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Phenotypic and Genetic Associations Between Preschool Fine Motor Skills and Later Neurodevelopment, Psychopathology, and Educational Achievement.

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Bowler, Aislinn 
Arichi, Tomoki 
Fearon, Pasco 
Meaburn, Emma 
Begum-Ali, Jannath 


BACKGROUND: Fine motor skills are heritable and comprise important milestones in development, and some evidence suggests that impairments in fine motor skills are associated with neurodevelopmental conditions, psychiatric disorders, and poor educational outcomes. METHODS: In a preregistered study of 9625 preschool children from TEDS (Twins Early Development Study), fine motor assessments (drawing, block building, folding, and questionnaires) were conducted at 2, 3, and 4 years of age. A cross-age fine motor score was derived using principal component analysis. Multivariate regression analysis was used to examine the relationships between the fine motor score and neurodevelopmental traits, psychopathology, and educational outcomes at 3 later ages (7-8, 12, and 16 years) and cross-age psychopathology composite scores. Polygenic scores (PGSs) were created for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, schizophrenia, anxiety, major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and years of education. We ran single-PGS models and a multi-PGS model. RESULTS: Fine motor skills were negatively associated with neurodevelopmental traits and psychopathology across childhood and adolescence and positively associated with educational achievement in adolescence (β = 0.25, p < .001). Superior fine motor skills were associated with a higher years-of-education PGS (β = 0.07, p < .001), a lower ADHD PGS (β = -0.04, p = .011), and a higher anxiety PGS (β = 0.03, p = .040). Similarly, the multi-PGS model retained the PGSs for years of education (β = 0.07), ADHD (β = -0.03), and anxiety (β = 0.01). A non-preregistered analysis in an independent preschool sample replicated the ADHD PGS association, but not the years of education or anxiety PGS associations. CONCLUSIONS: Fine motor skills are linked genetically and phenotypically to later neurodevelopment, psychopathology, and educational outcomes. Future work should investigate the mechanisms that underlie the role of fine motor development in later outcomes.



Childhood, Education, Motor, Neurodevelopment, Psychiatry, Adolescent, Humans, Child, Preschool, Child, Depressive Disorder, Major, Motor Skills, Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity, Academic Success, Educational Status

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Biol Psychiatry

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Elsevier BV
Economic and Social Research Council (ES/R009368/1)
Medical Research Council (MR/K021389/1)
Medical Research Council (G0701484)
Medical Research Council (G0701484/1)