While girls and boys had similar scores on the locomotor skills, girls did significantly worse than boys on object control activities in which they used an object such as a ball or a bat. Boys' average scores were at the 22nd percentile on object control, while girls' were at the 11th percentile.
In general, girls of every socioeconomic category perform more poorly than boys do in the object control tests, Goodway said. However, disadvantaged girls do much worse than do other girls on these tests.
These findings may surprise people who believe children don't need instruction in motor skills, Goodway said.
"Most people, even many educators, believe that motor skills just naturally develop in children, but our study shows that's clearly not true," Goodway said.
"Like any skill, there needs to be instruction, there needs to be practice, there needs to be feedback. That's how children master these motor skills."
The problem is that children from disadvantaged, urban neighborhoods don't get the opportunities that other children have to play outside in parks and backyards where they can learn how to run and jump and catch footballs and dribble basketballs.
"Their parks may be full of gangs, they don't have backyards that are safe, they are often raised by single mothers who are working multiple jobs and don't have time to supervise them outside," Goodway said.
"These children spend most of their time sitting in school and then going home and sitting in front of the TV."
While the children in this study were mostly minorities, Goodway said the results would apply to any children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
"Ethnicity doesn't matter. It's about poverty," she said.
Goodway said she has developed an intervention program to help preschoolers like those in this study and is currently studying its effectiveness. Preliminary results
|Contact: Jackie Goodway|
Ohio State University