Less-Structured Time in Children's Daily Lives Predicts Self-Directed Executive Functioning

"Why do young children often forget (or outright refuse) to put on a coat before leaving the house on a snowy day? The choice to put on a jacket may seem frustratingly obvious to parents and older siblings, but this simple decision arises from a surprisingly complex interplay of behaviors...To accomplish each of these tasks, children must engage executive functions (EFs), the cognitive control processes that regulate thought and action in support of goal-directed behavior." 


"The more time that children spent in less-structured activities, the better their self-directed executive functioning. The opposite was true of structured activities, which predicted poorer self-directed executive functioning. These relationships were robust (holding across increasingly strict classifications of structured and less-structured time) and specific (time use did not predict externally-driven executive functioning). We discuss implications, caveats, and ways in which potential interpretations can be distinguished in future work, to advance an understanding of this fundamental aspect of growing up." 


The findings of this study support a relationship between the time children spend in less-structured and structured activities and the development of self-directed executive function.


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Barker, Jane E.; Semenov, Andrei D.; Michaelson, Laura; Provan, Lindsay S.; Snyder, Hannah R.; and Munakata, Yuko, "Less- Structured Time in Children's Daily Lives Predicts Self-Directed Executive Functioning" (2014). University Libraries Open Access Fund Supported Publications. 7.

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