The role of executive function in children's competent adjustment to middle school

Lisa Anne Jacobson, Amanda P. Williford, Robert C. Pianta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Executive function (EF) skills play an important role in children's cognitive and social functioning. These skills develop throughout childhood, concurrently with a number of developmental transitions and challenges. One of these challenges is the transition from elementary into middle-level schools, which has the potential to significantly disrupt children's academic and social trajectories. However, little is known about the role of EF in children's adjustment during this transition. This study investigated the relation between children's EF skills, assessed both before and during elementary school, and sixth grade academic and social competence. In addition, the influences of the type of school setting attended in sixth grade on children's academic and behavioral outcomes were examined. EF assessed prior to and during elementary school significantly predicted sixth grade competence, as rated by teachers and parents, in both academic and social domains, after controlling for background characteristics. The interactions between type of school setting and EF skills were significant: Parents tended to report more behavioral problems and less regulatory control in children with weaker EF skills who were attending middle school. In contrast, teachers reported greater academic and behavioral difficulty in students with poorer EF attending elementary school settings. In conclusion, children's performancebased EF skills significantly affect adjustment to the academic and behavioral demands of sixth grade, with parent report suggesting greater difficulty for children with poorer EF in settings where children are provided with less external supports (e.g., middle school).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-280
Number of pages26
JournalChild Neuropsychology
Volume17
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2011

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Keywords

  • Behavior
  • Child
  • Development
  • Executive function
  • School
  • Transition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

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