Background First graders born prematurely perform poorly on handwriting speed and legibility. However, whether there are specific legibility factors in which preterm children demonstrate difficulty remains unknown. In addition, handwriting performance beyond the first grade and the influence of sex on handwriting performance in preterm children are still unclear. We aimed to investigate the influence of prematurity and sex on multiple dimensions of handwriting in grade two and to identify the contributors to performance. Methods Sixty-three preterm (34 boys and 29 girls) and 67 full-term (27 boys and 40 girls) peers in grade two were included. Class teachers were asked to complete the Chinese Handwriting Evaluation Form. A subgroup of 39 preterm children received assessments on intelligence, visual perception, tactile and kinesthetic sensation, and fine motor skills. Their inattention behavior was rated using a maternal self-report with a behavioral scale. Results Boys born prematurely exhibited poorer performance in the speed dimension than full-term boys (p = 0.008), whereas there was comparable performance in the two groups of girls (p = 0.221). In the dimensions related to legibility, preterm boys (32.4%) had a higher percentage of children with difficulty in the construction dimension than the other groups (preterm girls: 6.9%, full-term boys: 7.4%, full-term girls: 5.0%). However, no group difference was found in the dimensions of accuracy and directionality. Of the sensory-perceptual-motor factors, attention was the most significant predictor of accuracy in performance (p = 0.046) and speed dimensions (p = 0.001) in preterm children. Conclusions Boys appear to be vulnerable to the adverse impacts of preterm birth in terms of performance in the dimensions of speed and construction in grade two. Based on the significant contribution of attention to handwriting performance in preterm children, assessment and intervention in the area of attention is strongly suggested for preterm children with handwriting problems.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)