All Publications


  • Universal Screening of Hunger, Tiredness, and Sickness: Implications for Kindergarten Readiness and Racial/Ethnic Disparities EARLY EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT Steyer, L., Townley-Flores, C., Sulik, M. J., Obradovic, J. 2022
  • Executive Function Mediates the Association Between Cumulative Risk and Learning in Ghanaian Schoolchildren DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY Suntheimer, N. M., Wolf, S., Sulik, M. J., Avornyo, E., Obradovic, J. 2022

    Abstract

    Research on the associations among adversity, executive function (EF), and academic outcomes in low- and middle-income countries, where developmental risk factors are more prevalent and impoverished environments are more widespread than in high income countries, is sparse. This study examines the relations among cumulative risk, EF, and learning outcomes measured 2-years later in Ghanaian third- and fourth-graders (N = 371; 49% female), shedding light on underlying mechanisms of how risk can undermine learning. A cumulative risk index was created based on a set of four child-reported risk factors: home aggression, unsafe home neighborhood, hunger, and having worked for pay. Cumulative risk and EF were negatively correlated. Learning outcomes (literacy and math test scores) were negatively correlated with earlier measures of cumulative risk and positively correlated with earlier measures of EF. EF mediated the association between cumulative risk and later learning outcomes, accounting for 65.3% of the total effect for literacy and 100% for math. This mediated pathway was robust to controls for child and household sociodemographic characteristics. The findings contribute to a small evidence base on the mediating role of EF in linking adversity and learning outcomes in a global context. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

    View details for DOI 10.1037/dev0001372

    View details for Web of Science ID 000783958900001

    View details for PubMedID 35446075

  • Learning to Let Go: Parental Over-Engagement Predicts Poorer Self-Regulation in Kindergartners JOURNAL OF FAMILY PSYCHOLOGY Obradovic, J., Sulik, M. J., Shaffer, A. 2021; 35 (8): 1160-1170

    Abstract

    Responsive parenting and parental scaffolding have been shown to foster executive functions (EFs) and self-regulation skills in young children, but could too much parental directive engagement be counterproductive? To answer this question, we examined parental responses when children were demonstrating active on-task behaviors in a community sample of 102 dyads. We measured the time that parents spend actively guiding children's behavior relative to following the child's lead and created a measure of parental over-engagement to index the degree of active parental engagement via positive control/scaffolding behaviors. We hypothesized that parental over-engagement would negatively relate to children's self-regulation and EF skills because it creates fewer opportunities for children to practice self-regulation by leading dyadic interaction with their parents. We used an innovative State-Space Grid method to capture second-to-second changes in parental and child behaviors during a set of structured tasks. We examined the conceptual overlap of over-engagement with the global ratings of parenting, revealing that parental over-engagement was negatively correlated with global ratings of parental scaffolding and unrelated to global ratings of parental sensitivity. Next, we showed that parental over-engagement predicted lower levels of child hot EFs and observed self-regulation, controlling for age, parent education, family income, and global ratings of parenting. The predictive validity of over-engagement was unique to times when the child was actively engaged and was absent when the child was passively engaged. This study contributes to the discussion of how parents can support the development of self-regulation during the transition to elementary school. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

    View details for DOI 10.1037/fam0000838

    View details for Web of Science ID 000725825400016

    View details for PubMedID 33705178

  • Taking a few deep breaths significantly reduces children's physiological arousal in everyday settings: Results of a preregistered video intervention. Developmental psychobiology Obradovic, J., Sulik, M. J., Armstrong-Carter, E. 2021; 63 (8): e22214

    Abstract

    This preregistered, randomized field experiment tested the effectiveness of a brief deep breathing intervention on children's concurrent physiological arousal in naturalistic settings (N=342; Mage =7.48 years; 46% female; 53% Asian, 26% White; 21% other race/ethnicity). The treatment consisted of an animated video that introduced deep breathing as a self-regulation strategy and scaffolded the child in taking a few slow-paced breaths, while the control group watched an informational video featuring similar animated images. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) and heart rate (HR) were measured while children were sitting still (baseline) and subsequently while watching 1-min videos. Relative to baseline arousal, RSA increased and HR decreased only in response to the deep-breathing treatment video. Effects were larger in the second 30-s epoch of the video, which included most of the deep breathing practice. RSA fully mediated the intervention's effects on HR. By analyzing all children exposed to intervention video regardless of their engagement in the deep breathing practice (intention-to-treat design) and by using easily scalable treatment videos, the study identifies an effective and pragmatic approach to reducing children's physiological arousal in everyday, group settings. Implications for advancing applied developmental psychophysiological research are discussed.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/dev.22214

