We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

Goal directed behaviours : the development of pre-natal touch behaviours.

Reissland, Nadja and Austen, Joe (2018) 'Goal directed behaviours : the development of pre-natal touch behaviours.', in Reach-to-grasp behavior : brain, behavior, and modelling across the life span. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 3-17. Frontiers of developmental science.


Through their general movements in the womb, human fetuses will touch various aspects of their environment. This might include their own bodies, the body of a twin, the uterine wall, and the umbilical cord. Somatosensory responses can be observed as early as 8 weeks gestational age (e.g., Bradley & Mistretta, 1975). Sparling and Wilhelm (1993) indicated that during the later gestational periods, the hands of the fetuses begin to be directed to, and manipulate, other parts of the body, such as feet or the other hand, and explore parts of the external environment in the womb, such as the umbilical cord. Castiello et al. (2010) observed that by 14 weeks gestation not only movements directed at the self but also movements directed to a co-twin can be observed in the womb. The effects of experiencing touch might be wide reaching in terms of fetal development and preparation for life outside of the womb. Touch behaviours will be discussed in terms of the fetal sensitivity to touch, the effects of touch on body movement, cross-cultural differences in fetal touch behaviour and general movement, fetal action planning and goal-directed action, and visually guided fetal touch. The chapter concludes with a discussion of prenatal touch behaviours and later development.

Item Type:Book chapter
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Download PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Reach-to-Grasp Behavior: Brain, Behavior, and Modelling Across the Life Span on 14 Aug 2018, available online:
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:30 July 2018
Date of first online publication:14 August 2018
Date first made open access:14 August 2019

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar