The role of parenting for the development of executive function during early childhood

  • Miguel Cordero

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The role of parents in the formation of cognitive and social emotional skills in early childhood (EC) has been a focus of study within the history of developmental science. This study explores the relationship between three parenting styles (authoritarian, authoritative and permissive) and child performance in three tasks measuring components of executive function (EF): cognitive flexibility (CF), inhibitory control (IC), and sustained attention (SA) within the context of a large parenting intervention trial in Chile.
Results: This study provides consistent evidence that an authoritative parenting style is positively associated with child CF, IC, but not SA. Also, I report evidence that authoritarian attitudes at baseline are positively associated with performance in the CF task at follow-up and with CF progress between both time measures. In contrast, permissive attitudes were inconsistently associated with EF, where associations were only seen in the follow-up. I found poor evidence that a parenting intervention improved child EF. However, the associations observed in the context of an instrumental variable (IV) analysis where I modelled change in parenting through the intervention (not just being allocated to the intervention), showings that the change in authoritative parenting was associated with EF on the treated population. I conclude that it is possible that authoritarian, as well as authoritative attitudes, under different circumstances, might protect EF development during EC in low-income families in Chile. This protective effect would possibly be driven by common dimensions of structure, demandingness and discipline related with both types of parenting.
Date of Award25 Sep 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorRebecca M Pearson (Supervisor) & Jonathan Evans (Supervisor)


  • Executive function
  • Parenting
  • Cognitive development
  • Experiment

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