Spatial activity participation in childhood and adolescence: consistency and relations to spatial thinking in adolescence

Emily Grossnickle Peterson*, Adam B. Weinberger, David H. Uttal, Bob Kolvoord, Adam E. Green

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Prior research has revealed positive effects of spatial activity participation (e.g., playing with blocks, sports) on current and future spatial skills. However, research has not examined the degree to which spatial activity participation remains stable over time, and little is known about how participating in spatial activities at multiple points in development impacts spatial thinking. In this study, adolescents completed measures of spatial thinking and questionnaires assessing their current and previous participation in spatial activities. Results: Participation in childhood spatial activities predicted adolescent spatial activity participation, and the relation was stronger for females than for males. Adolescents’ current participation in spatial activities predicted spatial thinking skills, whereas participation in childhood spatial activities predicted adolescents’ spatial habits of mind, even when accounting for factors such as gender and academic performance. No cumulative benefit was incurred due to participating in spatial activities in both childhood and adolescence, and a lack of spatial activities in childhood was not made up for by later spatial activity participation. Conclusions: These findings reveal a consistently positive relationship in spatial activity participation between childhood and adolescence. Results highlight the importance of participating in spatial activities during childhood, and underscore the differential impact that participation in spatial activities during childhood versus adolescence has on different facets of adolescents’ spatial thinking. Implications for the timing of interventions is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number43
JournalCognitive Research: Principles and Implications
Volume5
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Sex differences
  • Spatial activities
  • Spatial cognition
  • Spatial skills

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Medicine(all)

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