Sustained Attention in Infancy: A Foundation for the Development of Multiple Aspects of Self-Regulation for Children in Poverty

Brandes-Aitken, A., Braren, S., Swingler, M., Voegtline, K., & Blair, C.

From the abstract: "There are many avenues by which early life poverty relates to the development of school readiness. Few studies, however, have examined the extent to which sustained attention, a central component of self-regulation in infancy, mediates relations between poverty-related risk and cognitive and emotional self-regulation at school entry. To investigate longitudinal relations among poverty-related risk, sustained attention in infancy, and self-regulation prior to school entry, we analyzed data from the Family Life Project, a large prospective longitudinal sample (N = 1292) of children and their primary caregivers in predominantly low-income and nonurban communities. We used structural equation modeling to assess the extent to which a latent variable of infant sustained attention, measured in a naturalistic setting, mediated the associations between cumulative poverty-related risk and three domains of self-regulation. We constructed a latent variable of infant sustained attention composed of a measure of global sustained attention and a task-based sustained attention measure at 7 and 15 months of age. Results indicated that infant sustained attention was negatively associated with poverty-related risk and positively associated with a direct assessment of executive function abilities and teacher-reported effortful control and emotion regulation in pre-kindergarten. Mediation analysis indicated that the association between poverty-related risk and each self-regulation outcome was partially mediated by infant attention. These results provide support for a developmental model of self-regulation whereby attentional abilities in infancy act as a mechanism linking the effects of early-life socioeconomic adversity with multiple aspects of self-regulation in early childhood."

Related Project(s):
Family Life Project
Citation: Brandes-Aitken, A., Braren, S., Swingler, M., Voegtline, K., & Blair, C. (2019). Sustained attention in infancy: A foundation for the development of multiple aspects of self-regulation for children in poverty. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 184, 192-209.
DOI: 10.1016/j.jecp.2019.04.006