The Development of Cognitive Skills and Gains in Academic School Readiness for Children From Low-Income Families

Janet A. Welsh, Robert L. Nix, Clancy Blair, Karen L. Bierman, Keith E. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This study examined developmental associations between growth in domain-general cognitive processes (working memory and attention control) and growth in domain-specific skills (emergent literacy and numeracy) across the prekindergarten year and their relative contributions to kindergarten reading and math achievement. One hundred sixty-four Head Start children (44% African American or Latino; 57% female) were followed longitudinally. Path analyses revealed that working memory and attention control predicted growth in emergent literacy and numeracy skills during the prekindergarten year and that growth in these domain-general cognitive skills made unique contributions to the prediction of kindergarten math and reading achievement, controlling for growth in domain-specific skills. These findings extend research highlighting the importance of working memory and attention control for academic learning, demonstrating the effects in early childhood, prior to school entry. Implications of these findings for prekindergarten programs are discussed, particularly those designed to reduce the school readiness gaps associated with socioeconomic disadvantage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-53
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Educational Psychology
Volume102
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2010

Keywords

  • cognitive skills
  • executive functions
  • math achievement
  • reading achievement
  • school readiness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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