Date of Submission



This study compared the motor performance of children identified with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) with those of a matched group categorised as typically developing (TD). Based on the existing literature, vertical jumping was the task selected as it is a fundamental movement skill (Gallahue & Ozmun, 2002), and a single optimal coordination pattern has been shown to exist (e.g., Bobbert & van Ingen Schenau, 1998).Within the conceptual framework developed for this enquiry, jump height, the performance outcome, was the highest level variable. Level 2 variables described the centre of mass displacement at key instants during the jumping movement. Level 3 variables identified measures of velocity, force and power, which underpin the movement, and level 4 variables described the countermovement specific to this task. This provided a more thorough analysis than previously reported in DCD literature for jumping. The objective of this study was to identify possible mechanisms of DCD in order to advance the understanding of this impairment. A cross-sectional sample (n = 165) of males and females aged between 5 and 12 years was drawn from a school in Victoria, Australia. Using the Movement-Assessment Battery for Children (M-ABC), 62 children from the sample were identified as having DCD with total impairment scores below the 15th percentile for their age-band (Henderson & Sugden, 1992). From the remaining children assessed, who all scored above the 15th percentile, 62 were matched with the DCD group to form the TD group (n= 62). Participants performed three maximal vertical jumps, standing on a single forceplate. Each child's best vertical jump was analysed using forceplate (700 Hz) and 2D sagittal kinematic data from a single camera video (50 Hz) capture. The results confirmed previous findings that DCD children jump lower than their TD peers, although there was a considerable overlap in motor ability between the groups.;Peak VCOM occurred earlier in the jumping movement in the DCD group, when compared to the TD group. This meant a longer elapsed time from the instant of peak VCOM to take-off, which was attributed to coordination error. The earlier occurrence of peak VCOM in the DCD group could be explained by the lower shank angular velocity at take-off. In addition, the DCD group produced lower jump impulse and peak power. Further probing of the jump height data revealed an interesting relationship between age band and jump height that was gender specific. It was noted that for the DCD males, less than 1% of the variance found in jump height could be accounted for by age-band. In contrast, the explained variance for jump height by age-band was 24% for the TD males. The females showed similar relationships for jump height and age-band in both groups. It was thought that this may reflect physical activity avoidance caused by greater social pressures on boys to be good at sports (e.g., Parker & Larkin, 2003). In addition, a further analysis of the DCD group data was undertaken to compare those who had difficulties in dynamic balance and those who did not. In this analysis, body mass was found to have a significant effect on leg stiffness (Kleg), and when accounted for as a covariate, greater Kleg in the DCD group with dynamic balance difficulties was found. A possible explanation is that for the DCD group with dynamic balance difficulties, the transition from joint flexion to extension during the countermovement was problematic, and resulted in excessive muscle co-activation. This study provides some possible directions for further investigations into coordination issues for DCD children. The time elapsed from peak VCOM to take-off and the shank angular velocities at take-off were identified as key indicators of a poorly coordinated jump.;High levels of Kleg reflected difficulties in the transition from joint flexion to extension during the countermovement in those DCD children with dynamic balance problems. Based on these key variables and others that differentiated between groups a more parsimonious conceptual framework is presented. For future enquiry, a more holistic approach for the study of children with such impairments is recommended. This includes exploring the environment these children are exposed to in order to gain a more thorough understanding of practice and learning effects. Understanding of differences in motor ability requires an expanded framework to include information on genetic and socio-cultural factors, and their impact upon important psychology, physical fitness, nutrition, body composition and physical activity parameters.


School of Exercise Science

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


327 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Health Sciences