Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Eliza L. Nelson

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Lorraine E. Bahrick

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Melissa Baralt

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Bethany Reeb-Sutherland

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


motor, fine motor, gross motor, language, infancy, toddlerhood, preschool

Date of Defense



The current dissertation examined the role of motor skills on children’s language outcomes across early development. For study one a systematic review was conducted to examine differences in how gross and fine motor skills foster language development from 0-5 years of age. Results based on 22 articles indicated that while both gross and fine motor skills are related to language outcomes, too few studies have measured fine motor skills to conclusively determine differences in how gross and fine motor skills differentially relate to language outcomes.

The aim of study two was to investigate whether gross or fine motor skills were predictive of language growth during the second year of life, while accounting for other common predictors of language skill. Both gross motor and fine motor skills were assessed in a sample of 95 infants at 12-months-old, with expressive language growth measured across 12- to 24-months-old. Hierarchical regression analyses indicated that fine motor skills at 12-months-old predicted language growth above and beyond gross motor skills, maternal education, infant sex, baseline language, visual reception, and gesture skills.

Study three assessed the role of fine motor skills on language outcomes via individual differences in handedness for role differentiated bimanual manipulation (RDBM). Hand preference for RDBM was measured monthly from 18- to 24-month-old (N = 90). Receptive and expressive language skills were assessed at 5-years-old. Latent class growth analysis identified three toddler hand preference trajectories: left hand preference with moderate right hand use (left-moderate right), right hand preference with moderate left hand use (right-moderate left), and right hand preference with only mild left hand use (right-mild left). Analyses indicate that toddlers in the right-mild left handedness trajectory scored significantly higher on receptive and expressive language at 5-years-old compared to children with a left-moderate right hand preference. Children with a right-mild left RDBM hand preference also scored significantly higher on receptive language compared to children with a right-moderate left RDBM hand preference. Children with left-moderate right and children with a right-moderate left RDBM hand preference as toddlers did not differ in receptive or expressive language at 5-year-olds. Implications and suggestions for future work are discussed.





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