When children rock back and forth, there are some different considerations that a parent needs to take into account in order to get to the bottom of what is causing this. Often the case, when a parent comes to the clinic with such a medical case, they are quite aware of any seemingly strange behavior that their child may be doing. In a lot of these cases, however, the reasons for why they are occurring are just normal phases of childhood development.
One potential reason that a child may rock back and forth in a chair or in a car seat would be a natural reaction to try to limit the amount of stress or discomfort they may be feeling. Most adults will forget how it was when they were younger but you are constantly being exposed to new stimuli and new situations constantly. This barrage of new sensations could be potentially stressful for a young child so they will do this continuous motion in order to help soothe their discomfort. They may even have this type of behavior when they are in need of going to the bathroom. Chances are as an adult, you may have had a memory of a time when you yourself were in need of using the bathroom and could even sway from side to side to help diminish your discomfort.
Another potential cause of why a child would be rocking back and forth could stem from another pillar of childhood development; they could be just bored. Children are constantly on the move and want to explore as many sensations as possible. Being trapped in a car seat or sitting in a chair for a prolonged period of time can become quite boring for them. The rocking of their body is just a physiological way for them to add some stimuli into their lives to make the day more fun. It is nothing to worry about but parents should try to keep an eye on when and how often they do this type of behavior to make sure it only occurs when they are bored.
If a normal physiological process has been ruled out, there are still some other considerations to consider but they are more worrying for parents without a doubt. Repetitive behavior is potentially a sign of autism. This is a disease that is usually diagnosed by the age of 2 or 3 so if you are a parent of an older child, this is something much less likely. We are not able to say what exactly causes autism but there are theories that the age of the parents and the environment that a child was exposed to could predispose you to the disease. Vaccinations have not been linked to the disease as a side note so do not fall into that improper line of thinking. Look out for these repetitive behaviors, a socially-isolated child and meet with a specialist to confirm the diagnosis. 
If this has been ruled out, patients should also be worked up for epilepsy. There are a few different types of seizures where the child can start to shake and rock without losing consciousness. In young infants, this can be something that occurs naturally if the baby has a high fever but when the children are older, a consultation with a neurologist is necessary.
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