The unique relevance of executive functions and self-regulation behaviors for understanding early childhood experiences and Preschoolers' outcomes in rural Pakistan.
Performance-based measures of children's executive functions (EFs) do not capture children's application of these skills during everyday emotionally-laden and socially-mediated interactions. The current study demonstrates the value of using assessor report of self-regulation behaviors (inhibitory control and positive affect/engagement) in addition to EF tasks when studying early childhood experiences and development in a rural lower-middle income country setting. In a sample of 1302 disadvantaged four-year-olds living in rural Pakistan, we found that directly assessed EFs were significantly related to assessor observations of children's inhibitory control and positive affect/engagement during a structured assessment protocol. However, EFs and two types of self-regulation behaviors demonstrated unique associations with children's (1) contextual experiences, as indexed by family socio-economic resources, participation in parenting interventions, and children's physical growth; and (2) age-salient developmental outcomes, as indexed by direct assessment of pre-academic skills and maternal report of prosocial behaviors and behavior problems. First, family wealth uniquely predicted only observed positive affect/engagement, whereas maternal education uniquely predicted only EFs. Second, children's antecedent linear growth was a significant predictor of both EFs and positive affect/engagement, but exposure to an enhanced nutrition intervention during the first two years of life and preschoolers' hair cortisol concentration were associated only with observed self-regulation behaviors. Finally, both EFs and observed positive affect/engagement uniquely predicted children's pre-academic skills. In contrast, only assessors' ratings of positive affect/engagement uniquely predicted maternal report of prosocial behaviors and only assessors' ratings of inhibitory control uniquely predicted maternal report of behavioral problems. Direct assessment of executive function skills was significantly related to assessor observations of young children's inhibitory control and self-regulation of positive affect and engagement. Children's antecedent linear growth was linked to both executive function skills and positive affect/engagement, whereas family wealth and nutrition intervention uniquely predicted only observed self-regulation. Higher levels of hair cortisol concentrations were related to greater levels of inhibitory control and positive affect/engagement in preschool girls, controlling for contextual covariates. Executive function skills and positive affect/engagement uniquely predicted preschoolers' pre-academic skills, but only assessors' observations uniquely predicted maternal report of prosocial behaviors and behavioral problems. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
View details for DOI 10.1111/desc.13271
View details for PubMedID 35561073