Motor coordination, empathy, and social behaviour in school-aged children

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2005 Jul;47(7):437-42. doi: 10.1017/s001216220500085x.


Children with motor coordination problems are known to have emotional difficulties and poor social skills. The current study investigated whether children with poor motor ability have poor emotion recognition skills, and whether these could be linked to problems in social behaviour. It was hypothesized that difficulties in empathic ability might be related to the poor visuo-spatial processing ability identified in children with developmental coordination disorder (as defined by the American Psychiatric Association). The relationship between motor coordination, emotion recognition, and social behaviour was examined in a sample of 234 children (113 males, 121 females; mean age 9y 7mo, [SD 1y 8mo] age range 6y 8mo to 12y 11mo). From this sample two groups of 39 children each (17 females, 22 males), one group with motor difficulties (mean age 9y 11mo [SD 2y], range 6y 11mo to 12y 11mo) and the other of control children (mean age 10y [SD ly 11mo], range 6y 11mo to 12y 11mo), matched for age and sex, were compared using a set of six emotion recognition scales that measured both verbal and perceptual aspects of empathic ability. Children with motor difficulties were found to perform more poorly on scales measuring the ability to recognize static and changing facial expressions of emotion. This difference remained even when visuo-spatial processing was controlled. When controlling for emotion recognition and visuo-spatial organization, a child's motor ability remained a significant predictor of social behaviour.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Intelligence Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Motor Skills Disorders / physiopathology
  • Motor Skills Disorders / psychology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Social Behavior*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires