Fitzpatrick C, Archambaut I, Janosz M, Pagani LS. (2015). Preschool working memory forecasts high school dropout risk. Intelligence. 53, 160-165.
Individual differences in cognitive control contribute to academic success, engagement, and persistence toward long-term goal achievement. In a prior study, we found that preschool working memory, a component of cognitive control, predicts kindergarten academic competence and classroom engagement. In the present study, we assess whether preschool working memory contributes to high school dropout risk at age 13. Participants are 1824 children from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development who were individually assessed at ages 2.5 and 3.5 on working memory using the Imitation Sorting Task. Dropout risk, representing an index, comprised of grade retention history and concurrent school performance and engagement, was measured in spring of grade 7. We used logistic regression to estimate dropout risk from early childhood working memory while controlling for verbal and non-verbal IQ, socioeconomic status, and sex. A one point increase in children’s working memory skills predicted a 26% reduction in the odds of being in the high risk group for dropout. Higher socioeconomic status and intellectual skills also predicted lower high school dropout risk. Individual differences in preschool working memory may contribute to early detection of later high school dropout risk. These results suggest the importance of further developing early effective interventions aimed at strengthening cognitive control in children.