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Are there studies which say sitting with their legs bent back on either side of them this is bad? If so, how do you get your child to stop sitting this way?

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I used to sit this way all the time, and I don't think it hurt me. I got reprimanded for it a lot in school, but I think one hip isn't "hinged" right for Indian-style, because even back then I found that uncomfortable. –  JPmiaou Dec 27 '11 at 22:40
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@JPmiaou just to let you know, Pluto is no longer a planet, there is no such thing as a Brontosaurus, Starfish are now called Sea Stars, and kids now sit 'pretzel style'. ;) (These are things I've learned in the past few years of our kids' schooling.) –  DA01 Dec 27 '11 at 23:01
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@DA01 actually it is criss cross applesauce! :) –  morah hochman Dec 28 '11 at 13:56

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

This style of sitting is referred to as "W-sitting." There are good reasons for encouraging children to avoid this posture.

Children like this sitting position because it provides a great deal of stability. One of the unfortunate side-effects is that they don't develop the appropriate trunk control. There is no trunk rotation in this posture, which can delay or hinder the development of handedness. See Pediatric Center for more information.

Also, I found this:

In a W-sitting position, the hips are placed at the extreme limits of internal rotation, predisposing the child to future orthopedic problems. In the abnormal position, the risk of hip dislocation becomes a concern. If the child has hip dysplasia, which commonly goes undetected in youngsters, sitting in the W-position increases the risk of dislocation tremendously. Pre-existing orthopedic conditions can worsen when major muscle groups are placed in shortened positions and begin to tighten. These shortened muscles are at risk to form contractures, and a permanent shortening of the muscle--especially prone are the hamstrings, adductors and Achilles tendon. See Advance for Physical Therapy and Rehab Medicine

And there's more, but you get the idea. When my children started W-sitting a lot, my wife insisted it was damaging. I "knew" that was a myth and looked online for recent studies showing it wasn't harmful. I couldn't find a single reputable source making this claim.

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I found one source more: http://www.learninglinks.org.au/pdf/infosheets/LLIS%2025_W-Sit.pdf

saying it is not good to w-sit.

But: I tried to find scholarly material (from peer-reviewed journals) on the subject, and did not find strong evidence: neither for nor against. For example, in this journal: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/dev.20593/full

W-sitting may indicate insufficient muscle control around the hip compensated for with a symmetrical sitting posture.

So, I think the physiotherapists agree that w-sitting is not recommendable, but there is little or no scientific research made on it.

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but a simple evolutionary argument suggests it can't be all that bad ;-) –  PatrickT Oct 14 at 14:22

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