SRCD 2019 Biennial Conference
March 21-23, 2019
Title: Assessment of Executive Function at 24-Months in a Diverse, Low-Income Sample (Poster)
Session: Attention, Learning, Memory
Authors: Estefany Araniva, Kelsey Garcia, Diletta Mittone, Guadalupe Diaz, Natasha Cabrera, Stephanie Reich
Abstract: Executive function (EF), a set of cognitive skills that underlie virtually all cognitive and behavioral processes, is consistently related to social and cognitive outcomes (Baggetta & Alexander, 2016; Diamond, 2013). Toddlerhood is a time of rapid changes in cognitive development critical to EF. Behavioral assessment of EF during this period is essential to elucidating the development of EF; identifying the factors that predict it; and, examining its influence on developmental outcomes. Most behavioral assessments of toddlers’ EF have been developed with middle-class, monolingual European American samples (Bernier, Carlson, & Whipple, 2010). These assessments are typically language-heavy and so it is unclear whether they are appropriate for low-income children who generally have lower language skills than their wealthier peers. Assessments that focus more on EF skills and do not heavily depend on language are needed to accurately assess the EF skills of low-income children.
Aims of this study are: (1) Examine how existing assessments of EF in toddlerhood function in an ethnically and linguistically diverse sample. (2) Identify appropriate measures or adaptations that are linguistically appropriate and minimize the language burden to accurately measure EF.
The data for this study come from an ongoing study that examines the EF of children in low-income families. Data are collected in preschools when children are 21-32 months of age. Each child is assessed on a randomly assigned battery of five EF tasks in English or Spanish. Data collection will continue until 50 children have participated. Tasks include Baby Stroop (2 versions; Bernier et al., 2010; Hughes & Ensor, 2005), Shape Stroop (Kochanska et al., 2000), Spin the Pots (Hughes & Ensor, 2005), Hide the Pots (Bernier et al., 2010), and the Six Boxes Task (Mulder et al., 2014). Adapted version(s) of Snack Delay (Kochanska et al., 2000), Spin the Pots, and Hide the Pots are also included in the battery.
Preliminary results show that less than 50% (n = 15) of children tested thus far were unable to complete one version of Baby Stroop (Hughes & Ensor, 2005). Only four of the tasks administered had an average score greater than 1: Spin the Pots- 5 Pots, Spin the Pots- 8 Pots, Six Boxes, and Snack Delay. The remaining preliminary tasks had average scores below 1 and little variability. Tasks with higher, more variable scores were observed to have simple administration and are less language heavy.
Because EF assessments in two-year-olds have been mostly developed with middle class, monolingual children, these EF measures may not be appropriate for low-income or linguistically diverse samples. Researchers should consider the potential role of language in the administration of these tasks, which may disproportionately affect results. Preliminary results of the current study suggest that adaptations of available assessments may be a more appropriate way to assess the EF skills of children from low-income families.