This study examined physiological and neurocognitive correlates of teacherreported adaptive behavior in preschool among children in Head Start. Child physiology was assessed by cardiac vagal tone and was measured during a baseline period and during the administration of a mildly effortful cognitive task. Neurocognitive function was measured using two tasks of executive function, which require children to inhibit a prepotent response, while remembering and executing the rule for correct responding. Parents reported on aspects of child negative emotionality associated with fear and anger. Information on child receptive language ability was also collected. Although correlates of teacher-reported social competence and on-task behavior were expected to be similar, some evidence for differentiation was obtained. Results indicated that higher resting vagal tone, vagal increase during the administration of the cognitive task, and higher levels of fearful emotionality were related to higher ratings of social competence, after adjusting for levels of on-task behavior. In contrast, lower resting vagal tone, vagal suppression in response to the cognitive task, and higher levels of executive function were associated with higher teacher ratings of on-task behavior, adjusted for social competence. Implications are considered of findings for developmental relations between social and academic competence and adaptation to preschool among children in Head Start.
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