Revisiting the association between executive function and social competence : a process-oriented account of social and moral development

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jessica S. Caporaso (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Stuart Marcovitch

Abstract: The goal of the current dissertation study was to examine the longitudinal association between executive function (EF) and social competence (SC). Previous research has shown that SC in peer conflict situations is an important skill and that EF supports the development of SC during preschool. However, less is known about the mechanism by which EF supports SC development. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that not all children require the same level of EF to behave in a competent manner. The current study explored the possibility that children’s temperament or moral reasoning abilities differentiated between these children. The secondary goal of the study was to examine how EF and classroom behavior contributed to children’s moral development over the preschool year. To address these goals, 86 4- to 5-year-old children were tested at the beginning of the preschool year (T1) and 33 of these children (because of retention difficulties associated with COVID-19) were tested during the summer following the preschool year (T2). Participants completed a social problem solving task, a moral reasoning interview, and an EF task battery at both time points. Parents completed a temperament questionnaire at T1 and teachers reported on children’s classroom behavior at T2. Results revealed that T1 EF predicted SC, but only for participants high in temperamental surgency. T1 EF additionally predicted T2 moral reasoning, but in opposite directions depending on participants’ classroom prosocial behavior. The results broadly provide support for current theories regarding the development of both SC and moral reasoning during the preschool years.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2021
Executive function, Moral reasoning, Peer conflict, Preschool, Social competence, Temperament
Executive functions (Neuropsychology)
Social skills in children
Judgment in children

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