Little research has considered whether prenatal experience contributes to executive function (EF) development above and beyond postnatal experience. This study tests direct, mediated, and moderated associations between prenatal risk factors and preschool EF and IQ in a longitudinal sample of 1,292 children from the Family Life Project. A composite of prenatal risk factors (i.e., low birth weight, prematurity, maternal emotional problems, maternal prepregnancy obesity, and obstetric complications) significantly predicted EF and IQ at age 3, above quality of the postnatal environment. This relationship was indirect, mediated through infant general cognitive abilities. Quality of the postnatal home and child-care environments did not moderate the cascade model. These findings highlight the role of prenatal experience as a contributor to individual differences in cognitive development.
Prenatal risk predicts preschooler executive function
A cascade model