Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Preschools, Pencils, Promise: Cognitive Functioning, Academic Achievement, and Behavior Problems as Correlates of Inhibitory Control Among Head Start Participants
by Gunther, Steven, Ph.D., Alliant International University, 2017, 85; 10281603
Abstract (Summary)

The Pencil-tapping Task is an assessment of key neuropsychological components such as cognitive inhibitory control (Smith-Donald, Raver, Hayes, & Richardson, 2007), attention, and working memory (Xue, Atkins-Burnett, Caronongan, & Moiduddin, 2011). These constructs are parts of executive function, which governs the brain’s ability to analyze and respond to its own processes. Given that executive function has been linked to number knowledge, expressive and receptive vocabulary, and classroom engagement (Fitzpatrick & Pagani, 2012), we may expect tests of executive function and its development to correlate with tests of cognitive functioning, academic achievement, and classroom behavior problems. This study, an analysis of archival data from the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey of 2009, seeks to find connections between inhibitory control, cognitive function, academic achievement, and behavior in one of the largest studies ever to feature the relatively new Pencil-tapping Task.

The central variable in this study, the Pencil-tapping Task, is used as an operationalization of inhibitory control development. Research questions seek to identify relationships between this task, a measure of receptive vocabulary development called the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (Dunn & Dunn, 2007), a measure of expressive vocabulary development called the Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test (Brownell, 2000), measures of language and mathematics skill development contained within the Woodcock-Johnson-III battery (McGrew & Woodcock, 2001), and measures of behavioral control observed by Head Start classroom teachers (West, Tarullo, Aikens, Malone, & Carlson, 2011).

Multi-level, simple regressions demonstrated that a measure of inhibitory control significantly predicted variance on measures of functioning, achievement, and classroom behavior problems. Large effect sizes were observed for the relationship between inhibitory control and cognitive functioning, as well as the relationship between race/ethnicity and cognitive functioning. These results are similar to those obtained by other researchers of preschool executive function development, and provide support for a general model of executive function predicting both cognitive functioning, academic achievement, and classroom behavior.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Morales, Eduardo S.
Commitee: Loewy, Michael I., Michaels, Gerald
School: Alliant International University
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 79/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational psychology, Developmental psychology, Clinical psychology
Keywords: Academic achievement, Behavior problems, Cognitive functioning, Executive function, Head start, Inhibitory control
Publication Number: 10281603
ISBN: 978-0-355-17303-1
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