    View details for PubMedID 34813098

  • Early and concurrent home stimulation: Unique and indirect links with fine motor skills among 4-year-old children in rural Pakistan. Developmental psychology Armstrong-Carter, E., Sulik, M. J., Siyal, S., Yousafzai, A. K., Obradovic, J. 2021; 57 (6): 888-899

    Abstract

    Fine motor skills enable children to make precise and coordinated movements with their hands and support their ability to engage in everyday activities and learning experiences. In a longitudinal study of 1,058 4-year-old children in rural Pakistan (n = 488 girls), we examined how prior and concurrent levels of home stimulation relate to change in fine motor skills from ages 2 to 4 while controlling for family wealth, maternal education, number of siblings at birth, prior and concurrent measures of children's physical growth and food insecurity, and prior motor skills at age 2. Moreover, we tested whether the association between early home stimulation and subsequent fine motor skills was mediated by physical growth, food insecurity, motor skills at age 2, and concurrent home stimulation. Results revealed that home stimulation at 18 months was positively associated with change in fine motor skills from ages 2 to 4, over and above family socioeconomic resources. This association was mediated by physical growth, food insecurity and motor skills at age 2. In contrast to home stimulation at 18 months, home stimulation at age 4 was positively associated with concurrent motor skills at age 4 when controlling for all antecedent family factors, as well as prior and concurrent measures of physical growth and food insecurity, and prior motor skills at age 2. Findings suggest that the preschool period may be an important window of time when physically and cognitively stimulating experiences at home uniquely relate to variability in fine motor development. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

    View details for DOI 10.1037/dev0001185

    View details for PubMedID 34424007

  • Self-regulated behavior and parent-child co-regulation are associated with young children's physiological response to receiving critical adult feedback SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT Armstrong-Carter, E., Sulik, M. J., Obradovic, J. 2020

    View details for DOI 10.1111/sode.12498

    View details for Web of Science ID 000599077100001

  • Moving beyond executive functions: Challenge preference as a predictor of academic achievement in elementary school. Journal of experimental child psychology Sulik, M. J., Finch, J. E., Obradović, J. n. 2020; 198: 104883

    Abstract

    Intrinsic motivation and executive functions (EFs) have been independently studied as predictors of academic achievement in elementary school. The goal of this investigation was to understand how students' challenge preference (CP), an aspect of intrinsic motivation, is related to academic achievement while accounting for EFs as a confounding variable. Using data from a longitudinal study of 569 third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders (50% female), we tested students' self-reported CP as a predictor of mathematics and English language arts (ELA) achievement in multilevel models that controlled for school fixed effects and student demographic characteristics. CP was positively associated with mathematics and ELA over and above the set of covariates and EFs. While also controlling for prior achievement, CP continued to explain a small amount of unique variance in mathematics, but not in ELA. These results underscore the importance of including measures of students' intrinsic motivation, in addition to EFs, to obtain a comprehensive understanding of academic success.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jecp.2020.104883

    View details for PubMedID 32640382

  • PARENT-CHILD CO-REGULATION AND YOUNG CHILDREN'S PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSE TO EMOTIONAL CHALLENGE Armstrong-Carter, E., Obradovic, J., Sulik, M. WILEY. 2019: S15
  • Teachers' Perceptions of Students' Executive Functions: Disparities by Gender, Ethnicity, and ELL Status JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY Garcia, E. B., Sulik, M. J., Obradovic, J. 2019; 111 (5): 918–31

    View details for DOI 10.1037/edu0000308

    View details for Web of Science ID 000473023000010

  • The effects of peers’ executive functions on students’ executive functions in middle childhood AERA Open Finch, J. E., Garcia, E., Sulik, M., Obradović, J. 2019; 5 (1): 1-14

    View details for DOI 10.1177/2332858419829438

  • Teachers' rankings of children's executive functions: Validating a methodology for school-based data collection. Journal of experimental child psychology Sulik, M. J., Obradovic, J. 2018; 173: 136–54

