This longitudinal study contributes to the growing literature on the predictive nature of the relation between executive function (EF) and theory of mind (ToM). A latent variable model was fit to the data acquired from 226 socioeconomically and racially diverse children (52% female) at 3, 4, and 5 years of age on a number of age-appropriate tasks designed to assess EF and ToM. After controlling for sex, income-to-needs, and receptive language ability, there was substantial stability within each construct as children aged. In addition, EF at 3 years predicted ToM at 4 years but ToM did not predict EF, replicating earlier results. This pattern also appeared from 4 to 5 years of age, suggesting that the developmental precedence of EF persists later in development. Implications of these findings are discussed in terms of contemporary cognitive development theories, as well as the relation between EF and social reasoning in general.
Keywords: Executive function; expression and emergence accounts; social reasoning; theory of mind.