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Nationally representative evidence on the association between preschool and executive function skills throughout elementary school


Executive function skills are a set of cognitive processes that help individuals to engage in goal-directed behavior and have been linked to benefits in academic achievement and other learning-related outcomes. Recently, there has been interest in understanding how attending center-based preschool may relate to the development of executive function skills. This study used the nationally representative Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010–2011 (n ~ 9,270) to examine the association between preschool attendance and executive function skills in each grade of elementary school. The results of the analysis suggest small initial associations of preschool attendance with some subdomains of executive function (working memory) but not others (cognitive flexibility). These associations are heterogenous based on preschool type (i.e., public vs. private). The longitudinal analysis revealed rapid attenuation of initially positive associations, but also some indications of so-called “sleeper effects” emerged in late elementary school for working memory. Implications for research and policy are discussed. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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