Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Early motor development is a complex phenomenon characterized by a high degree of inter- and intra-individual variability. The primary objective of this work was to test a conceptual model of early motor development that considers the key contextual factors relating to the home environment, infant characteristics, and caregiving practices. Given the lack of appropriate measures targeting these contextual factors, a secondary objective was to develop and run preliminary analyses of two new measures that assess these factors in relation to the motor development of infants aged 4 to 10 months of age.

Following the initial item generation phases, exploratory principal components analyses with varimax rotations were run to determine a factor structure for each measure, followed by a confirmatory factor analysis. These measures were then incorporated into the larger conceptual model, which tested the extent to which these contextual factors explained the variability observed in motor developmental scores as measured by the Alberta Infant Motor Scale. Using structural equation modeling, these direct effects, as well as indirect effects mediated through the Daily Activities of Infants Scale are discussed. The measurement model demonstrated good fit indices (% = 477.9, df = 369, p < 0.01; IFI; 0.940; TLI 0.927; CFI 0.938; RMSEA 0.04) indicating the model fits the data. Analysis of path coefficients revealed that the contextual factors did not explain a significant portion of the variance in early motor development (32%). The factor Opportunities in the Playspace was found to explain 24% of the variance in scores and was significant.

Although the results of this work do not provide strong evidence for a role of contextual factors in motor development, they do raise questions about the use of linear statistical analyses to measure non-linear processes and the developmental variations of infants bom full-term and those bom preterm. Full-term infants are known to be resilient and it is suggested that the subtle determinants, such as those concerning contextual factors, might play a more important role in a population of infants who are vulnerable or considered to be at risk.



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