A cross-sectional analysis on the effects of age on dual tasking in typically developing children
Dual tasking is an integral part of everyday activities for children. Therefore, as with the other aspects of child development—motor, cognitive, perceptual, psychological, and behavioral—it is important to understand the maturation process of dual-tasking skills in children. Characterizing age-related changes in children’s dual-task performance has been problematic, because differences in dual-tasking ability are confounded by age differences in abilities in the relevant single-task performances. The effect of age on dual-tasking ability was examined in 221 typically developing children aged 5–8 years using two motor–cognitive dual-task paradigms: walking while performing an n-back cognitive task, and drawing a trail while performing an n-back cognitive task. The test–retest reliability of the dual-task paradigm was examined by re-assessing 50 participants after 1 month. Individual differences in single-task performance were controlled for, so that any age differences in dual-task costs could not be attributed to differences in single-task performance. There were no age-related differences in dual-task cost of any task (p > 0.05). However, the dual-task cost of trail-making was significantly greater than the dual-task cost of walking when performed under similar cognitive loads (p < 0.0001). The intra-class correlation coefficient ranged from 0.71 to 0.92 for all dual-task performances. The results suggest that previously reported age differences in dual-task costs in young children may have been driven by developmental differences in single-task ability, and that general task coordination ability is comparable in children 5–8 years of age.
The authors thank Mourad Dahhou for statistical expertise and Eda Cinar for content expertise during data interpretation.
No funding disclosures.
Compliance with ethical standards
All procedures were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Conflict of interest
Shikha Saxena, Annette Majnemer, Karen Li, Miriam Beauchamp, and Isabelle Gagnon declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Data availability statement
The data sets during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
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