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The role of executive functions in socioeconomic attainment gaps : results from a randomized controlled trial.

Blakey, Emma and Matthews, Danielle and Cragg, Lucy and Buck, Jessica and Cameron, David and Higgins, Ben and Pepper, Lisa and Ridley, Ellen and Sullivan, Emma and Carroll, Daniel J. (2020) 'The role of executive functions in socioeconomic attainment gaps : results from a randomized controlled trial.', Child development., 91 (5). pp. 1594-1614.


The socioeconomic attainment gap in mathematics starts early and increases over time. This study aimed to examine why this gap exists. Four‐year‐olds from diverse backgrounds were randomly allocated to a brief intervention designed to improve executive functions (N = 87) or to an active control group (N = 88). The study was preregistered and followed CONSORT guidelines. Executive functions and mathematical skills were measured at baseline, 1 week, 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year posttraining. Executive functions mediated the relation between socioeconomic status and mathematical skills. Children improved over training, but this did not transfer to untrained executive functions or mathematics. Executive functions may explain socioeconomic attainment gaps, but cognitive training directly targeting executive functions is not an effective way to narrow this gap.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is the accepted version of the following article: Blakey, E, Matthews, D, Cragg, L, Buck, J, Cameron, D, Higgins, B, Pepper, L, Ridley, E, Sullivan, E & Carroll, D.J. (2020). The Role of Executive Functions in Socioeconomic Attainment Gaps: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial. Child Development 91(5): 1594-1614 which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
Date accepted:03 September 2019
Date deposited:03 March 2020
Date of first online publication:06 February 2020
Date first made open access:06 February 2021

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