Test infant motor skills to help prevent learning delay, says study

Catherine Gaunt
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Babies who are behind in their development at the age of nine months are more likely to have learning and behavioural problems at the age of five, according to a major study published last week.

Researchers from the Institute of Education in London analysed the motor skills of nearly 15,000 children taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study.

They concluded that screening babies to assess whether they are crawling or able to hold objects before the age of one could help identify those children who need extra support with their learning before they start school.

'We found that delay in gross and fine motor development in a child's first year - which affects about one in ten children - was significantly associated with delayed cognitive development at age five,' the researchers said. 'Delay in gross motor development also has a significant impact on the child's behavioural adjustment at five. This additional finding confirms the importance of screening for developmental delay before the first birthday.'

The findings also revealed a gap in ability between children who were growing up in persistent poverty and those in families that had never received means-tested benefits.

After examining the relationships of disadvantaged mothers with their children, the researchers found that a good motherchild relationship significantly benefits the cognitive and behavioural development of children living in poverty.

'Our findings also suggest that policy interventions aiming to promote positive development of children should provide support for parents too,' said the researchers. 'If parents' mental health and self-esteem are undermined by hardship, it could affect their parenting interactions with the child.'

The survey’s full findings are published in Children of the 21st Century (volume 2): the first five years, which is available from http://www.policypress.co.uk.

 

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