The relationship between measures of executive function, motor performance and externalising behaviour in 5- and 6-year-old children

David Livesey*, Jennifer Keen, Jane Rouse, Fiona White

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Citations (Scopus)


In his cognitive-energetic model of information processing Sergeant [Sergeant, J. (2000). The cognitive-energetic model: An empirical approach to ADHD. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 24, 7-12] links executive function (EF) to motor behaviour. This link has been supported by evidence from a number of sources including studies of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and developmental coordination disorder (DCD). Little is known developmentally about this association. Given the rapid change in both motor proficiency and EF that takes place in the pre-school years, this appears an important time to look for the emergence of the link between these factors. In this study we tested 5- and 6-year-old children on motor tasks from the movement assessment battery for children and on measures of response inhibition (Stroop and stop-signal task) and examined the relationship between scores on these measures. Additionally, in order to relate this behaviour to everyday function, the Rowe behavioural rating inventory (RBRI), a teachers' behavioural rating of externalising behaviour, was also gathered and this related to EF and motor performance. It was found that motor performance correlated significantly with RBRI scores (better motor performance with lower externalising behaviour) and with Stroop performance. The relationship between motor performance and stop-signal task performance was in the expected direction but failed to reach significance and there was no clear association between performance on the stop-signal task and either Stroop or RBRI scores. The results are discussed in relation to different aspects of response inhibition (inhibition of a pre-potent response, interference control) and how these might relate to motor control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-64
Number of pages15
JournalHuman Movement Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Childhood development
  • Executive functioning
  • Externalising behaviour
  • Motor ability
  • Response inhibition


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