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Direct and indirect effects of proximal contextual factors on the development of children’s executive function and language skills

Thu, April 6, 10:00 to 11:30am, Austin Convention Center, Meeting Room 4BC

Session Type: Paper Symposium

Integrative Statement

According to the bioecological model of human development (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006), the development of young children’s executive function (EF) and language skills is embedded in proximal contexts, such as the home and school environment, that may facilitate or constrain opportunities for development. Most research, however, has examined direct relationships between contextual factors and child outcomes. Raver et al. (2011) argue that investigating indirect pathways might deepen researchers’ understanding of the underlying mechanisms in children’s skill development. The symposium aims to add important information on direct and indirect pathways between developmental and contextual processes. Three papers from different countries (Germany, Portugal, USA) investigated whether home or classroom characteristics function as proximal mediating processes in the development of children’s EF and language skills. The first paper reports findings from a large longitudinal study investigating the role of parental language use for EF among children from low-income and non-urban settings. The second and third paper tested the effects of proximal classroom processes on the development of EF and language skills. Both papers used a cross-lagged design to examine reciprocal associations between EF and language skills. The second paper examined teacher-child closeness and autonomy support as possible mediators, while the third paper investigated effects of teachers’ emotional support, classroom organization, and instructional support on the reciprocal associations between EF and language skills.

Discussion of communalities and differences of these studies, and their implications for optimizing children’s development, will by a leading expert in the study of children’s school readiness skills.

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