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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Sarah Raz


Children who are born prematurely are at risk of experiencing neuropsychological deficitsearly in life. Specific deficits have been previously observed in motor skills and executive function, two skills critical for successful learning and academic achievement. The current study aimed to gain a better understanding of the relationship between gestational age, or the amount of time spent in utero, fine motor skills, executive function (EF), and pre-kindergarten school readiness in a cohort of preschool-aged children born prior to 34 weeks’ gestation (N = 203). It was hypothesized that the relationship between the extent of prematurity and school readiness would be sequentially mediated by fine motor and executive functioning skills, respectively. Pre-kindergarten school readiness was assessed using the Core Language Index from the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals – Preschool (CELF-P) and Applied Problems subtest from the Woodcock Johnson -- Tests of Achievement -- Third Edition. Fine and gross motor skills were measured using the Fine Motor Quotient and Gross Motor Quotient, respectively, from the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales – Second Edition. Executive functioning was measured using the Concepts and Following Directions and Recalling Sentences subtests from the CELF-P and Statue and Word Generation subtest from the NEPSY—Second Edition. Contrary to my prediction, the sequential indirect path between gestational age, fine motor skills, executive function, and pre-kindergarten school readiness was not significant. Following exclusion of neurological cases, significant associations were noted between gestational age and fine motor skills as well as gestational age and pre-kindergarten school readiness. Furthermore, executive functioning significantly predicted pre-kindergarten school readiness. Thus, it is clear that a preterm-born preschooler’s executive function skills impact school readiness in the developmental years. The pattern of findings is broadly in accord with previous research indicating that degree of prematurity significantly affects neuropsychological outcome at the preschool-age. The results of this study provide important insights into early markers of potential skill deficits and guidance for targeted skill-focused interventions for academic remediation.

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