A recent study has found a link between the ability of toddlers to control unwanted behaviors and academic achievement years later.
Researchers from the University of Warwick have used raisins to investigate the effects of premature birth on academic abilities at 8 years of age.
By using a simple test, the researchers were able assess children’s inhibitory control abilities at a young age. At the age of 20 months, toddlers were given a raisin that was positioned under a cup. The raisin was within arm’s reach of the children, however they were told that they must wait 1 minute before they could eat the raisin. Over 550 toddlers completed the task, consisting of children who were born prematurely, and children who were born at term.
The results of the study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, revealed that toddlers who were born prematurely were more likely to take the raisin before the time was up, when compared with the children who were born full-term. At 8 years of age the academic abilities of the children were also assessed. The researchers found that the children who were born prematurely and were less likely to display inhibitory behaviour, such as with the raisin task, had lower academic achievement when compared to the children who were born full-term.
The researchers concluded that gestational age was inversely associated with a reduction in the ability to control unwanted behaviours, lower attention regulation, ultimately resulting in lower academic achievement.
Jaekel, J, Erygit-Madzwamuse, S, Wolke, D. “Preterm Toddlers’ Inhibitory Control Abilities Predict Attention Regulation and Academic Achievement at Age 8 Years” The Journal of Pediatrics, Published Online November 19, 2015.
Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD