A new study has found that children pick up executive abilities at a young age and learn skills such as planning, controlling attention and task monitoring by the time they are four and a half years old.
Findings of researchers from the universities of Chicago and North Carolina-Chapel Hill show for the first time that children's executive function has a role in the development of complicated analytical thinking.
These skills at school entry are related to higher than average reasoning skills in adolescence.
Parents and teachers may be able to help encourage development of executive function by having youngsters help plan activities, learn to stop, think, and then take action, or engage in pretend play, says Lindsey Richland, assistant professor of comparative human development at the University of Chicago, who led the study.
Although important to a child's education, "little is known about the cognitive mechanisms underlying children's development of the capacity to engage in complex forms of reasoning," adds Richland, the journal Psychological Science reports.
The new study that Richland co-authored with Margaret Burchinal from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute of North Carolina University, follows the development of complex reasoning in children from before the time they go to school until they are 15, according to a Chicago and North Carolina statement.
Richland and Burchinal studied a database of 1,364 children who were part of the Early Child Care and Youth Development study from birth through age 15.