Fine Motor Skills in Teenagers

Updated July 19, 2017

According to, a child's motor skills have developed enough by age 6 to complete writing, dressing and feeding tasks. The skills then are refined through academics, sports, music and the use of tools during adolescence. Serious delays in motor-skill development require professional intervention, but the quality of a teenager’s fine motor skills can affect his career choices as well as his behaviour in school and his relationship with his peers.


Fine motor skills are purposeful movements of the small muscles in the fingers and hands that coordinate with the larger muscles of the arms and trunk that provide stability. These small muscles also work in conjunction with the eyes for eye-hand coordination. Basic fine motor skills include: tying shoes, zipping and unzipping, using buttons and snaps, holding a pencil and utensils. Learning to perform the tedious tasks of gripping and manipulating small objects refines eye-hand coordination and promotes attentiveness and skill development in adolescents.

Delayed Development

According to the “Encyclopedia of Childhood and Adolescence,” fine muscle movement requires both muscle and brain development. Development is in an orderly, progressive fashion. Gross motor skills develop before the fine motor skills that require complex messages from the brain to fingers. Certain conditions may cause a temporary delay. A study reported in “Pediatric Research” in 1985 concluded that early malnutrition has effects on fine motor skill development that may be evident through age 15. If the teenager is significantly behind in motor-skill development, however, you should seek medical help.

Learning Disabilities

Students with learning disabilities often have trouble with handwriting. Clinical psychologist Jerome Schultz, PhD, reports on Family that attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can affect a student’s fine motor coordination necessary for writing. Any visual-perceptual-motor performance disability will affect an activity such as writing for which students have to use eyes and hands together. Problems with starting and stopping to make block letters takes more focus than the continuous flow of cursive writing. Teachers should encourage these students to write in cursive or to type. This will make the task easier and improve self-esteem.

Social Status

Adolescence is the time a teenager separates from her parents and begins to identify with her peer group. The quality of motor coordination can directly affect decisions teenagers make to fit in with their peers that will determine physical activity as well as career choices. According to the book, “How to Help a Clumsy Child,” there are three variables that affect the quality of a teenager’s fine motor skills: rate of developmental maturation, genetic factors and motivation to practice to improve.

Peer Relationships

Teenagers are growing and full of energy. The teenager who has well developed motor skills and a talent for sports or the performing arts gets a lot of positive attention and, therefore, is motivated to practice more. These teens take out their aggressiveness in competitive sports and tend to be more drawn to physical activity. The less-skilled teenager avoids physical activity and may be clownish or aggressive in physical education classes. He may use his talent in verbal activities such as language, debate and writing. Understanding fine motor skills in teenagers adds another tool parents and teachers can use to help teenagers through the challenging period of adolescence to a rewarding adult life.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Based in Florence, Oregon, Brenda Duffey has been editing and writing educational articles since 1967. Her work has appeared in various online publications. Duffey's cross-country trip lesson plan appears in "Powerful Teaching," published in 2003. Duffey holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Social Work from the University of Louisville.