Cognitive Stimulation as a Mechanism Linking Socioeconomic Status With Executive Function: A Longitudinal Investigation

Maya L. Rosen, University of Washington
McKenzie P. Hagen, University of Washington
Lucy A. Lurie, University of Washington
Zoe E. Miles, University of Washington
Margaret A. Sheridan, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Andrew N. Meltzoff, University of Washington
Katie A. McLaughlin, Harvard University

Peer reviewed accepted manuscript.


Executive functions (EF), including working memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility, vary as a function of socioeconomic status (SES), with children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds having poorer performance than their higher SES peers. Using observational methods, we investigated cognitive stimulation in the home as a mechanism linking SES with EF. In a sample of 101 children aged 60–75 months, cognitive stimulation fully mediated SES-related differences in EF. Critically, cognitive stimulation was positively associated with the development of inhibition and cognitive flexibility across an 18-month follow-up period. Furthermore, EF at T1 explained SES-related differences in academic achievement at T2. Early cognitive stimulation—a modifiable factor—may be a desirable target for interventions designed to ameliorate SES-related differences in cognitive development and academic achievement.