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Longitudinal Antecedents of Executive Function in Preschoolers


  • This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH 50843) to CAS and a fellowship awarded to AMC (T32 MH 070327). We thank the families who participated in the Emotional Beginnings Project.

concerning this article should be addressed to Anne Conway, Columbia University, 1255 Amsterdam Avenue 710, New York, NY 10027. Electronic mail may be sent to


Despite an extensive history underscoring the role of social processes and child contributions to the development of executive functions (C. Lewis & J. Carpendale, 2009; L. S. Vygotsky, 1987), research on these relations is sparse. To address this gap, 68 mother–child dyads were examined to determine whether maternal attention-directing behaviors (attention maintaining, attention redirection) and toddlers’ temperament predicted executive processes during preschool (mean age = 4.5 years, SD = 0.46)—delay and conflict inhibition. Maternal attention maintaining was associated with high levels of conflict inhibition for inhibited and exuberant children, whereas attention redirection was associated with low levels of delay and conflict inhibition for inhibited children. Therefore, maternal attention-directing behaviors may enhance the development of executive functions but only for children with inhibited and exuberant temperaments.