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Relations between executive functions and academic outcomes in elementary school children: A meta-analysis.

Jamie A. Spiegel, J. Marc Goodrich, Brittany M. Morris, Colleen M. Osborne, Christopher J. Lonigan

Abstract: The primary goal of this study was to examine developmental patterns among the relations between components of executive function (EF; working memory [WM], inhibitory control, shifting), and academic outcomes (reading, mathematics, language) in elementary school-age children. These relations were examined within the context of the development of EF and of academic skills utilizing an extension of the unity and diversity, intrinsic cognitive load, and dual process theories. Using meta-analytic methods, we summarized results from 299 studies from 293 articles/dissertations, representing 65,605 elementary school-age children (42-191 months old [M = 101 months, SD = 24.49 months]). Results indicated that accounting for general EF (by including the correlations among EF tasks in meta-analytic path models and accounting for effects between all three EF components and academic outcomes simultaneously) produced weaker relations between EF and academic skills than the bivariate relations which have been reported in prior meta-analytic reviews. However, although reduced, all relations between EF and academic outcomes remained significant throughout elementary school. Whereas WM was consistently moderately associated with reading, math, and oral language across development, the developmental trends for the relations between inhibitory control and shifting with academic outcomes varied based upon the academic skill examined. On the academic side, whereas the relations between reading and language skills with EF components varied throughout elementary school, few developmental changes were found in the relations between EF components and math skills across elementary school. Future directions and implications of findings for the conceptualization of the impact of EF on academics are discussed within the context of relevant theoretical models. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).
Keywords: children / models / elementary school / developmental / academic outcomes / inhibitory control / shifting

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