Using confirmatory factor analysis to understand executive control in preschool children: sources of variation in emergent mathematic achievement


Rebecca Bull, School of Psychology, William Guild Building, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 4FX, UK; e-mail:


Latent variable modeling methods have demonstrated utility for understanding the structure of executive control (EC) across development. These methods are utilized to better characterize the relation between EC and mathematics achievement in the preschool period, and to understand contributing sources of individual variation. Using the sample and battery of laboratory tasks described in Wiebe, Espy and Charak (2008), latent EC was related strongly to emergent mathematics achievement in preschool, and was robust after controlling for crystallized intellectual skills. The relation between crystallized skills and emergent mathematics differed between girls and boys, although the predictive association between EC and mathematics did not. Two dimensions of the child ’s social environment contributed to mathematics achievement: social network support through its relation to EC and environmental stressors through its relation with crystallized skills. These findings underscore the need to examine the dimensions, mechanisms, and individual pathways that influence the development of early competence in basic cognitive processes that underpin early academic achievement.