Executive Function in Low Birth Weight Preschoolers: The Moderating Effect of Parenting

Marie Camerota, Michael T. Willoughby, Martha Cox, Mark T. Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Previous meta-analyses have identified moderate deficits in executive function (EF) in children born low birth weight (birth weight < 2500 g; LBW). The current study tests the joint contribution of LBW and parenting quality on trajectories of executive function in 1121 preschoolers (50 % boys). We estimated latent growth curve models to represent linear change in EF from 3 to 5 years of age, and tested the impact of LBW, parenting, and their interaction, on the estimated trajectory parameters. Although LBW was related to lower EF ability at all three time points (Cohen’s d = 0.43–0.55), LBW children who experienced high levels of sensitive parenting in toddlerhood exhibited faster rates of improvement in EF, and were virtually indistinguishable from their normal birth weight peers by age 5. On the other hand, LBW children who experienced below average levels of sensitive parenting showed lasting deficits in EF ability. These findings suggest that sensitive parenting may buffer LBW children from lasting deficits in EF. Implications of these findings for future interventions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1551-1562
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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