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Examining early childhood gross motor skill proficiency in children born preterm Rizzardo, Beth Marina Maxine


Preterm birth (<37 weeks) is a public health concern in Canada. Long-term developmental concerns have been documented, however less is known about the relationship between preterm birth and gross motor development. Understanding the acquisition of fundamental motor skills in early childhood is important as it lays the foundation for movement experiences across the lifespan. Although children born early preterm (<32 weeks) show marked gross motor delays, children born preterm at later gestational ages receive little follow-up and are often excluded from research, limiting our knowledge. The purpose of this research was to examine the relationship between gestational age and gross motor skill performance of children (4-6 years of age) born preterm. Eighteen children (n = 11 f, 7 m; mean age = 5.2 ± 0.7 y) born preterm (mean gestational age = 31.6 ± 3.3 wks) were recruited and assessed in one session on gross motor skill proficiency (Test of Gross Motor Development–Second Edition; TGMD-2), balance (single-leg static balance), and muscular strength (grip strength, standing long jump). Anthropometric measurements were also collected. Pearson product correlations, as well as regression analyses, were conducted to examine relationships of predictors and performance variables. Findings showed that gestational age was not significantly correlated to the TGMD-2 overall Gross Motor Quotient score (r = 0.409, n = 18, p > .05). Irrespective of gestational age, gross motor proficiency was low. Holding age constant, gestational age was found to be a significant predictor of both balance time and standing long jump distance. Children born at later gestational ages balanced longer and jumped further; however balance was still poorly performed by the participants. The findings of this investigation indicate the need for further research into the gross motor skill development of children born preterm throughout the early childhood years. These findings suggest that difficulties in fundamental gross motor skills are exhibited across gestational age and difficulties are not constrained to the first years of life, but also exhibited at preschool and kindergarten-age. This work has implications for the design and implementation of developmentally appropriate programming for the preterm population in the early childhood years.

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