Associations between maternal scaffolding and executive functioning in 3 and 4year olds born very low birth weight and normal birth weight

Jean Lowe, Sarah J. Erickson, Peggy MacLean, Susanne W. Duvall, Robin K. Ohls, Andrea F. Duncan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background: Deficits in executive function, including measures of working memory, inhibition and cognitive flexibility, have been documented in preschoolers born very low birth weight (VLBW) compared with preschoolers born normal birth weight (NBW). Maternal verbal scaffolding has been associated with positive outcomes for both at-risk and typically developing preschoolers. Aims: The purpose of this study was to examine associations between maternal verbal scaffolding, Verbal IQ (VIQ) and executive function measures in preschoolers born VLBW. Subjects: A total of 64 VLBW and 40 NBW preschoolers ranging in age from 3 1/2 to 4. years participated in the study. Outcome measures: VIQ was measured with the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence - Third Edition. Executive function tests included the Bear Dragon, Gift Delay Peek, Reverse Categorization and Dimensional Change Card Sort-Separated Dimensions. Study design: Maternal verbal scaffolding was coded during a videotaped play session. Associations between maternal verbal scaffolding and preschoolers' measures of VIQ and executive function were compared. Covariates included test age, maternal education, and gender. Results: Preschoolers born VLBW performed significantly worse on VIQ and all executive function measures compared to those born NBW. Maternal verbal scaffolding was associated with VIQ for VLBW preschoolers and Gift Delay Peek for the NBW group. Girls born VLBW outperformed boys born VLBW on VIQ and Bear Dragon. Conclusion: Integrating scaffolding skills training as part of parent-focused intervention may be both feasible and valuable for early verbal reasoning and EF development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)587-593
Number of pages7
JournalEarly Human Development
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2014


  • Child, preschool
  • Executive function
  • Infant, very low birth weight
  • Language
  • Parenting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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