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Effects on executive functionsEdit

Researchers have looked at various aspects of parenting style which may affect the executive function of their children. In addition, various intervention studies have shown that executive function can be improved by environmental factors, suggesting a role for the environment.

The effect of various parenting factors on child executive function has been studied, including: sensitivity, "maternal autonomy support", parental use of words, family chaos and inconsistent parenting. "Maternal autonomy support" is a composite measure of scaffolding, supportive verbal behavior and flexibility of a parent to a child during a problem-solving task, and has been shown to have good inter-rater reliability. Annie Bernier and colleagues found some small correlations between maternal sensitivity (r=.26) and maternal autonomy support (r=.32) on executive tasks measuring conflict [1]. The effect of general cognitive development was partialled out of the correlation estimates, ruling out this as a possible explanatory factor, however the effect of social class could remain a viable mediating factor between better test performance and parenting style. A separate study showed that parental education and income did not mediate the effect of maternal autonomy support, however the child's vocabulary completely mediated the effect of maternal autonomy support on executive function [2].

Claire Hughes and Rosie Ensor have also showed that family chaos (r=-.2), inconsistent parenting (r=-.2) and parental scaffolding (r=.3) also correlated with improved executive function at age 4 compared to age 2, and with the effect of verbal ability at age 4 partialled out [3]. The first two variables were measured as self-reports from a parent, whereas as with other studies scaffolding was measured through behavioural ratings of a parent during a task with their child. The effect size of most of these factors is rather small (r<.40 normally), however most of these studies do not take into account the attenuating effect of measurement error on effect sizes, so it is difficult to compare to the proposed effect of genes on executive function.

=See alsoEdit


  1. Bernier, A. (2010) From External Regulation to Self-Regulation: Early Parenting Precursors of Young Children's Executive Functioning.
  2. Matte-Gagné, C. & Bernier, A. (2011) Prospective Relations between maternal autonomy support and child executive functioning: Investigating the mediating role of child language ability. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 110, 611-625.
  3. Hughes, C.H. & Ensor, R.A. (2009) How Do Families Help or Hinder the Emergence of Early Executive Function? New Directions in Child and Adolescent Development, 123, 35-50.

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