The Relationship between Motor Skills, Perceived Social Support, and Internalizing Problems in a Community Adolescent Sample
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Objectives: Poor motor skills are associated with a range of psychosocial consequences, including internalizing (anxious and depressive) symptoms. The Elaborated Environmental Stress Hypothesis provides a causal framework to explain this association. The framework posits that motor skills impact internalizing problems through an indirect effect via perceived social support. However, empirical evaluation is required. We examined whether motor skills had an indirect effect on anxious and depressive symptoms via perceived family support domains. Methods: This study used a community sample of 93 adolescents (12–16 years). Participants completed measures of motor skills, perceived social support across three dimensions (family, friend, and significant other), depressive symptoms, and anxious symptoms. Age, gender, verbal IQ, and ADHD symptoms were included as control variables. Results: Regression analysis using PROCESS revealed that motor skills had an indirect effect on depressive symptoms via perceived family support, but not by perceived friend support or significant other support. The negative association between motor skills and anxious symptoms was not mediated by any perceived social support domain. Conclusions: Findings are consistent with previous literature indicating an association between motor skills and internalizing problems. However, we identified a different pattern of relationships across anxious and depressive symptoms. While anxiety and depressive symptoms were highly correlated, motor skills had an indirect effect on depressive symptoms via perceived family support only. Our findings highlight the importance of family support as a potential protective factor in the onset of depressive symptoms. This study provides partial support for the Elaborated Environmental Stress Hypothesis, however further research is required.
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