The relationship between manual coordination and mental health.


Motor coordination impairments frequently co-occur with other developmental disorders and mental health problems in clinically referred populations. But does this reflect a broader dimensional relationship within the general population? A clearer understanding of this relationship might inform improvements in mental health service provision. However, ascertainment and referral bias means that there is limited value in conducting further research with clinically referred samples. We, therefore, conducted a cross-sectional population-based study investigating children’s manual coordination using an objective computerised test. These measures were related to teacher-completed responses on a behavioural screening questionnaire [the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ)]. We sampled 298 children (4-11 years old; 136 males) recruited from the general population. Hierarchical (logistic and linear) regression modelling indicated significant categorical and continuous relationships between manual coordination and overall SDQ score (a dimensional measure of psychopathology). Even after controlling for gender and age, manual coordination explained 15 % of the variance in total SDQ score. This dropped to 9 % after exclusion of participants whose SDQ responses indicated potential mental health problems. These results: (1) indicate that there is a clear relationship between children’s motor and mental health development in community-based samples; (2) demonstrate the relationship’s dimensional nature; and (3) have implications for service provision.