Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Geraldine Lotze


Executive function (EF) and theory of mind (ToM) skills develop rapidly during the preschool years and have been found to directly and indirectly contribute to school readiness. Evidence indicates that EF may influence ToM development, though this relation may not be consistent across children from different backgrounds. Additionally, socioeconomic status (SES) has been shown to affect preschoolers’ EF, while the literature is mixed regarding the effects – if any – that SES may have on ToM development. Though the relation between EF and ToM appears robust across the literature, the possible effects of SES on this relation have yet to be fully explored. As children from low-SES homes are more likely to fall behind at the start of school, and this achievement gap is likely to widen through the school years, it is important to understand how the cognitive components that contribute to school readiness develop and are affected by SES so that we may work toward improving preschool education for children across all socioeconomic backgrounds. The primary purpose of the current study was to determine whether SES affected the relation between EF and ToM among urban preschool children (ages 3-5 years) from various SES backgrounds. In addition to examining the EF-ToM relation, relations among SES, general cognitive skills, EF, and ToM, as well as relations among age, EF, and ToM, were examined. Results from correlational and regression analyses indicated that SES was related to EF but not ToM, and that EF was not related to ToM after controlling for age. Inconsistent with the majority of previous findings, the results did not support the hypothesized link between EF and ToM. However, the findings from this study do add support to the large body of literature pertaining to the positive relation between SES and EF, and provide evidence that ToM may be relatively protected from the negative effects of low-SES among preschoolers. Results also support previous reports of large age-related changes in EF and ToM that occur during the preschool years. The implications for preschool development and education are discussed.


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