Relationships between spelling, motor skills, and attention in the prediction of handwriting fluency and legibility

Relationships between spelling, motor skills, and attention in the prediction of handwriting fluency and legibility

First Author: Cameron Downing -- School of Psychology, Bangor University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Markéta Caravolas
Keywords: Handwriting, Spelling, Motor Movements, Attention, Development
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose

Separate examinations of handwriting fluency and legibility have delineated how spelling, and to a lesser extent motor skills influence written production. In addition, attention has been linked to variations in handwriting ability, but its exact role in handwriting remains unclear. In this study, we model the simultaneous predictive relationships of spelling, motor, and attentional skills on handwriting fluency and legibility, respectively.

Method

Seven hundred and three children in Years 3 (Mage=98.18 months, 51% Female), 4 (Mage=109.93 months, 48% Female), and 5 (Mage=122.04 months, 46% Female) took part. They completed several group-administered measures: DASH Copy tasks (handwriting fluency), SaHLT Sentence Dictation (handwriting legibility and spelling ability), Beery Motor Coordination (motor ability), and TEA-Ch Map Mission (selective attention).

Results

Multi-group path analyses predicting handwriting fluency and legibility revealed a good fit, χ^2(6) =2.53, p=.865, RMSEA=.00, SRMR=.01, CFI=1.00 and TLI=1.05. Spelling was the strongest predictor of both handwriting legibility and fluency across year-groups. However, different relationships emerged between motor and attentional skills for fluency and legibility. For fluency, motor coordination was significantly mediated by attention. Whereas for legibility, motor coordination, but not attention, predicted ability. Finally, handwriting fluency and legibility were not significantly interrelated in younger children but a small correlation between them emerged in Year 5.

Conclusion

Handwriting fluency and legibility are separable constructs, predicted by different combinations of sub-skills. Spelling ability is most strongly associated with both handwriting fluency and legibility ability. Whilst motor skills directly contribute to variations in handwriting legibility, their role in predicting variations in handwriting fluency is mediated by attention.