Psychomotor structure of adolescents in respect to correlation and factor analyses


I.M. Turevsky, professor, Dr.Hab., Honored worker of physical culture RF
G.A. Petrushina, associate professor, Ph.D.
O.B. Seregina, associate professor, Ph.D.
L.V. Tarasenko       
A.Yu. Frolov
Tula state L.N. Tolstoy pedagogical university, Tula

Key words: psychomotor structure, correlation analysis, factor structure, developmental changes, integration, differentiation, stabilization, involution, young athletes, abilities, motor qualities.

Relevance. In order to create a view on the features of the structure of human psychomotor abilities and its changes under the influence of regular sports occupations the obtained data are studied, usually with the help of the correlation and the factor analyses.

The statistics in the study of social phenomena is based on the known philosophic thesis on the universal communication and interaction of phenomena of social life. This philosophical principle is confirmed in the field of educational phenomena. The statistical study of the relationships in this field of knowledge is a powerful method of learning entitative laws.

The laws of mass phenomena, which include physical education and sport, arise mostly influenced by a variety of reasons, which operate simultaneously and in a relationship, and no one knows exactly to what extent each of them affects the scale of phenomena. This kind of relationship is called correlation. These relationships can be studied using the correlation analysis, passing through three phases. The first phase consists in the preliminary qualitative analysis of the phenomena being studied (in our case, selection of testing materials). Selection of features (tests) is a complex and important process for the whole correlation analysis. Here the significance of single tests is evaluated and the required number of them is selected, along with screenings of other tests, etc.

The second phase is the solution of the adopted model by finding the parameters (coefficients) of correlations, the third - evaluation and analysis of results.

The individual phases of the correlation analysis are closely interrelated. So, the first phase has a significant impact on the second and the third: the final result of all statistical studies of correlations between the features under study depends on the correct choice of parameters and the correlation model [1].

While analyzing phenomena in pedagogics, physical culture researchers often face the multidimensionality of its description, i.e. the need for taking into account in the analysis of the great number of indicators (characteristics, features, tests). Many features are correlated and duplicate each other to a considerable extent. Meanwhile, frequently they only indirectly reflect the most essential inherent, latent features of phenomena.

In such situations one can accumulate information expressing a great number of original features using a smaller number of more capacious, essential and critical internal characteristics of the phenomenon. Factor analytical methods are meant for such data condensation.

The task of the factor analysis is to define the notion, number and nature of the most essential and relatively independent functional characteristics of the phenomenon, its basic measures or basic parameters - factors. Factor is a calculated variable, some new characteristic of objects of the set under study. Factor in terms of its connection with the set of original features is described in the form of a matrix of factor loads. They can be determined, i.e. interpreted, by matching factors with each other in content and scale of the included features [1].

The purpose of the study was to investigate the specifics of developmental changes of the children's psychomotor system in the school period of ontogenesis.

Organization of the study. 1500 schoolchildren aged 7-8, 11-12 and 15-16 years and 350 athletes aged 11-12 years, engaged in a variety of sports were tested in the 10 year long longitudinal studies according to a special program (Tab. 1).

Results and discussion. The results of the factor analysis indicate very significant developmental changes in the structure of the features under study in children during the school period of ontogenesis. The younger they are, the more integratively motor endowments are displayed. At the age of 7-8 years only five factors are allocated, and the contribution of one of them to the total variance of the sample was 45%. This factor, which can be interpreted as a general motor endowment, gives high indices in practically all tests characterizing in some way from different aspects the condition of the motor sphere [4].

Table 1. Characteristics of tests included in the program of research of psychomotor fitness

Describable aspects of psychomotor state of the body

Indices (tests)

Test №

Units of measure

Direction of the best index

Physical development

Body length



Body mass



Level of development of physical qualities

20 m distance running



Standing long jump




Standing vertical jump




Hand power


0,1 kg

Static endurance



Joint mobility



Functional status of neuromuscular apparatus

Accuracy of muscular efforts


0,1 kg

Accuracy of spatial parameters



Accuracy of time perception



Rate of arm movement


reps/10 s

Rate of leg movement


reps/10 s

Arm actions

Simple reaction



Complex reaction



Reaction to a moving object



Simple reaction at leg movement



Mental processes

Attention switch



Operational thinking



Motion control in different conditions (dexterity manifestations)

Complicated but foregone actions

Requiring accuracy of movements (LA)




Requiring quick movements (LA)



In conditions of time and alternative uncertainty

At conditional response (LA)



Same at response to the system of signals (LA)



At unknown response (LA)




At unknown response (AA)




Legend:  LA – locomotor actions; AA – arm actions; > – bigger index is better; < – smaller index is better.

