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Rhythmic Development in 5- to 8-year-old Children and Adults: The Role of Motor Skills

Rhythmic Development in 5- to 8-year-old Children and Adults: The Role of Motor Skills

Name:Franziska Degé

School/Affiliation:Max Planck Institute for empirical Aesthetics

Co-Authors:Verena Buren, Klaus Frieler, Rainer Polak, Johanna Will

Virtual or In-person:In-person


Research has shown that at age 7, children perform similarly well in rhythm production tasks as musically untrained adults (Drake, 1993). Considering that rhythm perception skills develop early in infancy (Phillips-Silver & Trainor, 2005), it seems surprising that rhythmic development takes so long to unfold. Therefore, we examined the developmental trajectory of rhythmic skills and investigated whether development of these is related to motor skill development.
We tested 129 participants: 5-year-old (N = 36), 6-year-old (N = 31), 7-year-old (N = 38), 8-year-old children (N = 24) and 35 adults. We measured rhythm perception skills, rhythm production skills (with different reproduction styles e.g., clapping, tapping), and motor skills.
Rhythm perception skills increased with age. Adults showed higher perception skills than children of all ages. Furthermore, rhythm perception skills predicted rhythm production skills: The higher the perception the better the production. When ordering the different styles of reproduction with respect to precision, the order is the same for 8-year-olds and adults (precision in descending order: drumming with partner, clapping, tapping, drumming alone, speaking). The younger age groups showed similar, but not exactly the same order. We could not reveal systematic relationships between motor skills and rhythm perception as well as rhythm production.
Surprisingly, our results indicate that motor skills do not play a crucial role in the rhythmic development. In a next step, we will investigate the contribution of motor skills for rhythm skill development in each age group separately to overcome issues with the standardization of the motor test.

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