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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
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VAN WYK, Yolanda; COETZEE, Dané  and  PIENAAR, Anita E.. The influence of gender, race and socio-economic status on visual-motor integration of nine- to 10-year old learners: The NW-CHILD study. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2017, vol.57, n.2-2, pp.649-666. ISSN 2224-7912.

Visual-motor integration, visual perception and motor coordination skills have strong relationships with academic development and are considered to be some of the basic building blocks for optimal academic success. Pienaar et al. (2013:7) also confirmed a strong relationship between visual-motor integration, visual perception and motor coordination skills and academic success in critical school performance areas, such as mathematics, reading and writing with regard to Grade 1-learners in South Africa. Results from this study also indicated a strong inverse relationship between low socio-economic status (SES), academic performance and visual-motor integration, visual perception and motor coordination skills. Various other studies also confirmed that low SES negatively influences the general and academic development of learners.1 Worldwide an increase is reported in the number of learners growing up in low socio-economic circumstances.2 With regard to the influence of gender on the relationship between visual-motor integration skills and academic performance, results in the literature are contradictory and range between very small to non-existing.3According to the literature few studies furthermore investigated the role of gender on visual perception and motor coordination skills independently. In this regard, the study of Coetzee and Du Plessis (2013:40) involving 816 Grade 1-learners (419 boys and 397 girls in the North West Province, South-Africa), reported no significant gender differences for visual-motor integration, visual perception or motor coordination skills. The purpose of this study was to determine the influence gender, race and socio-economic status has on visual-motor integration of nine- to 10-year old learners residing in the North West Province of South Africa. This study formed part of the longitudinal NW-CHILD (Child-Health-Integrated with Learning and Development) study, which included baseline and 2 follow-up measurement points over a period of 6 years. The data from only the first follow-up of learners (all Grades 3 and 4 (n=865; 457 boys and 408 girls, with a mean age of 9.9 years, SD=0.42), was used and evaluated with the The Developmental Tests of Visual-Motor Integration, Fourth Edition (VMI-4). Results were analysed by making use of Statistica for Windows (2014). Independent t-testing was used to determine the scope of the visual-motor integration deficiencies for the group, and also by gender, race and SES. Two-way frequency tables were used to place learners in various proficiency categories for visual-motor integration, visual perception and motor coordination. Strength of relationships was calculated using the phi-coefficient, with effect sizes set at w≥0.1 small, w≥0.5 medium and w≥0.3 large (Steyn 2002). Results of the current study indicated that learners (regardless of gender, race or SES) were mainly categorized in the average category for the visual-motor integration, visual perception and motor coordination skills. Gender differences were mainly precarious and insignificantly small. Boys only outperformed girls in visual-motor integration skills (p≤0.001 & d=0.22), with no further significant gender differences. Race impacted learners' visual perceptual skills, where white learners meaningfully outperform black learners. Uniform proficiency between white and black learners was found in the visual-motor integration and motor coordination subtests. The majority of learners tested in the average category (70% and more) for both the visual-motor integration and motor coordination subtests. Low SES clearly had a negative effect on particularly the visual perceptual performance of learners. The negative influence of low SES was also observed in the visual-motor integration and motor coordination subtests, but to a lesser extent. A possible explanation for this relationship is the fact that learners from high SES usually have more resources at their disposal, thereby contributing to better performance when compared to learners from low SES (Portela 2007:65; Uys & Pienaar 2010:131). Perception is an acquired skill and relies upon learning experiences and opportunities to further develop this skill. Insufficient stimulation at school and at home and insufficient learning opportunities are reported to contribute to perceptual deficiencies observed in learners from low SES. Haywood and Getchell (2009:276) and Venetsanou and Kambas (2010:319) also agree that learners from low SES are not optimally encouraged to develop the fine motor skills that are essential to academic performance and to successfully apply visual-motor integration, visual perception and motor coordination skills. The overall findings indicating average visual-motor integration proficiency are somewhat ambiguous, due to the meaningful influences of race and SES and to a lesser extent, gender, in the results. It is recommended that future studies include a bigger representation of significant other race groups living in South Africa such as Coloured and Indian learners and involve more of the provinces of South Africa, as this study only included learners from one of the nine provinces of this country, to produce more conclusive results for generalising. Language barriers might have influenced the results although translators were trained to translate during data collection.

Keywords : Visual-motor integration (VMI); visual perception (VP); motor coordination (MC); gender; race; sosio economic status (SES); academic achievement; mathematics; reading; writing.

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