Comparison of motor competence in children aged 6‐9 years across northern, central, and southern European regions

Laukkanen, Arto and Bardid, Farid and Lenoir, Matthieu and Lopes, Vitor P. and Vasankari, Tommi and Husu, Pauliina and Sääkslahti, Arja (2020) Comparison of motor competence in children aged 6‐9 years across northern, central, and southern European regions. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 30 (2). pp. 349-360. ISSN 0905-7188 (

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The present study aimed to examine differences in motor competence (MC) in children aged 6-9 years old in northern, central, and southern European regions using the Körperkoordinationstest für Kinder (KTK). The secondary aim of the study was to examine interactions between region and children's age, sex, and weight status (determined as healthy weight or overweight/obese). Data were pooled from independent studies conducted in Finland (mean age 7.81 ± 1.19 years, n = 690), Belgium (mean age 8.25 ± 1.09 years, n = 1896), and Portugal (mean age 8.31 ± 1.02 years, n = 758) between 2008 and 2016. Cross-cultural differences in MC and interaction effects were tested using ANOVAs and ANCOVAs. Age, sex, and BMI percentile were used as covariates. Geographical region significantly explained 19% of the variance in MC, while BMI (5%), sex (3%), and age (0.3%) were significant covariates. The interaction effect of region and age (5%), region and sex (0.6%), and region and BMI (0.2%) on MC was also significant. Cross-cultural differences in children's MC increased substantially across age, independent of weight status. Girls slightly underperformed in MC compared to boys in regions where the overall level of MC was lower. Interestingly, the association between body weight status and MC was relatively consistent across the regions. Future cross-cultural studies should further explore the influence of individual (eg, physical activity) and environmental (eg, physical activity and sport policy) factors on MC development.