The influence of maternal sensitivity and maternal stimulation on later development of executive functioning via structural equation modeling
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This study investigated the relations between early maternal behaviors, maternal sensitivity and maternal stimulation, and the later development of executive function. It was hypothesized that maternal behaviors could influence the development of executive function either directly or indirectly by influencing a child's language or attentional abilities. This study attempted to model these relationships using archival data from phase I and phase II from the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD). Structural equation modeling was used with data from 470 participants on measures of SES, maternal sensitivity, maternal stimulation, language, attention, and executive function. From existing literature three nested models were proposed to examine how maternal behaviors influenced the later development of executive function. While there were significant differences between the three proposed models it is important to recognize the overall poor fit of the models. The differences between the models suggest that maternal sensitivity and maternal stimulation do not directly influence executive functioning in the 1st grade but instead influence the development of executive functioning through assisting the child in development of attention and language skills. Interestingly, the model also indicated verbal ability played an important role in the development of executive function. Secondly the study attempted to examine multi-group differences in the proposed models (Caucasian and African American). While small sample size precluded this analysis, examining the effect size differences between the two groups indicated that within the current sample ethnicity, language ability, and SES are deeply entangled. The results of the current study highlight the potential role of language ability in the development of executive function and the need for cleaner measures of executive function that are developmentally appropriate.