Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Bridgett, David J.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Executive function (EF) is crucial to lifespan development and environmental factors have been found to impact its development. Previous research has shown that parenting can make meaningful impacts on children’s EF, with scaffolding receiving broad support. Scaffolding refers to an adult’s ability to guide a child through a challenging task without providing too much or too little support. However, many of the studies which have examined scaffolding have been done in preschool- and school-aged samples, with limited research conducted in younger samples. Very few studies have separately examined verbal and physical components of scaffolding, which may differentially contribute to children’s EFs during early childhood, given children’s limited verbal abilities at that time. The current study is the first study to separately examine the impact of mothers’ verbal and physical scaffolding on toddlers’ concurrent and longitudinal inhibitory control (IC). Using a sample of 179 mother-child dyads, the current study evaluated verbal and physical scaffolding, as well as children’s IC, at 18, 24, and 30 months of age. Post-hoc analyses also included three simplified models, one of which combined verbal and physical scaffolding into an overall scaffolding composite. Results indicate that verbal, physical, and overall scaffolding were not related to IC concurrently at 18, 24, or 30 months of age. No evidence was found that physical, verbal, or overall scaffolding at 18 months were related to subsequent IC; however, physical scaffolding and overall scaffolding at 24 months of age were separately found to longitudinally predict IC at 30 months at trend levels. The current study is the first to find longitudinal relationships between physical scaffolding and EF, and suggests that use of physical scaffolding techniques is important to the development of IC for children at very young ages. Broadly, these results provide evidence of environmental impacts on EF during toddlerhood, and suggest that these effects take time to develop. Implications of findings and future directions are discussed.


123 pages




Northern Illinois University

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