Let Me Choose: The Role of Choice in the Development of Executive Function Skills

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3 Scopus citations


Executive function (EF) skills, including working memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility, form the neurocognitive basis for conscious, goal-directed behavior and self-control. Young children are notoriously deficient in such skills, but EF improves most rapidly in the preschool period. Individual differences in EF are predictive of a host of important life outcomes, and recent advances in measurement and intervention are promising. Caregivers play a key role in the development of EF, particularly with respect to supporting the child’s autonomy. I take a closer look at agency and discuss theoretical and empirical support for the notion that giving children a sense of choice in how to act, think, and feel is essential for healthy EF skill development in early childhood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-227
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I am grateful to Phil Zelazo for providing insightful feedback on the manuscript and supporting my curiosity, to Annie Bernier and her lab for introducing me to the study of parenting, and to my students Alyssa Meuwissen, Rebecca Distefano, and Romulus Castelo, who have helped to develop these ideas and carry the torch.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • agency
  • autonomy
  • childhood development
  • choice
  • executive function
  • parenting
  • reflection
  • self-determination theory


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