Johansson, M., Marciszko, C., Gredebäck, G., Nyström, P., & Bohlin, G. (2015) Sustained attention in infancy as a longitudinal predictor of self-regulatory functions Infant Behavior and Development, 41, 1-11

Previous literature suggests that attention processes such as sustained attention would constitute a developmental foundation for the self-regulatory functions executive functioning and effortful control (e.g., Garon, Bryson, & Smith, 2008: Rothbart, Derryberry, & Posner, 1994). Our main aim was to test this hypothesis by studying whether sustained attention at age 1 year can predict individual differences in self-regulatory functions at age 2 years. Longitudinal data from 66 infants and their parents were included in the study. Sustained attention was assessed during free play at age 1 year: executive functioning, measured using an eye-tracking version of the A-not-B task, and effortful control, measured using parental ratings, were assessed at both age 1 and age 2 years. The results did support a longitudinal prediction of individual differences in 2-year-olds’ self-regulatory functions as a function of sustained attention at age 1 year. We also found significant improvement in both executive functioning and effortful control over time, and the two self-regulatory constructs were related in toddlerhood but not in infancy. The study helps increase our understanding of the early development of self-regulatory functions necessary for identifying developmental risks and, in the future, for developing new interventions.