The age-related development is accompanied by the differentiation of psychomotor abilities, as evidenced by the significant increase in the number of factors (general factors fall into private). If the original variables of 7-8 year olds consist of only five factors, then in the 11-12 year olds - of eight and in 15-16-year olds - of twelve.

At the age of 11-12 years the main manifestations of locomotor speed stand as an independent factor, which at the age of 15-16 splits into two factors: locomotor speed in probabilistic situations and speed in unusual but foregone conditions. In this connection it is interesting to note that the so-called "clever hands” are displayed by themselves at all ages. Among 7-8 year olds most of the tests, where arm is an executive organ, stand out as an independent factor. In 11-12 year olds the main indicator of arm dexterity (test 25) is in this factor with a variety of responsiveness indicators at arm actions. At the age of 15-16 years this basic test is singled out as a specific factor.

The data of the correlation analysis also testify to the increase with age of the specificity of various manifestations of abilities under study. The number of statistically significant correlations between the indices of measured parameters reduces significantly with age (Tab. 2).

Regular exercises accelerate the age-related differentiation of the structure of abilities of children, and this process has its own specifics in different sports (Tab. 3).

Table 2. The number of significant correlations between indices of tests of various manifestations of psychomotor abilities of schoolboys

Age, years

Total number of relations (%)


Moderate and high out of them, %









< 0,01










< 0,01


< 0,01






Based on the available data, occupations of acyclic exercises (basketball, boxing, gymnastics) have a stronger influence on the reorganization of the structure of psychomotor abilities, than cyclical types of motor activity (swimming). In young boxers aged 11-12 years the total number of significant correlations is smaller even when compared with boys aged 15-16 years not doing sports. Meanwhile, they have much more moderate and high relations. A similar situation is observed among young basketball players. It is interesting that training conditions of both young boxers and basketball players are associated with an increased volume of activity in probabilistic conditions.


Table 6. The number of significant correlations between indices of tests of psychomotor abilities of boys aged 11-12 years, not doing sports and young athletes of the same age %

Contingent of subjects

Sports experience, years

Total number of relations


Moderate and high out of them


Not doing sports











Basketball players









< 0,01

































Note. р – the significance of differences between the indices of young athletes and boys not engaged in sport.

The data of the factor analysis also indicate the acceleration of the process of differentiation of psychomotor abilities among children under the influence of regular sports occupations. If 11-12 year olds not involved in sports have 8 factors in the structure of their psychomotor abilities, then their coevals - young boxers -12 factors, basketball players and gymnastics - 10, swimmers - 9 factors. In young swimmers four years of training had little effect on the course of the age-related development of the structure of psychomotor skills. What has changed is the relationship between the individual elements of the conditioning structure: static endurance was allocated as a specific factor. It should be noted that such an isolation of the strength endurance indicator was found in students not doing sports at senior age and was not marked among boxers, basketball players and gymnasts aged 11-12 years.

The presented data of the correlation analysis characterize developmental changes of the structure of psychomotor abilities of schoolchildren only quantitatively, and certainly are insufficient for any final conclusions. The objectives of our work need a more detailed qualitative analysis of the actual material.

Consideration of correlations between individual characteristics of the body’s functionalities associated with the data of the factor analysis can be one of the options of qualitative analysis. To this end, for the first time in the theory of physical culture the data of the factor analysis are displayed graphically simultaneously indicating the degree of closeness of the relationship between individual indicators in each factor (Fig. 1 and 2).

Fig. 1. Structure of psychomotor skills of schoolchildren aged 11-12 years

Fig. 2. The structure of psychomotor skills of schoolchildren aged 15–16 years

The areas of the factors, which value is proportional to the contribution of each factor (in %) to the overall dispersion are marked with dotted lines on the figures. Figures in the circles indicate the serial numbers of tests.

