The Co-Occurring Development of Executive Function Skills and Receptive Vocabulary in Preschool-Aged Children: A Look at the Direction of the Developmental Pathways

Christina Weiland, M. Clara Barata, Hirokazu Yoshikawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Despite consensus in the developmental literature regarding the role of executive function (EF) skills in supporting the development of language skills during the preschool years, we know relatively little about the associations between EF skills, including all EF components, and vocabulary skills among preschool-aged children. In this paper, we address this gap by fitting structural equation models to examine the associations between beginning-of-preschool EF and end-of-preschool receptive vocabulary, as well as the association between beginning-of-preschool receptive vocabulary and end-of-preschool EF skills, to data from 400 preschool-aged children. We find that EF skills at the beginning of preschool are a significant predictor of receptive vocabulary skills at the end of preschool, controlling for receptive vocabulary at the beginning of preschool. However, receptive vocabulary skills at the beginning of preschool do not predict EF skills at the end of preschool, controlling for EF at the beginning of preschool. Our findings are suggestive of the important role EF plays in supporting growth in receptive vocabulary skills, above and beyond earlier vocabulary levels, and of the direction of the developmental pathway between EF and receptive vocabulary in the preschool years. The discussion highlights the need for further research in the optimal approach for supporting children's EF skill development in preschool.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-21
Number of pages18
JournalInfant and Child Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014



  • Early childhood
  • Executive function
  • Preschool
  • Vocabulary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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