Contributions to School Readiness Skill Development: A Focus on Non-Academic Skills during the Preschool-Kindergarten Transition

Reilly, Shannon, Clinical Psychology - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Downer, Jason, University of Virginia

Executive functioning (EF) is a key predictor of long-term success that develops rapidly in early childhood. However, its developmental trajectory across the key transition from preschool to kindergarten is not yet fully understood. Whether and how this trajectory differs based on characteristics of children and their families also remains to be characterized. In a primarily low-income, racially and ethnically diverse, urban sample, the present study found that EF development in early childhood was best characterized as nonlinear, with the majority of growth occurring during the preschool year. Further, there was intra-individual variability in EF ability at preschool entry that was in part explained by demographic differences. Specifically, boys on average began preschool with lower EF than girls, and there was a trending indication that children in poverty started with lower EF than more affluent peers. Findings were mixed as to whether children in poverty also experienced more rapid EF development than non-impoverished peers. Children’s age relative to their classmates was not associated with initial EF or growth over time. Findings have implications for (1) examining EF development in early childhood with more specificity in future studies, (2) informing the timing of EF interventions in early childhood, and (3) identifying children for whom such interventions might be especially beneficial.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
preschool, executive functioning, school readiness, developmental trajectories, individual differences
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