Early child stimulation and attention-related executive functions at 11 years: 2004 Pelotas birth cohort study

Alicia Matijasevich, Rebecca M. Pearson, Christian Loret de Mola, Jessica Mayumi Maruyama, Carolina La Maison, Tiago N. Munhoz, Fernando C. Barros, Iná S. Santos, Aluísio J. D Barros

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3 Scopus citations


The study aimed to explore associations between socioeconomic position (SEP) indicators, early child stimulation (ECS) and attention-related executive functions (EF) at age 11. Children born in Pelotas, Brazil, in 2004, were recruited to a birth cohort (n = 4231, non-response rate at recruitment ' 1%) and followed from birth to age 11. SEP variables were family income and maternal schooling. At the 24 and 48-month follow-ups, five markers of cognitive stimulation and social interaction were recorded and positive answers were summed to a score ranging from 0 to 5. At age 11, attentional-switching and control, and selective-attention were assessed using the adapted Test-of-Everyday-Attention-for-Children (TEA-Ch). We used multivariable logistic regression models and mediation analysis to investigate potential mediator role of ECS in the association between SEP and EF. 3106 children were included in the analyses. Less than 7% of the more stimulated individuals showed low performance in attention-related EFs at age 11 compared with almost 20% in the bottom groups of stimulation. Higher child stimulation scores were associated with fewer impairments in attentional-control (OR adj 0.84; CI 95% 0.72–0.98) and attentional-switching (OR adj 0.85; CI 95% 0.73–0.99). Mediation analysis suggested that for attentional-switching, ECS mediated almost 20% of the total protective effect of maternal schooling for impaired EF. Assuming causal relationships, if maximum stimulation was provided to all children, the advantageous effect of maternal schooling on EF would be reduced by 47%. ECS may represent a protective factor for cognitive impairments in childhood and can be easily implemented at relatively low cost.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1265-1276
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive impairments
  • Cohort
  • Early adolescence
  • Mediation analysis
  • Stimulation


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