Development and Psychopathology

Research Article

Executive functions and school readiness intervention: Impact, moderation, and mediation in the Head Start REDI program

Karen L. Biermana1 c1, Robert L. Nixa1, Mark T. Greenberga1, Clancy Blaira1 and Celene E. Domitrovicha1

a1 Pennsylvania State University


Despite their potentially central role in fostering school readiness, executive function (EF) skills have received little explicit attention in the design and evaluation of school readiness interventions for socioeconomically disadvantaged children. The present study examined a set of five EF measures in the context of a randomized-controlled trial of a research-based intervention integrated into Head Start programs (Head Start REDI). Three hundred fifty-six 4-year-old children (17% Hispanic, 25% African American; 54% girls) were followed over the course of the prekindergarten year. Initial EF predicted gains in cognitive and social–emotional skills and moderated the impact of the Head Start REDI intervention on some outcomes. The REDI intervention promoted gains on two EF measures, which partially mediated intervention effects on school readiness. We discuss the importance of further study of the neurobiological bases of school readiness, the implications for intervention design, and the value of incorporating markers of neurobiological processes into school readiness interventions.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Karen Bierman, Pennsylvania State University, 251 Moore Building, University Park, PA 16802; E-mail:


This project was supported by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grants HD046064 and HD43763. We appreciate the teachers, students, parents, and program personnel who served as partners in this project in the Huntingdon, Blair, and York County Head Start Programs of Pennsylvania. In addition, this work reflects the particular efforts and talents of Gloria Rhule, Harriet Darling, Julia Gest, the REDI intervention staff, and the entire REDI research team.