We sought to determine the extent to which sex differences in psychomotor development during the preschool period can be explained by differential exposure to environmental factors and/or differences in emotional, behavioral, or social functioning. Children from the EDEN mother-child cohort were assessed for language, gross motor, and fine motor skills at 2, 3, and 5-6 years of age using parental questionnaires and neuropsychological tests. Structural equation models examining the associations between sex and language, gross motor, and fine motor skills at 2, 3, and 5-6 years were performed while adjusting for a broad range of pre- and postnatal environmental factors as well as emotional, behavioral and socialization difficulties. Girls (n = 492) showed better fine motor skills than boys (n = 563) at 2 years (Cohen's d = 0.67 in the fully adjusted models), at 3 years (d = 0.72), and to a lesser extent at 5-6 years (d = 0.29). Girls also showed better language skills at 2 years (d = 0.36) and 3 years (d = 0.37) but not at 5-6 years (d = 0.04). We found no significant differences between girls and boys in gross motor skills at 2, 3, or 5-6 years. Similar results were found in the models unadjusted and adjusted for pre- and postnatal environmental factors as well as emotional, behavioral, and socialization difficulties. Our findings are consistent with the idea that sex differences in fine motor and language skills at 2 and 3 years of age are not explained by differential exposure to environmental factors or by sex differences in emotional, behavioral, or social functioning.
Keywords: Language skills; Longitudinal; Motor skills; Preschool; Psychomotor; Sex.
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