Tests are combined into groups of indicators (thin lines) in accordance with the adopted distribution of tests into groups, each of which describes a certain aspect of human psychomotor fitness. The studied set of tests is split into as many groups (pleiades) as factors evolved after rotation. Bold lines and small numbers indicate correlations between the index within factors and between single indicators (tests) in pleiades. The correlation coefficients with the significance level not less than p < 0.01 (in Figures the coefficients are enlarged by 100 times) are taken into account.

The analysis of the structure of psychomotor fitness of children aged 11–12 years (Fig. 1) shows that the number of pleiads (eight) is the same for children of both sexes, but the quality of relationships has a number of significant features that are displayed from the first factor. Only two factors - flexibility and attention - coincide purely.

Boys have a more clear number of "heavy values" and a set of interpretable factors (pleiades in the figure). The second factor of boys with high correlations included all the tests that characterize the level of development of physical qualities. In the girls this factor includes body length, but lacks the power indicator. Apparently, at this age (end of puberty) height has a significant impact on the general physical fitness.

The power indicator in girls is closely related and is within one group with the tests characterizing speed of locomotion actions. This phenomenon once again proves the leading role in the formation of motor abilities of children aged 10-14 years [5].

In boys all indices of the functional status of the neuromuscular apparatus are combined in one group. In girls these indices are separated and fall into two factors: the first is related to the spatial differentiation, and the second - to the speed and accuracy of arm actions.

At the same time, the tests of abilities of speed and accuracy of arm actions in girls are combined in one most powerful factor (23,4% sample dispersion). In boys these abilities are more differentiated. The most powerful (20,1%) factor combines the indicators of locomotor abilities. In girls these indicators fall to other factors and are even combined in one group with operational thinking. Apparently, the girls’ decision-making mechanisms (perception, analysis, performance, etc.) at the age of 11-12 years already start their significant influence on the efficiency of motor activity.

The differences in the structure of psychomotor fitness in girls and boys aged 11-12 years give a more complete picture of sexual dimorphism in this age group that should be considered in the pedagogical technology during formation of programs, models, standards and other materials.

The most pronounced sexual dimorphism is observed in the studies of the structure of psychomotor fitness of teenagers aged 15-16 years (Fig. 2). At this age the number (10 and 12) and the quality of the structural organization of motor activity can serve as a basis for the analysis of the studied structure in a man’s later life.

Male and female teenagers aged 15-16 years get the groups of indices of the same type: physical development and strength, flexibility, static endurance and attention. In the boys not interconnected with other tests operational thinking and arm dexterity are allocated as single factors. In girls these tests are associated with locomotor agility (stereotyped decision-making mechanisms) and the speed and accuracy of arm actions (same structure of movements).

The analysis of the obtained data suggests that hyperkinesia, in particular various sports occupations, influences the course of developmental changes in the structure of psychomotor abilities. Systematic psychomotor loads of sufficient volume and intensity accelerate the age-related differentiation of the structure of examined abilities, reducing the degree of interdependence between various manifestations of psychomotor and physical capacities. Herewith, the process of restructuring of motor abilities may proceed in a different way depending on the nature of systematic pedagogical influences.

However, it is premature to make final conclusions about the impact of various types of hyperkinesia on the differentiation of children’s abilities. We can not exclude the possibility that the data testifying to a more "senior" structure of psychomotor abilities of young athletes compared to their coevals not doing sports are associated not only with the big psychomotor load, but to a certain extent qualification in sport of children more "senior" in the biological age.

The data obtained condition the allocation of new approaches to further improvement of the methodology of pedagogical control of physical education of schoolchildren. In particular, it is possible to select the primary (key) indicators of manifestation of abilities and on their basis to develop models of levels of psychomotor fitness for different ages.

Conclusions. The detected features of the structure of motor abilities are of interest for further development of the concept on the role and relations of means and methods of conditioning and special physical (psychomotor) training at various phases of body's ontogenetic development. At the early age any special (relatively local) pedagogical influences in some way have an impact on most of the elements of the structure of psychomotor abilities.

The capacities of selective impact on certain aspects of motor function increase with the growth and development of the organism and it is logical to think that the use of an increasing number of different training methods is required for versatile psychomotor fitness at the senior school age. This hypothesis is also relevant to the methodology of assessment of motor abilities at the early age. If the hypothesis is justified, then the number of different tests should be increased or stabilized with the increasing age of subjects for the comprehensive assessment of motor abilities, both potential and available, until the stabilization or involution of the motor sphere begins.


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