Relating Effortful Control, Executive Function, and False Belief Understanding to Emerging Math and Literacy Ability in Kindergarten


  • The work reported here was supported, in part, by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grants R03 HD39750, P01 HD39667, and R01 HD51502. Thanks are due to Cathy Jantzer, Rebecca Holland, Tanja Rothrauff, and Katherine Wagner for their assistance with data collection. Rachel Peters Razza is now at the National Center for Children and Families, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY.

concerning this article should be addressed to Clancy Blair, Human Development and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University, 110 Henderson South, University Park, PA 16802-6504. Electronic mail may be sent to


This study examined the role of self-regulation in emerging academic ability in one hundred and forty-one 3- to 5-year-old children from low-income homes. Measures of effortful control, false belief understanding, and the inhibitory control and attention-shifting aspects of executive function in preschool were related to measures of math and literacy ability in kindergarten. Results indicated that the various aspects of child self-regulation accounted for unique variance in the academic outcomes independent of general intelligence and that the inhibitory control aspect of executive function was a prominent correlate of both early math and reading ability. Findings suggest that curricula designed to improve self-regulation skills as well as enhance early academic abilities may be most effective in helping children succeed in school.