Date of Award

Summer 8-18-2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Joel Meyers, Ph.D. - Chair

Second Advisor

Scott L. Decker, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Phill Gagne, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Andrew Roach, Ph.D.


The purpose of this research was to investigate the relationship between language skills and the development of executive functions in a normative preschool population over a 3 year period. Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) was used to examine models of individual change and correlates of change in the growth of 7 executive skills in a sample of 39 children ages 3 to 5. Results of the analyses revealed significant positive linear growth trajectories over time for 5 of the 7 executive skills measured (p < .05). Maturation alone accounted for a significant amount of variance in nonverbal working memory (Block Span, Stanford Binet-5th Edition (SB-5)) and problem solving skills (Tower, NEPSY). Growth in verbal working memory (Memory for Sentences, SB-5) was predicted uniquely by initial receptive vocabulary (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test–3rd Edition) and oral language (Comprehensive Assessment of Spoken Language) skills, even after considering age. Language variables did not predict rate of change in the 6 other executive skills measured. Thus, the pattern of results extends previous cross-sectional research by documenting that executive skills grow systematically with age in individual children during the preschool period. Furthermore, results suggest that during the preschool years, language ability is an important predictor of growth in working memory for verbal information—a capacity associated both theoretically and empirically with the transition from other- to self-regulation in early childhood. Findings are discussed in relationship to the literature on school readiness and the development of self-regulation. Implications for future research and practice are also suggested.