset documented delays for preterm relative to full-term infants in each assessment. The current results related performance among the assessments throughout the first 2 years of life. They showed that the developmental trajectories of behaviors children used for self-exploration closely related to the trajectories of behaviors they employed to explore objects. The trajectories of both self and object exploration behaviors significantly related to trajectories of children’s motor, language, and cognitive development. Specifically, significant relations to global development were observed for self-exploratory head lifting, midline head and hand positioning, hand opening, and behavioral variability, as well as for object-oriented bimanual holding, mouthing, looking, banging, manipulating, transferring of objects, and behavioral intensity and variability. These results demonstrate continuity among the early exploratory behaviors infants perform with their bodies alone, exploratory behaviors with portable objects, and global development. The findings identify specific self- and object-exploration behaviors that may serve as early indicators of developmental delay and could be targeted by interventions to advance motor, language, and cognitive outcomes for infants at risk for delay.

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©American Psychological Association, 2022. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. Please do not copy or cite without author's permission. The final article is available, upon publication, at: