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A traditional childrearing practice—“gahvora” cradling—in Tajikistan and other parts of Central Asia purportedly restricts movement of infants’ body and limbs. However, the practice has been documented only informally in anecdotal reports. Thus, this study had two research questions: (1) To what extent are infants’ movements restricted in the gahvora? (2) How is time in the gahvora distributed over a 24-hour day in infants from 1–24 months of age? To answer these questions, we video-recorded 146 mothers cradling their infants and interviewed them using 24-hour time diaries to determine the distribution of time infants spent in the gahvora within a day and across age. Infants’ movements were indeed severely restricted. Although mothers showed striking uniformity in how they restricted infants’ movements, they showed large individual differences in amount and distribution of daily use. Machine learning algorithms yielded three patterns of use: day and nighttime cradling, mostly nighttime cradling, and mostly daytime cradling, suggesting multiple functions of the cradling practice. Across age, time in the gahvora decreased, yet 20% of 12- to 24-montholds spent more than 15 hours bound in the gahvora. We discuss the challenges and benefits of cultural research, and how the discovery of new phenomena may defy Western assumptions about childrearing and development. Future work will determine whether the extent and timing of restriction impacts infants’ physical and psychological development.


This article was originally published in PLOS One, available at DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0204428.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CC BY 4.0).



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