Executive function ( EF ), which refers to the more deliberate, top‐down neurocognitive processes involved in self‐regulation, develops most rapidly during the preschool years, together with the growth of neural networks involving prefrontal cortex but continues to develop well into adulthood. Both EF and the neural systems supporting EF vary as a function of motivational significance, and this article discusses the distinction between the top‐down processes that operate in motivationally and emotionally significant situations (“hot EF ”) and the top‐down processes that operate is more affectively neutral contexts (“cool EF ”). Emerging evidence indicates that both hot and cool EF are surprisingly malleable, with implications for intervention and prevention.
Poverty is a powerful factor that can alter lifetime developmental trajectories in cognitive, socioemotional, and physical health outcomes. Most explanatory work on the underlying psychological processes of how poverty affects development has focused on parental investment and parenting practices, principally responsiveness. Our primary objective in this article was to describe a third, complementary pathway—chronic stress and coping—that may also prove helpful in understanding the developmental impacts of early childhood poverty throughout life. Disadvantaged children are more likely than their wealthier peers to confront a wide array of physical stressors (e.g., substandard housing, chaotic environments) and psychosocial stressors (e.g., family turmoil, separation from adult caregivers). As exposure to stressors accumulates, physiological response systems that are designed to handle relatively infrequent, acute environmental demands are overwhelmed. Chronic cumulative stressors also disrupt the self‐regulatory processes that help children cope with external demands.
The importance of executive functioning ( EF ) skills in mathematical achievement is well established, and researchers have moved from just measuring working memory or updating to an inclusion of other EF skills, namely, inhibition and shifting. In this article, we review studies that have taken different approaches to measuring EF (e.g., using single vs. multiple indicators) and those that have applied different analytical techniques to conceptualize the structure of EF (e.g., exploratory vs. confirmatory techniques). Across studies, updating is often a unique predictor of math achievement at many ages; the findings relating to inhibition and switching are less conclusive. We discuss these findings in relation to age‐related variance in EF structure, the nature of inhibitory and shifting task requirements, and the role of updating as a limiting factor or a common resource for inhibition and shifting.
Charting change in behavior as a function of age and investigating longitudinal relations among constructs are primary goals of developmental research. Traditionally, researchers rely on a single measure (e.g., scale score) for a given construct for each person at each occasion of measurement, assuming that measure reflects the same construct at each occasion. With multiple indicators of a latent construct at each time of measurement, the researcher can evaluate whether factorial invariance holds. If factorial invariance constraints are satisfied, latent variable scores at each time of measurement are on the same metric and stronger conclusions are warranted. This article discusses factorial invariance in longitudinal studies, contrasting analytic approaches and highlighting strengths of the multiple-indicator approach to modeling developmental processes.
Abstract— This article reviews the current state of research on contemplative practices with children and youth. It reviews contemplative practices used both in treatment settings and in prevention or health promotion contexts, including school‐based programs. Although there is great interest and potential promise for contemplative interventions, enthusiasm for promoting such practices outweighs the current evidence supporting them. Interventions that nurture mindfulness in children and youth may be a feasible and effective method of building resilience in universal populations and in the treatment of disorders in clinical populations. This review suggests that meditation and yoga may be associated with beneficial outcomes for children and youth, but the generally limited quality of research tempers the allowable conclusions. Well‐designed experimental studies that are grounded in developmental theory and measure multiple indicators of change must fully test the efficacy of such interventions.
ABSTRACT— This article asserts that the theory of emerging adulthood is a useful way of conceptualizing the lives of people from their late teens to their mid‐ to late 20s in industrialized societies. The place of emerging adulthood within the adult life course is discussed. The weaknesses of previous terms for this age period are examined, and emerging adulthood is argued to be preferable as a new term for a new phenomenon. With respect to the question of whether emerging adulthood is experienced positively or negatively by most people, it is argued that it is positive for most people but entails developmental challenges that may be difficult and there is great heterogeneity, with some emerging adults experiencing serious problems. With respect to the question of whether or not emerging adulthood is good for society, it is argued that claims of the dangers of emerging adulthood are overblown, but emerging adulthood is probably a mixed blessing for society.
