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New Insights on Child Development From Psychological Science

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Read about new insights on child development from Current Directions in Psychological Science and Psychological Science.

Activities and Programs That Improve Children’s Executive Functions

Adele Diamond

Executive functions (EFs) are critical for success in many different areas, such as school and friendships. The good news for those who have problems with EFs is that these skills can be improved. According to Diamond, those with the poorest EF skills gain the most from training programs, but the transfer effect of the skill improvement is very narrow. She also finds that the more successful programs are those that continually challenge children, tap into their interests, and test the limits of their abilities.

Published in the October 2012 issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science

Nonword-Repetition Ability Does Not Appear to Be a Causal Influence on Children’s Vocabulary Development

Monica Melby-Lervåg, Arne Lervåg, Solveig-Alma Halaas Lyster, Marianne Klem, Bente Hagtvet, and Charles Hulme

One influential theory of vocabulary learning proposes that the phonological loop of Baddeley’s working memory model underpins and constrains the learning of new words. To examine this theory, researchers tested 4-year-old children’s nonword-repetition ability — a measure of phonological loop capacity — and vocabulary twice a year for 4 years. The researchers found that although nonword-repetition ability and vocabulary size were moderately correlated, there was no causal evidence to link the two. They also discovered that there was no evidence for any influence of nonword repetition on the growth of vocabulary between the ages of 4 and 7 years. These findings raise questions about the role of the phonological loop in vocabulary learning.

Published in the October 2012 issue of Psychological Science

Maternal and Offspring Dopamine D4 Receptor Genotypes Interact to Influence Juvenile Impulsivity in Vervet Monkeys

Lynn A. Fairbanks, Baldwin M. Way, Sherry E. Breidenthal, Julia N. Bailey, and Matthew J. Jorgensen

Certain genetic polymorphisms of the dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) have been associated with ADHD and impulsivity. Researchers genotyped the DRD4 gene in juvenile vervet monkeys and their mothers and then evaluated the juveniles’ social impulsivity using an intruder challenge test. Juvenile vervets with a rare 5-repeat variant of the DRD4 gene were much more socially impulsive than were juveniles with a more common 6-repeat variant of the gene. Researchers found that the mother’s genotype moderated the relationship between juvenile genotype and social impulsivity, with DRD4 5-repeat variant juveniles of DRD4 5-repeat variant mothers acting the most socially impulsive. These results demonstrate the importance of considering maternal genotype in studies of impulsivity-related disorders.

Published in the October 2012 issue of Psychological Science