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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory

Dr. Kimberly Andrews Espy, Director


Preschool Problem Solving Study

School Follow-up (P2S3)

1. How do advanced cognitive skills, such as working memory, flexibility, problem solving, planning, and inhibitory control, develop in young children?

2. How does children's development of advanced cognitive abilities in preschool relate to their academic, behavioral, and social adjustment in elementary school?

Study Background

We are conducting a large ongoing study to look at the development of cognitive skills beginning in the preschool years and continuing into elementary school. We followed a group of children from ages 3 to 6 years and are now in the process of following the same children during grades 1 to 4. Initially, children completed a number of tasks adapted from developmental, cognitive, and behavioral neuroscience paradigms to measure executive control and its development in young children.

We are currently in the follow-up phase of the study. During this phase, we are examining how the development of children's executive control skills during the preschool years influences their academic and social adjustment to elementary school and their continued development of executive control. The new follow-up study involves participating children returning to the university for continued assessment, as well as gathering updated information about their family lives, academic skills, behavior, and social relationships. Importantly, school-based classroom observations are conducted to measure specifically how children respond to the classroom setting and teacher expectations. Additionally, questionnaires completed by teachers provide us input on how these children adjust both academically and behaviorally to elementary school.

Study findings will reveal how cognition is organized in typically developing children, and how the organization of these skills may change as children get older. We are interested in how these skills relate to many different aspects of children's daily life (e.g., their home environment, genetic factors, academic achievement, peer relationships, and everyday behavior in the home and at school). This line of investigation is funded by an R01grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to Dr. Espy.

Study Contact:
Dr. Jennifer Mize Nelson

Hispanic Preschool Study

Executive control (EC) refers to a collection of cognitive skills that are important for healthy child development, including socio-emotional competence and academic achievement. The purpose of the Hispanic Preschool Study is to establish a valid assessment of EC for Hispanic children who speak English and/or Spanish. We also are interested in examining the effects of bilingualism and language fluency on the assessment of EC in Hispanic children. In addition, we consider sociocultural factors specific to the experience of Hispanic families in the US as correlates of EC. These include, for example, family acculturation processes, ethnic identity, and endorsement of traditional cultural values.

This study is funded by a diversity supplement awarded from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to Marilu Martinez.

Study Contact:
Miriam Marilu Martinez