Infant attention skills are significantly related to preschool executive function at age three, according to a new study published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.
One hundred and fourteen children took part in the study. Jessica H. Kraybill and colleagues measured children’s attention at five months by using parental-report questionnaires and by assessing look duration and shifting rate while the children watched a video clip. Children’s single longest continuous look and the number of shifts of gaze at the video were recorded. Shorter looking durations were taken as an indication of better information processing, and high shift rates typically represent better attention. The performance on four different executive function tasks for these same children was then measured when they were three years old.
Results indicated that:
- Higher attention at five months was related to higher executive function at age three (effect size = + 0.05).
- Child gender and maternal education were uncorrelated with performance on the executive function’s tasks.
The authors suggested that the results supported the notion that attention span in infancy may serve as an early marker of later executive function.