Executive control goes to school: Implications of preschool executive performance for observed elementary classroom learning engagement

Timothy D. Nelson, Jennifer Mize Nelson, Tiffany D. James, Caron A.C. Clark, Katherine M. Kidwell, Kimberly Andrews Espy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


The transition to elementary school is accompanied by increasing demands for children to regulate their attention and behavior within the classroom setting. Executive control (EC) may be critical for meeting these demands; however, few studies have rigorously examined the association between EC and observed classroom behavior. This study examined EC in preschool (age 5 years 3 months) as a predictor of classroom learning engagement behaviors in first grade, using a battery of performance-based EC tasks and live classroom observations in a longitudinal sample of 313 children. Multilevel modeling results indicated that stronger EC predicted more focused engagement and fewer task management and competing responses, controlling for socioeconomic status, child sex, and age at observations. Results suggest that early EC may support subsequent classroom engagement behaviors that are critical for successful transition to elementary school and long-term learning trajectories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)836-844
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2017



  • Classroom behaviors
  • Competing responses
  • Executive control
  • Focused engagement
  • Task management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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