Project title: Developing and Validating a Parent-Focused Intervention to Enhance the Executive Function Skills of Young Chinese Children from Low-Income Families


The project is funded by the Faculty Development Scheme (FDS) 2017/2018 of the Research Grants Council (RGC).

Principal Investigator: Dr Alex CHAN Chi-keung, Assistant Professor of the Department of Counselling and Psychology

Amount Awarded: HK$937,488

Dr Alex CHAN Chi-keung

In an interview with the Shue Yan Newsletter, Dr. Alex CHAN said executive functioning (EF) refers to a broad set of cognitive processes that enable individuals to regulate and organize their thoughts or actions to meet adaptive goals. EF skills grow rapidly in the preschool years and play a vital role in early childhood neurocognitive development and early school success.

Previous studies conducted in Western societies have found a socioeconomic disparity in children’s EF performance. Recently, the preliminary results of his previous FDS-funded research project showed a large socioeconomic disparity in two core EF skills – working memory, cognitive flexibility, and overall EF among young Chinese children in Hong Kong.

Dr. CHAN said in order to reduce this socioeconomic gap in EF development, his research aims to develop a parent-based EF-focused intervention to build supportive parenting that enhances the EF skills of young Chinese children from low-income families in Hong Kong as well as to investigate the effectiveness and the fidelity of implementation of this parent-based EF-focused intervention.

Although a few school-based EF-focused curricula have been shown to improve the EF skills of low-income and disadvantaged children in Western countries, Dr. CHAN said it may not be feasible for local kindergartens serving economically disadvantaged children to embed these schoolwide EF-focused interventions into their existing curricula. Also, these school-based interventions may not be culturally tailored to the psychoeducational needs of children from low-income families in Hong Kong. Another concern is that the effect of these school-based interventions may not have lasting impact without positive influences from the home environment to reinforce the EF skills.

“Recent research has shown that supportive parenting is positively associated with children’s EF development at home. However, Chinese parents from low-income families have lower scores on supportive parenting practices. Thus, it is important to develop an intensive and tailored parent-based EF-focused intervention programme to educate and to empower Chinese parents from low-income families in applying supportive parenting practices at their home-setting that can enhance the EF development of their young children.” Dr. CHAN said.

There will be two key components of Dr. CHAN’s parent-focused intervention: (1) four 2-hour weekly parent educational sessions about children’s EF development and supportive parenting practices along with the teaching of tangible EF-specific daily activities for parents to practice at home; (2) three 20-minute monthly individual parent review sessions to discuss their daily EF-boosting practice, to address their concerns, and to further build their efficacy and competence in supportive parenting.

“It is important to link the study of psychology with the community. I do hope this study will be a help to Hong Kong, especially the lower income families and their children.” Dr. CHAN said.

Source: Feb/Mar Combined Issue 2018

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