2023 Undergraduate Research Showcase


Impact of SES, Home Environment, and Parental Behaviors on Children’s Executive Functions

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Iryna Babik


Executive functions (EF) are neurocognitive processes that allow for goal-oriented behaviors, accommodate responses to new and ambiguous experiences, and regulate one’s ideas, feelings, and behaviors.1,2 EF consists of attention, cognitive flexibility, updating, and inhibition control. The plasticity of these systems is most substantial from three to five years old.2,3 Research has demonstrated that EF in preschool correlates to other significant developmental milestones throughout life (e.g., academic achievement, social cognitive skills, emotional regulation).4 Contrasted with parents from low SES families, parents from high SES families spend more time reading to their children, telling stories to them, and engaging in puzzle play with them.5 Parents from high SES families provide more books, learning resources, learning opportunities, and use private childcare.5, Research has shown that these actions increase children’s attention, working memory, and cognitive flexibility.5 Compared to monolingual children, bilingual children have increased inhibition, attention shifting, and cognitive flexibility.6,7 Regardless of racial, ethnic, or nationality group, bilingual children consistently demonstrate more advanced inhibitory control compared to monolingual children.8 Household disorganization negatively influences inhibitory control, attention shifting, and working memory.1,9 Household instability correlates to decreased effortful control and inhibition.1, 9 When parents engage in scaffolding and autonomy support in problem-solving scenarios, it improves children’s working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibition.2,10 Children experiencing sensitive and responsive caregiving exhibit better inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility.9,10,11 Contrastingly, parents’ regular engagement in negative controlling behaviors (e.g., being overly strict) leads to children’s decreases in inhibition.10,11


  1. Andrews, K., Atkinson, L., Harris, M., & Gonzalez, A. (2021a). Examining the effects of household chaos on child executive functions: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 147(1), 16-32. https://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000311
  2. Fay-Stammbach, T., Hawes, D. J., & Meredith, P. (2014). Parenting influences on executive function in early childhood: A review. Child Development Perspectives, 8(4), 258-264. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12095
  3. Yang, X., Chung, K. K. H., & McBride, C. (2019). Longitudinal contributions of executive functioning and visual-spatial skills to mathematics learning in young Chinese children. Educational Psychology, 39, 678-704. https://doi.org/10.1080/01443410.2018.1546831
  4. Baptista, J., Osório, A., Martins, E. C., Castiajo, P., Barreto, A. L., Mateus, V., Soares, I., & Martins, C. (2016). Maternal and paternal mental-state talk and executive function in preschool children. Social Development, 26(1), 129-145. https://doi.org/10.1111/sode.12183
  5. Conway, A., Waldfogel, J., & Wang, Y. (2019). Disparities in Kindergarteners’ executive functions at Kindergarten Entry: Relations with parenting and child care. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 48, 267-283. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2019.03.009
  6. Bialystok, E. (2010). Global-local and trail-making tasks by monolingual and bilingual children: Beyond inhibition. Developmental Psychology, 46(1), 93. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015466
  7. Bialystok, E., & Viswanathan, M. (2009). Components of executive control with advantages for bilingual children in two cultures. Cognition, 112(3), 494-500. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2009.06.014
  8. Roos, L. E., Beauchamp, K. G., Flannery, J., & Fisher, P. A. (2017). Cultural contributions to childhood executive function. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 8, 61.
  9. Andrews, K., Dunn, J. R., Prime, H., Duku, E., Atkinson, L., Tiwari, A., & Gonzalez, A. (2021b). Effects of household chaos and parental responsiveness on child executive functions: A novel, multi-method approach. BMC Psychology, 9(1), 147. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-021-00651-1
  10. Kao, K., Nayak, S., Doan, S. N., & Tarullo, A. R. (2018). Relations between parent EF and child EF: The role of socioeconomic status and parenting on executive functioning in early childhood. Translational Issues in Psychological Science, 4(2), 122-137. https://doi.org/10.1037/tps0000154
  11. Valcan, D. S., Davis, H., & Pino-Pasternak, D. (2018). Parental behaviours predicting early childhood executive functions: A meta-analysis. Educational Psychology Review, 30(3), 607-649. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-017-9411-9

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