Physical Activity Lay Summaries


Maternal preeclampsia has long-term effects on motor development in offspring

Keywords: hypertension, preeclampsia, motor development, adolescence

What is already known about this subject:

  • Preeclampsia is a serious pregnancy complication, characterised by high blood pressure and large amounts of protein in the urine.
  • Preeclampsia may have long-term health consequences for both mother and child.
  • Children born to mothers with preeclampsia have problems with cognitive and mental development. It is not known if preeclampsia can also affect motor development (encompassing coordination, precision and accuracy of movement).

What this Raine study adds:

  • Blood pressure data from obstetric records and assessments of child motor development at 10, 14 and 17 years of age in Raine participants revealed that children born to mothers with preeclampsia had lower motor competence throughout childhood and adolescence.
  • Postural control, proprioception (sense of body position) and rhythm were most affected in children of mothers with preeclampsia.
  • Preeclampsia has long term and potentially permanent effects on motor development; early intervention may help to minimise these risks.

Grace, T., Bulsara, M., Pennell, C., & Hands, B. (2014). Maternal hypertensive diseases negatively affect offspring motor development. Pregnancy Hypertension, 4(3), 209-214. doi:10.1016/j.preghy.2014.04.003. [publink]


Do low scores on motor tests by overweight children reflect poor coordination?

 Keywords: motor coordination, adolescents, obesity, test performance

What is already known about this subject:

  • Tests of motor coordination in children and adolescents often show a relationship between obesity and poor overall test scores. This is often taken to mean that obese children have poor motor coordination.
  • It is possible that the difference in performance between overweight and obese children and their healthy weight counterparts on particular motor tasks has less to do with their coordination, and more to do with their ability to move their body mass (particularly against gravity) in timed tests.
  • Breaking down the overall test score into specific tasks/test items may be more useful in describing the relationship between weight status and coordination.

What this Raine study adds:

  • Overweight and obese children and adolescents (as measured at 10 and 14 years of age) did not always receive poorer motor performance test scores.
  • In general, overweight and obese children and adolescents were not less coordinated than their healthy-weight counterparts, but the physical constraints of their size did cause them to perform less well on certain tasks.

Chivers, Paola, Dawne Larkin, Elizabeth Rose, Lawrence Beilin, and Beth Hands. 2013. “Low Motor Performance Scores among Overweight Children: Poor Coordination or Morphological Constraints?” Human Movement Science 32 (5) (October): 1127-37. doi:10.1016/j.humov.2013.08.006. [publink]

Motor skills develop differently in adolescent boys and girls

Keywords: motor skills, age factors, sex characteristics

What is already known about this subject:

  • The development of motor skills is a lifelong process, and individuals develop these skills at different rates, according to their experience and biological makeup.
  • It is important to know when children’s motor skills are not developing appropriately, and standardised motor performance tests are essential for this; however it is not known whether current tests adequately take into account the normal developmental differences that occur with age, between boys and girls, and in children from different cultural backgrounds.

What this Raine study adds:

  • Assessment of motor skills using the commonly used McCarron Assessment of Neuromuscular Development (‘MAND’) in Raine participants at 10, 14 and 17 years of age found that motor skills developed differently over time in boys and girls. Overall scores were lower in boys at 10 years of age, whereas girls scored lower at 17 years of age.
  • Australian children had a similar, but slightly different profile of results to American children (the MAND was developed in the USA).
  • The MAND is still a useful test of motor performance in Australian children, but the results should be used with consideration of the child’s age and gender.

Hands, Beth, Dawne Larkin, and Elizabeth Rose. 2013. “The Psychometric Properties of the McCarron Assessment of Neuromuscular Development as a Longitudinal Measure with Australian Youth.” Human Movement Science 32 (3) (June): 485-97. doi:10.1016/j.humov.2013.02.007. [publink]


Parental influences are important contributors to adolescent obesity

Keywords: adolescent, body mass index, child, parents

What is already known about this subject:

  • The likelihood of a child becoming obese is related to genetic and environmental factors. Genetics may predispose a child to obesity, and parental influences may increase or decrease this risk.
  • Parents with a low level of education or who are overweight or obese are more likely to have obese children.
  • More information is needed to understand the relative importance of parent-influenced factors in causing childhood and adolescent obesity.

What this Raine study adds:

  • The influence of early childhood parental factors on Raine participants’ body mass index (BMI) between 1 and 14 years of age was investigated.
  • Children were more likely to be overweight or obese adolescents if their mothers smoked during pregnancy, their parents had low educational attainment, or their parents took them to a park or playground infrequently.
  • Parental weight status was the strongest factor related to the child’s weight status from birth to adolescence. Parent birth weight also had a significant influence on their child’s obesity.
  • Understanding the relationship between early parental factors and adolescent weight status may help in the development of early interventions aimed at minimising adolescent obesity.

Chivers, Paola, Helen Parker, Max Bulsara, Lawrence Beilin, and Beth Hands. 2012. “Parental and Early Childhood Influences on Adolescent Obesity: A Longitudinal Study.” Early Child Development and Care 182 (8): 1071-1087. doi:10.1080/03004430.2012.678590.¬† [publink]

Validation of the usefulness of a self-perception questionnaire in Australian adolescents

Keywords: adolescents, self-perceptions, self-esteem, test validity

What is already known about this subject:

  • Self-esteem is important for mental health and healthy social function.
  • New research suggests that adolescent self-esteem may also be relevant to other aspects of development.
  • Self-perception profiles are psychological tests that assess an individual’s self-esteem. Self-perception profiles are culturally sensitive, so for self-esteem profiles to be useful, they must be appropriate to the person or group being tested. It is not clear if the widely-used ‘Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents’ (Harter, 1988; USA) is suitable for use in the current generation of Australian adolescents.

What this Raine study adds:

  • Raine participants in Grades 8-10 completed the Harter’s Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents. Statistical analyses of the data revealed that the results were generally consistent with the American adolescents in whom it was developed.
  • Responses to the ‘romantic appeal’ component of the test were not consistent with the American data, possibly due to age-related and cultural differences in the awareness of romantic attraction in Australian adolescents.
  • Overall, the Harter’s Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents provided valid and reliable data and is suitable for use in Australian adolescents.

Rose, Elizabeth, Beth Hands, and Dawne Larkin. 2012. Reliability and Validity of the Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents: An Australian Sample. Australian Journal of Psychology 64: 92-99. doi:10.1111/j.1742-9536.2011.00031.x. [publink]