    Abstract

    We developed a novel, vignette-based ranking procedure to simultaneously collect teacher-reported executive function (EF) data for all students in a classroom. This ranking measure is an improvement over existing Likert-type rating scales because it can be completed more quickly and with comparatively little effort by teachers. Data for this validation study were drawn from a large, school-based study of third, fourth, and fifth graders (N = 813 from 33 classrooms in eight schools) in which ranking data and direct assessments of EF were collected. Using a subsample of students for whom teachers' ratings of EF and school records data were also collected (N = 311), we demonstrated that teachers' rankings of EF showed high convergent validity with teachers' ratings of EF and that both teacher-reported measures showed similar convergent validity with direct assessments of EF and similar predictive validity with respect to students' scores on standardized English/language arts and math achievement tests. Using data from the larger sample (N = 813), we conducted a simulation study demonstrating that the impact of missing data on the association between the rankings and the direct assessments of EF is minimal. Based on these results, the ranking procedure is a methodological innovation that enables the collection of relatively high-quality teacher-reported EF data for all students in a classroom quickly and with minimal burden on teachers. This vignette-based assessment method could be adapted to other domains of non-academic skills. We discuss varied uses of the ranking method for researchers and practitioners.

    View details for PubMedID 29723753

  • Visual-Motor Integration, Executive Functions, and Academic Achievement: Concurrent and Longitudinal Relations in Late Elementary School EARLY EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT Sulik, M. J., Haft, S. L., Obradovic, J. 2018; 29 (7): 956–70
  • Parent and Child Trauma Symptoms During Child-Parent Psychotherapy: A Prospective Cohort Study of Dyadic Change. Journal of traumatic stress Hagan, M. J., Browne, D. T., Sulik, M., Ippen, C. G., Bush, N., Lieberman, A. F. 2017; 30 (6): 690-697

    Abstract

    Five randomized controlled trials have shown that child-parent psychotherapy (CPP) improves trauma symptoms in children. Less is known about parent symptoms or moderators of symptom change. In a sample of 199 parent (81% biological mother; 54% Latina/o) and child (aged 2 to 6 years; 52% male; 49% Latina/o) dyads who participated in an open treatment study of CPP, this study investigated whether parent and child symptoms similarly decreased during treatment and whether improvement was moderated by parent, child, and treatment characteristics. Parents completed baseline and posttreatment interviews regarding exposure to traumatic events, posttraumatic stress symptomatology (PTSS), and other mental health indices. Latent difference score analysis showed that PTSS significantly decreased by more than 0.5 SD for parents and children. The PTSS improvement in parents was associated with reductions in child avoidance, r = .19, p = .040, and hyperarousal, r = .33, p < .001. Girls showed a greater reduction than boys in reexperiencing, β = -.13, p = .018, and hyperarousal, β = -.20, p = .001. Contrary to expectations, parent and child improvement in PTSS was greater for those with fewer parental lifetime stressors, βrange = .15 to .33, and for those who participated in fewer treatment sessions, βrange = .15 to .21. The extent of improvement in parent PTSS varied based on clinician expertise, β = -.20, p = .009. Significant reductions in parent and child PTSS were observed during community-based treatment, with CPP and symptom improvement varying according to child, parent, and treatment characteristics.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/jts.22240

    View details for PubMedID 29131408

  • Introduction to the Special Section on Executive Functions and Externalizing Symptoms JOURNAL OF ABNORMAL CHILD PSYCHOLOGY Sulik, M. J. 2017; 45 (8): 1473–75

    View details for PubMedID 28990116

  • Assessing students' executive functions in the classroom: Validating a scalable group-based procedure Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology Obradović, J., Sulik, M. J., Finch, J. E., Tirado-Strayer, N. 2017
  • Executive Functions and Externalizing Symptoms: Common and Unique Associations Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology Sulik, M. J., Obradović, J. 2017; 45 (8): pp 1519–1522

    Abstract

    In discussing the four papers in this special issue, we provide our perspective on the authors' contributions and suggest directions for future research. First, we highlight the usefulness of the bi-factor model for investigating relations among specific aspects of executive functions (EFs) and externalizing symptoms. Next, we examine the role of EFs as a protective factor that can moderate the relation between risk factors - specifically, callous-unemotional behaviors - on externalizing symptoms. And finally, we address the contributions of innovative measurement approaches to understanding the relations between EFs and externalizing symptoms, using the state-space grid methodology as an example.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s10802-017-0348-8