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Title: Cognitive predictors of aggression, prosocial behaviour and peer acceptance across early childhood : the role of cool and hot executive function and theory of mind
Author: O'Toole, Sarah Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 7963 358X
Awarding Body: University of Greenwich
Current Institution: University of Greenwich
Date of Award: 2016
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Executive function (EF) and theory of mind (ToM) have been linked to children's social outcomes, including aggression, prosocial behaviour and peer acceptance. However, understanding of these relations is limited by the focus of research on broad behaviour categories and on cool-cognitive EF skills, to the neglect of hot-affective EF, and the lack of longitudinal studies. This research examined the links between EF, ToM and social outcomes across early childhood. 106 children (initially 3- to 6-years-old) were assessed at three time points, approximately 6 months apart, across 12 months. At each time point children completed tasks assessing their cool EF (inhibition, working memory, planning), hot EF (affective decision making, delay of gratification), ToM (first- and second-order false belief understanding) and verbal ability. Teacher reports of children's proactive and reactive, physical and relational aggression, prosocial behaviour and peer acceptance were obtained at each time point and Peer reports were gathered at Time 1. EF, including cool and hot skills, and ToM were more strongly associated with physical, rather than relational, aggression. However, the role of individual EFs varied across subtypes of aggression, supporting a multi-dimensional model of aggression that differentiates between functions and forms. Although initial EF and ToM did not predict change in social outcomes across early childhood, the role of these cognitive skills changed across time points. EF and ToM were more strongly associated with social outcomes towards the beginning of early childhood than towards the end. This may reflect the significant advances in EF and ToM that were evident across early childhood. Cool EF skills were consistently correlated across time points, but hot EF skills were not related at any of the time points, suggesting that separable cool and hot domains of EF may not be apparent in early childhood. The present research emphasised the importance of examining the link between cognition and behaviour within the context of development.
Supervisor: Monks, Claire ; Tsermentseli, Stella Sponsor: University of Greenwich
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology ; LB Theory and practice of education