A Latent Factor Analysis of Preschool Executive Functions: Investigations of Antecedents and Outcomes
Kraybill, Jessica Hershberger
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The current study investigated the nature of executive function (EF) abilities in preschoolers using confirmatory factor analysis; potential antecedents and outcomes were examined as well. Executive function refers to higher order cognitive abilities necessary to consciously and deliberately persist in a task; these abilities are associated with a wide variety of important developmental outcomes. Within the developmental literature, studies on EF development in early childhood have focused most often on the constructs of working memory (WM) and inhibitory control (IC). Whether WM and IC are dissociable cognitive abilities is an unresolved issue within the literature; accordingly, performance on a battery of EF tasks at ages 2 and 4 was assessed to determine if EF structure at these ages is best described by a single factor or two factors consisting of working memory and inhibitory control. At both ages, a unitary model fit the data well. Longitudinal relations between attention in infancy, preschool EF, and school readiness and social competency at age 4 were also examined. Although infant attention measures failed to significantly predict later EF, pathways between age 4 EF (but not age 2 EF) and all age 4 outcomes were significant and in the expected direction. Understanding the nature of EF and the factors associated with optimal regulatory abilities is necessary for both theoretical and practical purposes, and given the considerable improvements that happen to EF abilities during this time period in early childhood, longitudinal studies such as this one are necessary to address issues of developmental change.
- Doctoral Dissertations