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J Exp Child Psychol. 2011 Mar;108(3):663-76. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2010.06.005. Epub 2010 Jul 29.

Individual differences in growth in executive function across the transition to school predict externalizing and internalizing behaviors and self-perceived academic success at 6 years of age.

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Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3RF, UK.


Building on an existing latent variable analysis of executive function (EF) in children (N=191, 57% boys and 43% girls) making the transition to school (Hughes et al. (2010), Developmental Neuropsychology, vol. 35, pp. 20-36), the current study both documented average developmental improvements from 4 to 6years of age and examined individual differences in EF growth in relation to latent factors for two sets of child outcome measures at 6years: (a) first-grade teachers' ratings of emotional symptoms, hyperactivity, and conduct/peer problems and (b) children's self-perceived academic and social competencies. With effects of concurrent verbal ability and EF controlled, variation in EF slopes across the transition to school predicted variation in latent constructs for (a) all four problem behavior subscales and (b) children's self-reported academic (but not social) competence. These findings underscore the clinical and educational significance of early individual differences in EF and highlight the value of adopting a developmental perspective.

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