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Dev Psychol. 2008 Mar;44(2):575-87. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.44.2.575.

Using confirmatory factor analysis to understand executive control in preschool children: I. Latent structure.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68588-0206, USA.


Although many tasks have been developed recently to study executive control in the preschool years, the constructs that underlie performance on these tasks are poorly understood. In particular, it is unclear whether executive control is composed of multiple, separable cognitive abilities (e.g., inhibition and working memory) or whether it is unitary in nature. A sample of 243 normally developing children between 2.3 and 6 years of age completed a battery of age-appropriate executive control tasks. Confirmatory factor analysis was used to compare multiple models of executive control empirically. A single-factor, general model was sufficient to account for the data. Furthermore, the fit of the unitary model was invariant across subgroups of children divided by socioeconomic status or sex. Girls displayed a higher level of latent executive control than boys, and children of higher and lower socioeconomic status did not differ in level. In typically developing preschool children, tasks conceptualized as indexes of working memory and inhibitory control in fact measured a single cognitive ability, despite surface differences between task characteristics.

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