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Nancy Getchell, Nadja Schott and Ali Brian

Throughout this special issue, different authors have discussed diverse aspects of past, present, and future motor development research. In such research, understanding how people move involves much more than studying motor behavior in individuals of different ages. Rather, empirical designs should embed some element of past, present, and future motor behavior into research questions, designs, methodologies, and interpretations. In this article, we provide an overview on the process of asking movement-related developmental questions and designing appropriate research studies that will answer them to provide a foundation for both new and returning investigators interested in studying human motor development. We compare descriptive and experimental approaches as well as longitudinal, cross-sectional, and alternative research designs, followed by a discussion of common statistical analyses suited for these designs. Through this discussion, we offer suggestions for the most appropriate ways in which to study developmental change. We finish with our thoughts on future directions for investigational methods within motor development research.

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Priscila Tamplain, E. Kipling Webster, Ali Brian and Nadia C. Valentini

Assessment of the motor domain is a critical aspect of understanding motor development. Measurement of motor development is the baseline to understand potential delays and to promote the tools for change and improvement of this domain. This paper aims to reflect on the construct of motor development and the process of assessing motor performance. We review the use of assessments in motor development research and discuss issues of validity, reliability, sensitivity, and specificity. We appraise selected assessments, describe how the use of assessments changed over the periods of study in motor development, and examine the contemporary status of assessments and its applications. Finally, and most importantly, we provide suggestions and recommendations for future directions in the field, as well as pose important questions for researchers and practitioners to consider when selecting, using, and interpreting assessment results. In light of the contemporary view of motor development and the increasing focus on health applications, we recommend the use of screening tools, short forms, and technology, as well as encouraging the use of and more research on motor development assessments in childhood.

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Ali Brian, Adam Pennell, Ryan Sacko and Michaela Schenkelburg

Most early childhood centers charge preschool teachers with delivering gross motor skill content and providing physical activity (PA) opportunities to children. Little is known regarding preschool teachers’ background and confidence and the extent to which centers meet the Active Start Guidelines (ASGs) for PA. Preschool teachers (N = 102) completed an exploratory survey and the Self-Perception Profile for Adults Athletic Competence subscale. Eighty-eight percent possessed no formal background in physical education (PE)/PA, while most teachers (77%) were not aware of the ASGs. Most participants (92%) reported that they do not provide daily, teacher-led PE/PA programming, and less than half (47%) provided at least 60 min of daily free play. Preschool teachers were found to have below average perceived motor competence. Recommendations are provided for preservice teacher training programs, policymakers, as well as professional development of in-service teachers.

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Larissa True, Ali Brian, Jackie Goodway and David Stodden

Motor competence is associated with psychological and physical health outcomes. A reciprocal relationship between motor competence and perceptions of physical competence exists, but the developmental trajectory of the motor competence/perceived competence relationship is not well understood. Standardized assessments take a product- or process-oriented approach, but research concerning the motor competence/perceived competence relationship is limited to using process-oriented assessments. It is unknown whether boys and girls use product and process information differentially in the development of perceived competence. Children (N = 411) were aggregated into age groups. Perceived competence and product and process aspects of motor competence were assessed. Older children were more skillful than younger children but reported lower perceived competence. The motor competence/perceived competence association increased for both motor competence measures across age groups. Girls demonstrated stronger associations between process measures of motor competence and perceived competence, while boys indicated stronger associations between product measures of motor competence and perceived competence. When both motor competence measures were used to predict perceived competence, more variance in perceived competence was explained, compared with using independent predictors. The strength of the prediction increased across age groups, indicating that motor competence is a stronger predictor of perceived competence in older children.

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Kelly Lynn Mulvey, Sally Taunton, Adam Pennell and Ali Brian

Executive function skills play a critical role in school readiness for young children and can be improved through targeted intervention. However, children in preschool often experience deficits in multiple developmental domains. Thus, there is a need for integrated interventions that target multiple domains in concert. This study tested whether a proven gross motor skill intervention, Successful Kinesthetic Instruction for Preschoolers (SKIP), also improves preschoolers’ executive function. Participants were randomly assigned to either intervention (n = 50) or control (n = 57) conditions. Prior to intervention, executive function and gross motor skills were tested. Intervention occurred for 6 weeks with 30-min sessions twice weekly (dose = 360 min). At posttest, participants in the SKIP condition showed significantly better gross motor and executive function skills than control participants. Results are the first to document the effectiveness of the SKIP intervention in also improving children’s executive function.

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Danielle Nesbitt, Sergio Molina, Ryan Sacko, Leah E. Robinson, Ali Brian and David Stodden

A person’s ability to rise from the floor to a standing position is seen as a precursor for establishing and maintaining bipedal independence. It also is an important primer for the development of other fundamental movement skills and is associated with functional capacity in later life. Thus, the potential importance of developing this movement capability early in life and understanding how it may relate to global function (i.e., motor competence [MC]) across the lifespan may be underestimated. Therefore, this study examined the validity of supine-to-stand test (STS) as a developmental measure of functional MC across childhood into young adulthood using a pre-longitudinal screen approach and examining associations between movement components. STS time also provided a secondary measure of developmental validity in addition to an examination of the concurrent validity of STS against developmentally valid measures of MC (i.e., throwing, kicking, hopping, and standing long jump) in these age groups. Overall, results indicated that cross-sectional data “curves” for the STS components generally fit Roberton’s hypothetical model curves. STS time demonstrated weak to moderate (r = −.28 to −.64) correlations to MC product measures across all age groups indicating that STS time can be considered a valid and reliable measure of MC across childhood into young adulthood.

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Ali Brian, Farid Bardid, Lisa M. Barnett, Frederik J.A. Deconinck, Matthieu Lenoir and Jacqueline D. Goodway

Purpose: The present study examined the motor competence of preschool children from Belgium and the United States (US), and the influence of perceived motor competence on actual motor competence. A secondary objective was to compare the levels of motor competence of Belgian and US children using the US norms of the Test of Gross Motor Development, Second Edition (TGMD-2). Methods: All participants (N = 326; ages 4–5 years) completed the TGMD-2 and the Pictorial Scale of Perceived Movement Skill Competence for Young Children. Results: Belgian children performed significantly higher on actual object control and locomotor skills than US children. However, both Belgian and US children scored significantly worse on the TGMD-2 when compared to the US norm group from 1997–1998. Furthermore, perceived motor competence was significantly related to actual object control skills but not locomotor skills. Conclusion: The present study showed cross-cultural differences in actual motor competence in young children. The findings also indicate a secular downward trend in childhood competence levels, possibly due to a decrease in physical activity and increase in sedentary behavior. Future research should consider conducting an in-depth exploration of physical activity contexts such as physical education to better understand cross-cultural differences in motor competence.