Developmental trajectories of motor skills during the preschool period

Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2019 Nov;28(11):1461-1474. doi: 10.1007/s00787-019-01311-x. Epub 2019 Mar 12.


Children with developmental coordination disorder also manifest difficulties in non-motor domains (attentional, emotional, behavioral and socialization skills). Longitudinal studies can help disentangle the complex relationships between the development of motor skills and other cognitive domains. This study aims to examine the contribution of early cognitive factors to changes in motor skills during the preschool period. Children (N = 1144) from the EDEN mother-child cohort were assessed for motor skills with the Copy Design task (NEPSY battery) and the parent-rated Ages and Stages Questionnaire (fine and gross motor skills scores) at ages 3 and 5-6 years. At 3 years, language skills were evaluated using tests from the NEPSY and ELOLA batteries. Emotional problems, conduct problems, inattention and hyperactivity symptoms, peer relationships and pro-social behavior were assessed with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) also at 3 years. Linear and logistic regression models were performed to examine whether positive and negative changes in motor skills between 3 and 5-6 years are associated with specific cognitive skills at 3 years, while adjusting for a broad range of pre- and postnatal environmental factors. In the linear regression model, the SDQ Inattention symptoms score at 3 years was associated with negative changes in motor skills (standardized β = - 0.09, SD = 0.03, p value = 0.007) and language skills at 3 years were associated with positive changes in motor skills (standardized β = 0.05, SD = 0.02, p value = 0.041) during the preschool period. In logistic regression models, the SDQ Inattention symptoms score at 3 years was associated with a higher likelihood of a declining trajectory of motor skills (OR [95% CI] = 1.37 [1.02-1.84]). A higher language skills score at 3 years was associated with an increased likelihood of a resilient trajectory (1.67 [1.17-2.39]). This study provides a better understanding of the natural history of developmental coordination delays by identifying cognitive factors that predict changes in motor skills between the ages of 3 and 5-6 years.

Keywords: ADHD; Cohort studies; Language; Longitudinal analysis; Motor skills; Preschool children.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Motor Skills Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires