Executive Function in Low Birth Weight Preschoolers: The Moderating Effect of Parenting
Previous meta-analyses have identified moderate deficits in executive function (EF) in children born low birth weight (birth weight < 2500 g; LBW). The current study tests the joint contribution of LBW and parenting quality on trajectories of executive function in 1121 preschoolers (50 % boys). We estimated latent growth curve models to represent linear change in EF from 3 to 5 years of age, and tested the impact of LBW, parenting, and their interaction, on the estimated trajectory parameters. Although LBW was related to lower EF ability at all three time points (Cohen's d = 0.43-0.55), LBW children who experienced high levels of sensitive parenting in toddlerhood exhibited faster rates of improvement in EF, and were virtually indistinguishable from their normal birth weight peers by age 5. On the other hand, LBW children who experienced below average levels of sensitive parenting showed lasting deficits in EF ability. These findings suggest that sensitive parenting may buffer LBW children from lasting deficits in EF. Implications of these findings for future interventions are discussed.