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An Examination of Motor Competence Profiles in Preschool Children: A Latent Profile Analysis

Angela Starrett, Adam Pennell, Matthew J. Irvin, Sally Taunton Miedema, Candice Howard-Smith, Jacqueline D. Goodway, David F. Stodden, and Ali Brian

rqes cover September 2022

Purpose: Identifying profiles of preschoolers’ motor competence (MC) is essential for providing accurate and targeted intervention. However, little is known regarding children’s MC profiles, more specifically how skills may present in unique clusters. The purposes of the study were to explore MC profiles of U.S. children ages 3–6 years, quantify the uniqueness of these profiles, and examine differences by age, gender, race, geographic region, socioeconomic status, and Body Mass Index z-scores. Methods: Participants included children (N = 582, ngirls = 296) aged 3–6 years (Mage = 4.97, SD = .75) enrolled in one of seven early childhood education centers (Alabama, Louisiana, Ohio [× 2], South Carolina [× 2], Texas). Each child’s MC was assessed with the 12 skills comprising the TGMD-2. Latent profile analysis was performed using the 12 MC skills. Results: Five profiles of MC emerged, three of which show developing MC but in varying combinations. Wald tests revealed possible MC advantages for preschool children who are older, boys, reside in an urban region, and are of higher socioeconomic status, but only for the proficient MC profile. Conclusion: By uncovering five unique latent MC profiles, professionals should consider the presentation/origins of each profile and use such knowledge to create targeted, individualized MC interventions in American preschoolers. From a research perspective, the implications of this study suggest that researchers should consider person-oriented approaches examining individual skill scores (vs. summed subscale scores) whenever possible.

Psychomotor outcomes/behaviors such as motor competence (MC)—which can be defined as degree to which an individual can perform goal-directed movements in a coordinated, accurate, and relatively error-free manner (Anson et al., 2005; Robinson et al., 2015)—and physical activity participation need to be promoted early and often during juvenescence (Gallahue & Donnelly, 2003). In particular, preschool has been identified as a critical moment in life when the psychomotor domain should be developed (i.e., ~3–5 years of age; Gallahue & Donnelly, 2003). However, low levels of MC and physical activity have been reported among preschool-aged youth (Brian et al., 2019). This is troubling as MC has been posited as a foundational and longitudinal component of development (Thelen, 2000) as well as a vehicle
for public health outcomes (Stodden et al., 2008).

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