THE SUSTAINED IMPACT OF THE HEAD START REDI INTERVENTION ON CHILDREN’S EXECUTIVE FUNCTION TRAJECTORIES THROUGH THIRD GRADE

Open Access
Author:
Sasser, Tyler Roland
Graduate Program:
Psychology
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
June 10, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Karen Linn Bierman, Dissertation Advisor
  • Karen Linn Bierman, Committee Chair
  • Cynthia L Huang-Pollock, Committee Member
  • Kristin Buss, Committee Member
  • Janet Agnes Welsh, Outside Member
Keywords:
  • Head Start
  • Executive Function
  • Intervention
Abstract:
This study examined the sustained effects of the Head Start REDI (Research-based, Developmentally-Informed) intervention, a randomized controlled preschool preventive intervention, on growth in children’s executive function (EF) skills from preschool through middle childhood. Forty-four classrooms were randomly assigned to receive Head Start REDI, which employed enhanced social-emotional and language/emergent literacy curriculum and strategies, or “usual practice” Head Start. The 356 4-year-old children (25% Aftrican American; 17% Latino; 54% girls) in those classrooms were followed for five years into third grade. Children’s EF skills were assessed annually. Two approaches were used to examine the sustained impact of REDI on growth in EF: latent growth curve modeling and latent class growth analysis. Results of latent growth curve modeling demonstrated the normative developmental process of EF over time, but did not find main or interaction (by initial EF status) effects of the intervention beyond normative development. Latent class growth analysis identified three EF trajectory classes at approximately high, moderate, and low levels of EF over time. Tests revealed significant intervention effects within the high and low trajectory classes, suggesting that of the children with high and low EF, those who were in REDI classrooms had significantly better EF outcomes than those who were not. This is the first study to document that preschool preventive interventions can have lasting impacts on EF growth in low-income children. These findings demonstrate how enriching Head Start with evidence-based curriculum and strategies can foster EF skill development, which is critical for children’s broader academic and social-emotional success.