Inhibitory control is a self-regulatory, prefrontal cognitive function which begins to develop during the first year of life and continues developing rapidly through the preschool years. Children's cognitive development has also been shown to increase rapidly in the preschool years. Additionally, early childhood is a sensitive period for the development of important academic skills such as literacy, mathematics, and language skills. This study examined the relationship between different types of inhibitory control abilities in preschool-age children and academic achievement, including both reading and math skills. Participants included 347 4- and 5-year-old children who were given a battery of tasks which tapped into three domains of inhibitory control (delaying gratification, slowing down/inhibiting motor activity, and initiating and suppressing a response to signal). Academic achievement was assessed using three subtests of the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement including the Letter-Word Identification, Passage Comprehension, and Quantitative Concepts subtest. Using structural equation modeling, the results indicated that the observed inhibitory control measures at ages 4 and 5 were not measuring common latent factors and the individual variables were substantially different. Results of hierarchical regression analyses indicated that suppressing/initiating a response to signal tasks (Tower at age 4 and Knock and Tap at age 5) and the delay of gratification task at age 5 (Gift Delay) were significantly related to math achievement at age 5. Additionally, the Knock and Tap task at age 5 partially mediated the relationship between the Tower task at age 4 and math achievement. Implications of these findings and suggestions for further research are discussed.
Technorati Tags: psychology, educational psychology, school psychology, developmental psychology, preschool, kindergarten, achievement, learning, executive function, inhibitory control, neuropsychology, intelligence