Executive functions as mediators between socioeconomic status and academic performance in Chinese school-aged children

Kei Yan POON, Mimi S.H. HO, Kee Lee CHOU

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: It is well-documented that socioeconomic status (SES) and academic performance in school-aged children are closely related. However, little is known about how the three core executive functions (EFs), inhibition, working memory, and cognitive flexibility, mediate the association between the two. Moreover, most previous studies examined SES disparities in Western countries, how such disparities in EF and academic performance manifest in the Chinese context, where a distinctive EF profile and learning experience are observed, remains uncertain. The current study explored: (1) the mediating effects of the three core EFs in the association between SES and academic performance; and (2) the differences in EF and academic performance in three core subjects between Chinese children who are below and above the poverty line.

Methods: Of the 385 students sampled, 205 are in the low-SES group and 180 are in the middle-high SES group.

Results: A structural equation model showed that the SES-academic performance relationship was fully mediated by cognitive flexibility and working memory but not inhibition. Working memory was a much stronger mediator than cognitive flexibility, suggesting that working memory may correlate with childhood SES and academic performance in Chinese children. An analysis of covariance suggested that compared to the middle-high SES group, the low-SES group demonstrated poorer working memory and academic performance in all three subjects after controlling for age and IQ. Interestingly, children with low-SES were found to have better cognitive flexibility than children with middle-high SES.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that interventions targeting working memory may be an important area to improve children's academic performance. Copyright © 2022 The Author(s).
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere11121
JournalHeliyon
Volume8
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

Citation

Poon, K., Ho, M. S. H., & Chou, K.-L. (2022). Executive functions as mediators between socioeconomic status and academic performance in Chinese school-aged children. Heliyon, 8(10). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2022.e11121

Keywords

  • Academic performance
  • Cognitive disparities
  • Executive function
  • Poverty
  • Mediating factor

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