The unique relevance of executive functions and self-regulation behaviors for understanding early childhood experiences and preschoolers' outcomes in rural Pakistan
Paediatrics and Child Health
Performance-based measures of children's executive functions (EFs) do not capture children's application of these skills during everyday emotionally-laden and socially-mediated interactions. The current study demonstrates the value of using assessor report of self-regulation behaviors (inhibitory control and positive affect/engagement) in addition to EF tasks when studying early childhood experiences and development in a rural lower-middle-income country setting. In a sample of 1302 disadvantaged 4-year-olds living in rural Pakistan, we found that directly assessed EFs were significantly related to assessor observations of children's inhibitory control and positive affect/engagement during a structured assessment protocol. However, EFs and two types of self-regulation behaviors demonstrated unique associations with children's (1) contextual experiences, as indexed by family socio-economic resources, participation in parenting interventions, and children's physical growth; and (2) age-salient developmental outcomes, as indexed by direct assessment of pre-academic skills and maternal report of prosocial behaviors and behavior problems. First, family wealth uniquely predicted only observed positive affect/engagement, whereas maternal education uniquely predicted only EFs. Second, children's antecedent linear growth was a significant predictor of both EFs and positive affect/engagement, but exposure to an enhanced nutrition intervention during the first 2 years of life and preschoolers' hair cortisol concentration were associated only with observed self-regulation behaviors. Finally, both EFs and observed positive affect/engagement uniquely predicted children's pre-academic skills. In contrast, only assessors' ratings of positive affect/engagement uniquely predicted maternal report of prosocial behaviors and only assessors' ratings of inhibitory control uniquely predicted maternal report of behavioral problems.
Finch, J. E.,
Yousafzai, A. K.
(2022). The unique relevance of executive functions and self-regulation behaviors for understanding early childhood experiences and preschoolers' outcomes in rural Pakistan. Developmental science.
Available at: https://ecommons.aku.edu/pakistan_fhs_mc_women_childhealth_paediatr/1166