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Talking the talk and walking the walk: an investigation of motor and verbal abilities and their interrelations at age three

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Stolarova, M., Moeller, S., Brielmann, A., Rabel, M., & Mess, F. (2017). Talking the talk and walking the walk: an investigation of motor and verbal abilities and their interrelations at age three. In Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD 2017).


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-6DA4-6
Abstract
Bold claims about interdependent progress across motor and verbal developmental domains shape scientific and popular perceptions of child development. Some people for instance assume that children who walk early will also talk early, while others claim that late talking may be explained or accompanied by superior motor development. Only few and mostly old investigations of the relations between verbal and motor abilities in early childhood exist. The current study assesses correlations between verbal and motor milestones, obtained via parental report, and a set of specific abilities measured with standardized tests (M-ABC-2 for motor, three WPSSI-III subtests for verbal). It also takes family and care characteristics as potential developmental predictors into consideration. A group of 38 German-speaking 3-year-olds (36-47 months) was tested. The homogeneous and high SES allowed us to explore interrelations between verbal and motor development in a setting void of social or economic disadvantages. We found no gender differences for any of the investigated variables. Participants demonstrated motor and verbal abilities that were slightly above the expected average in five out of six subtests. The ages at onset of talking and walking were positively and moderately correlated (r=.391). Performance scores for the information subtest of the WPSSI-III, a measure of general knowledge, correlated with picture naming scores (r=.399), an indication of expressive vocabulary, and receptive vocabulary scores (r=.641). Earlier onset of talking also tended to be related to higher picture naming scores (r=-.421). No correlations between any of the three motor subtests manual dexterity, aiming and catching, and balance, or across verbal and motor subtest performance were found. Duration and amount of daycare, maternal employment, and high vs. very high family income did not selectively predict motor or verbal abilities. In conclusion, this study finds no correlational relations between motor and verbal abilities and also no associations between the three different types of motor abilities tested. It thus provides systematic evidence that - in the absence of social or health risks – three-year-olds verbal abilities do not depend on their motor performance or vice versa.