Family demographic profiles and their relationship with the quality of executive functioning subcomponents in kindergarten

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Abstract

Executive functioning (EF), needed for goal-oriented behaviour, thoughts, and emotions, is important for various life domains. This study examined the relationship between family demographics and EF subcomponents. A kindergarten sample was tested on subcomponents of working memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility. Parents provided information on demographic variables. For 78 children both EF and demographic data were available. First, demographic profiles were identified within the sample. Two profiles were found: A low-risk profile of mainly two-biological-parent, high-income families with a highly educated mother who did not smoke during pregnancy and a high-risk profile of low-income families with a young, low-educated mother who more often smoked during pregnancy. Second, children with different demographic profiles were compared on EF subcomponents. Results indicate differential relations between family demographics and EF subcomponents: Whereas for most EF subcomponents no association with family demographics was found, high-risk children performed better on response shifting and tended to perform worse on verbal memory than low-risk children. Parenting stress decreased performance only for high-risk children. Although this study found limited impact of family demographics for EF, further longitudinal research can provide nuanced insights about which factors influence specific EF subcomponents during which developmental periods and guide targeted prevention of EF difficulties.

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