Abstract— Children’s ability to direct their attention and behavior to learning tasks provides a foundation for healthy social and academic development in early schooling. Although an explosion of research on this topic has occurred in recent years, the field has been hindered by a lack of conceptual clarity, as well as debate over underlying components and their significance in predicting school success. In addition, few measures tap these skills as children move into formal schooling. This article describes the aspects of self‐regulation that are most important for early school success. It then discusses methodological challenges in reliably and validly assessing these skills in young children and describes recent advances in direct measures of self‐regulation that are reliable and ecologically valid and that predict children’s school success. It concludes by summarizing critical issues in the study of self‐regulation in school contexts and discussing next steps.
Effortful control (EC) and executive function (EF) are 2 constructs related to childrens self-regulation that have historically been the subject of research in separate fields, with EC primarily the focus of temperament research and EF the focus of cognitive neuroscience and clinical psychology. This article selectively reviews and compares the EC and EF literature. The review indicates considerable similarities and overlaps in the definitions, core components, and measurement of EC and EF. Differences between the 2 literatures seem to primarily reflect differences in research focus as influenced by each fields tradition rather than real differences in EC and EF as developmental constructs. Thus, developing an integrated theory of self-regulation encompassing the EC and EF perspectives is critical for reducing overlap and confusion in future research. The article provides a number of recommendations on how to integrate the theory and methodology of EC and EF in future research for (a) the components and organization of self-regulation, (b) the relation of self-regulation to childrens adaptive functions, (c) the neurological basis of self-regulation and its development, and (d) the development and evaluation of interventions targeting childrens self-regulation.
The early development of prosocial behavior has become a major topic in developmental psychology. Although findings on the early presence of prosocial tendencies in infants and toddlers have received much attention and the examination of their subsequent developmental pathways has fostered ample research, little is known about the mechanisms and motives that bring about the first emergence of these prosocial actions. In this article, I introduce and review theoretical approaches, then evaluate them in light of recent findings. I conclude that the forms of early prosocial behavior are related to different social‐cognitive mechanisms and underpinned by various motives.
Self‐regulatory skills are essential for school readiness and future achievement, but self‐regulation is a broad and multidimensional construct consisting of both behavioral and cognitive processes. Thus, researchers often study these processes from either a behavioral and temperament‐based approach or a cognitive/neural systems approach. The temperament‐based framework often focuses on effortful control, whereas the cognitive or neuroscience framework often focuses on executive functions. Although literatures on effortful control and executive functions come from different research traditions, the field needs to view them as complementary rather than incompatible to advance the understanding of the role of self‐regulation in learning and achievement across development. This article calls for bringing both bodies of research to the table when making decisions about educational policies and practices.
Abstract— This article reviews the literature on self‐regulation and the development of school readiness and academic competence in early childhood. It focuses on relations between the development of cognitive aspects of regulation—referred to as executive functions and defined as abilities used to regulate information and to organize thinking in goal‐directed activities—and the development of reactivity and regulation in stimulus‐driven emotion, attention, and physiological stress response systems. It examines a bidirectional model of cognition–emotion interaction in the development of self‐regulation in which top‐down executive control of thought and behavior develops in reciprocal and interactive relation to bottom‐up influences of emotion and stress reactivity. The bidirectional model is examined within the context of innovative preschool interventions designed to promote school readiness by promoting the development of self‐regulation.
Experiences of racial and ethnic discrimination pose significant threats to the development and well‐being of racial and ethnic minority children. Fortunately, not all youth who experience discrimination are susceptible to its harmful effects. Growing evidence points to several racial and ethnic factors that promote positive youth development and protect against the potentially damaging effects of racial and ethnic adversity. This article summarizes emerging research trends and conclusions regarding the “promotive” and “protective” effects of racial and ethnic identity, ethnic‐racial socialization, and cultural orientation, as well as some of the mechanisms that may account for their salutary properties. The article concludes with a brief discussion of important considerations and directions for the future study of racial and ethnic resilience processes in ethnic minority youth.
Developmental processes critical to the emergence of executive function (EF) play out across early childhooda period of rapid change and neural plasticity. The emergence of self-regulatory capacities is highly embedded in the many contexts or ecologies nested within a child's broader environment, among which the parent-child relationship assumes primary importance. However, only recently have early childhood researchers begun to investigate the contributions of parenting variables to EF. In this article, we review this emerging evidence as it pertains to (a) the parenting behaviors associated with EF, (b) the risk and protective factors that moderate these associations, and (c) the mechanisms through which parenting apparently operates on emerging EF. We also discuss directions for research on transactional parent-child dynamics, experimental tests of causation, and differential susceptibility to environmental influences.
