Beware of adult cognition of children in early childhood
A range of factors influence adulthood success – and predict negative outcomes – for children with poor cognitive skills in early childhood. In addition to access to higher quality early childhood interventions, one promising path to better outcomes may be the development of the cognitive functioning of the child from 1st through 3rd grade.
In a new study of the effects of cognitive development in later childhood on adult learning and intelligence in adolescence, MindShift analyzed data from a nationally representative study of preschool children in Great Britain. The study included a third-grader cohort who, on average, were 2.7 years old when their first cognitive assessments were done.
The researchers also used this data to look at adult characteristics that may be more closely related to adolescent cognitive functioning and intelligence than parents or teachers. They focused on vocabulary, vocabulary instruction, sustained skills in reading, handwriting, communication, and math. Childhood interaction from a child’s home, preschool classroom, and early childhood experiences with parents also played a role.
These early life interventions did contribute to a number of differences in the adult populations examined:
Learner-teacher correlation by age-group was weak, with correlations holding with the ratings given by teachers and parents. Specifically, the five key early years that influenced young people’s abilities in reading, writing, communicating, mathematics, and the number of times they used both the word and letter “x” all had correlations with the language arts assessment, but not reading, spelling, math, or interaction with teachers.
Self-rated scores for IQ varied between domains, and were not particularly large, but the researchers found IQ did correlate with whether or not schoolwork was assessed and the results assessed. Specifically, the least likely areas for the youngest child to be able to read were also those with the lowest language skills, such as arithmetic, handwriting, and spelling.
While these later cognitive development assessments were certainly beneficial, further studies are needed in the field of children’s cognitive development and adult life outcomes. Our study focused on one institution that did this type of work, and it’s far from the only one, or even the only one that does this kind of work. It is important to note that most studies are done on children younger than 3 years of age, and that these early life experiences are unlikely to lead to a correlation of cognitive development in later childhood, as found in this study.
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