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Evaluation of executive functioning in a population of Uruguayan children of an early school age belonging to different socioeconomic levels

Carina Aldecosea

  • Montevideo,
  • Uruguay
  • Carina Aldecosea ¹
  • , Melina Vladisauskas ²
  • , Andrea P. Goldin ²
  • , Veronica Nin ¹
  • 1 Centro de Investigación Básica en Psicología, Facultad de Psicología, Uruguay
  • 2 Laboratorio de Neurociencia, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella. Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)

The development of the cognitive processes that allow the proper regulation of behavior and emotions shows a strong association with the child’s socioeconomic status (SES), which in turn influences social and educational outcomes from a very early age. Basic executive functions (EFs) are a set of superior cognitive processes that underlie flexibility in a goal-directed behavior. They encompass working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility, functions involved in higher EFs like planning.
Here we continue the line of work carried out by our laboratory on the evaluation of executive functions by assessing a group of children with an expanded age range. We aimed to assess whether growth impacts the performance in EFs tasks in a SES dependent way. We conducted a transversal study with a sample of 278 children from 4 to 7.5 years old that attend public educational centers. We found that for working memory (assessed with Corsi blocks) and planning (assessed with Tower of London), the impact of SES varies with age. In contrast, SES affects inhibitory control abilities (measured with the incongruent block of the flower-heart task) in every age studied. Even more, a global EF measure (the mix block of the flower-heart task) does not show an association either with age nor SES.
These results underscore the importance of understanding how age and SES interact to produce developmental outcomes, and not to assume an homogeneous adverse effect of poverty on development.