The end-state comfort (ESC) effect signifies the tendency to avoid uncomfortable postures at the end of goal-directed movements and can be reliably observed during object manipulation in adults, but only little is known about its development in children. The aim of the present paper is to provide a review of research on the ESC effect in normally developing children and in children with various developmental disorders, and to identify the factors constraining anticipatory planning skills. Three databases (Medline, Scopus, and PubMed) and relevant journals were scrutinized and a step-wise analysis procedure was employed to identify the relevant studies. Thirteen studies assessed the ESC effect in children, ranging from 1.5–14 years of age. Nine out of these thirteen studies reported the ESC effect to be present in normally developing children, but the results are inconsistent with regard to children’s age and the kind of ESC task used. Some evidence even suggests that these planning skills are intact in children with developmental disorders. Inconsistencies between findings are discussed in the light of moderating factors like the number of action steps, precision requirements, familiarity with the task, the task procedure, motivation, sample size, and age, as well as the cognitive and motor development of the participants. Further research is needed to investigate the onset and the developmental course of ESC planning, as well as the interdependencies with other cognitive abilities and sensory-motor skills.
Wunsch and Weigelt are with the Dept. of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Paderborn, Germany. Henning and Aschersleben are with the Dept. of Psychology, Saarland University, Germany.