Development and Initial Validation of a Scale Measuring Young Children’s Awareness of Trait Cognitive Control
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Success in early childhood requires fluent cognitive control functioning and the ability to select and execute effective regulatory strategies across many new contexts including academics and social interactions. Cognitive control functioning has been positively linked to a host of important short- and long-term outcomes across many diverse domains. A wealth of research on self-efficacy, self-concept, and implicit theories of cognitive processes demonstrates that individuals’ self-perceptions of ability and cognition substantially influence important behavioral outcomes, namely academic performance. Investigations into the mechanisms underlying these links suggest that self-perceptions of abilities impact academic outcomes by differentially influencing the self-regulated learning behaviors that individuals choose to engage. Despite this knowledge, and evidence suggesting that capturing such self-perceptions from young children is highly plausible, the extent to which young children can reflect and report on their own cognitive control abilities has not been investigated. In this dissertation, I develop and validate an interview scale that aims to probe children’s self-perceptions of their cognitive control abilities using the Berkeley Puppet Interview administration format. Scale analyses of interviews from 125 children aged 4- through 7-years suggest the scale elicits responses that cluster around two correlated, but separable components: Self- and Emotion-Regulation and Attention Modulation. Responses on these two subscales were reliable, showing moderate to strong internal consistency. Subscale scores were strongly correlated with parent reports of similar skills, and self-reports of related constructs, but showed no such relations with behavioral tasks measuring executive functioning abilities. The findings suggest that young children are capable of reflecting and reporting on their own cognitive control skills, and that these skills correspond to parent reports of similar abilities. Further scale refinement and targeted validation efforts are called for; however, these encouraging early results suggest the new scale holds potential to play a key role in uncovering ways in which children’s self-perceptions influence their learning success.