After decades of research on early attachment relationships, questions remain concerning whether the evidence supports claims made by attachment theory, in particular, that variation in early attachment predicts children's developmental adaptation or maladaptation, and that characteristics of children's temperament does not determine attachment. To evaluate these claims, we conducted meta‐analyses on early attachment and children's social competence with peers, externalizing problems, internalizing symptoms, and temperament. In this article, we summarize our findings, which support attachment theory—though we note caveats. We also call for new measurement models, a focus on mediating and moderating mechanisms, and multisite replications.
The now‐classic article “What Is Temperament? Four Approaches” by H. H. Goldsmith et al. (1987) brought together originators of four prominent temperament theories—Rothbart, Thomas and Chess, Buss and Plomin, and Goldsmith—to address foundational questions about the nature of temperament. This article reviews what has been learned about the nature of temperament in the intervening 25 years, It begins with an updating of the 1987 consensus definition of temperament that integrates more complex current findings. Next, 4 “progeny” trained in the original temperament traditions assess contributions of their respective approaches. The article then poses essential questions for the next generation of research on the fundamentals of temperament, including its structure, links with personality traits, interaction with context, and change and continuity over time.
ABSTRACT— There is no universal guideline or rule of thumb for judging the practical importance or substantive significance of a standardized effect size estimate for an intervention. Instead, one must develop empirical benchmarks of comparison that reflect the nature of the intervention being evaluated, its target population, and the outcome measure or measures being used. This approach is applied to the assessment of effect size measures for educational interventions designed to improve student academic achievement. Three types of empirical benchmarks are illustrated: (a) normative expectations for growth over time in student achievement, (b) policy‐relevant gaps in student achievement by demographic group or school performance, and (c) effect size results from past research for similar interventions and target populations. The findings can be used to help assess educational interventions, and the process of doing so can provide guidelines for how to develop and use such benchmarks in other fields.
Humans share with other animals a system for thinking about numbers in an imprecise and intuitive way. The approximate number system ( ANS ) that underlies this thinking is present throughout the lifespan, is entirely nonverbal, and supports basic numerical computations like comparing, adding, and subtracting quantities. Humans, unlike other animals, also have a system for representing exact numbers. This linguistically mediated system is slowly mastered over the course of many years and provides the basis for most of our formal mathematical thought. A growing body of evidence suggests that the nonverbal ANS and the culturally invented system of exact numbers are fundamentally linked. In this article, we review evidence for this relation, describing how group and individual differences in the ANS correlate with and even predict formal math ability. In this way, we illustrate how a system of ancient core knowledge may serve as a foundation for more complex mathematical thought.
A fundamental trait found in most organisms is the ability to register, process, and respond to external factors. Although such environmental sensitivity is critical for adapting successfully to contextual conditions, individuals tend to differ in their sensitivity to the environment, with some more sensitive than others. Such differences in environmental sensitivity can be seen across many species, including humans. Although the notion of variability in environmental sensitivity is reflected indirectly in many traditional concepts of human psychology, several new frameworks address individual differences in environmental sensitivity more directly and from a perspective of developmental and evolutionary theory. In this article, I integrate these perspectives into a broad meta‐framework before proposing ideas for research on individual differences in environmental sensitivity. I also emphasize that inter‐individual variability in environmental sensitivity be considered in both theoretical and applied work.
Abstract— Digital games combining exercise with game play, known as exergames, can improve youths’ health status and provide social and academic benefits. Exergame play increases caloric expenditure, heart rate, and coordination. Psychosocial and cognitive impacts of exergame play may include increased self‐esteem, social interaction, motivation, attention, and visual–spatial skills. This article summarizes the literature on exergames, with a special emphasis on physical education courses and the potential of exergames to improve students’ physical health, as well as transfer effects that may benefit related physical, social, and academic outcomes.
Concern for others has been thought to emerge in the 2nd year of life (Hoffman, , , ). Three related ideas underlying this view assume that younger infants cannot distinguish between self and other, cannot experience concern for others, and show self‐distress because they misinterpret others' distress as their own. In this article, we review evidence contradicting these assumptions and propose an alternative view of early empathy development. Specifically, we argue that empathic concern does not depend on self‐reflective abilities and exists during the 1st year of life, manifesting young infants' fundamental social nature. We also touch on avenues for research.