Task-Specific and Latent Relationships Between Motor Skills and Executive Functions in Preschool Children

Gerda van der Veer, Erica Kamphorst, Marja Cantell, Alexander Minnaert, Suzanne Houwen*

*Corresponding author for this work

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There has been an increasing interest in the relationship between motor skills and executive functions (EFs) in young children over the years. However, no clear picture on the relationship between both domains has emerged from these studies. We have extended previous findings by conducting a comprehensive examination of task-specific and latent relationships between a range of motor skills and EFs in preschool children. The sample consisted of 198 3- to 5-year-old children (102 boys; 51.5%). Motor skills were assessed using the Movement Assessment Battery for Children Second Edition. EFs were assessed with the performance-based tasks ‘Day/Night,’ ‘Hand Tapping,’ ‘Forward Corsi Block,’ ‘Forward Digit Recall,’ and ‘Conflict Task,’ and a rating-based EF measure (i.e., the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning - Preschool version). Task-specific relationships were examined using zero-order Pearson correlations. Latent factors of motor skills and EFs were examined using confirmatory factor analysis and exploratory structural equation modeling. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to examine latent relationships. The results of the Pearson correlation analyses showed statistically significant albeit weak correlations between specific motor and EF items (r = 0.15 to r = 0.23). SEM showed non-significant weak relationships between a general motor factor (as a unitary latent construct) on the one hand, and performance-based EFs and rating-based EFs (as latent EF components) on the other hand. In conclusion, this study suggested only weak relationships between motor skills and EFs in preschool children with no clear differences between their task-specific and latent relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2208
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 18-Sep-2020


  • Motor Skills
  • Executive functioning
  • Inhibition
  • Working memory
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Early childhood
  • Factor structure

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