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versión On-line ISSN 1668-7027


BARREYRO, Juan Pablo et al. Narrative Comprehension in 5 and 6-Year-Old Children: Effects of Working Memory and Sustained Attention. Interdisciplinaria [online]. 2020, vol.37, n.1, pp.31-32. ISSN 1668-7027.

Text comprehension involves the construction of a coherent mental representation, which requires the person to build bridges between the new information and the background knowledge. In adults, establishing associations between information provided by the text is frequently an automatic skill, while for children it implies an important cognitive effort. This ability develops gradually over time and is connected to the generation of inferences. Working memory and the ability to sustain attention are considered two crucial processes for comprehension. The purpose of this study is to analyze the role of working memory and sustained attention in the comprehension of narratives in 5 and 6-year-old children. The study included 100 children of 5 and 6 years of age, of both sexes, that participated with the informed consent of their parents. Three oral texts were narrated to the children by a professional storyteller. For each text, six questions were asked: three of literal content and three of inferential content. Additionally, two working memory tasks were administered with one task of sustained attention. Three analyses were performed: First, a correlation analysis, to study the associations between comprehension, working memory, and sustained attention measures. Then, a comparison analysis of comprehension, working memory, and sustained attention scores between ages 5 and 6. And finally, a path analysis to study the role of age, sustained attention, and working memory on comprehension. Spearman Rho analyses in the whole sample show that literal comprehension had a significant correlation with forward digit span (Rho = .37, p < .001), backward digit span (Rho = .37, p < .001), and with the sustained attention task (Rho = -.37, p < .001). Inferences showed a significant correlation with forward digit span (Rho = .36, p < .001), backward digit span (Rho = .46, p < .001), and with the sustained attention task (Rho = -.37, p < .001). Sustained attention measures showed a significant correlation with forward digit span (Rho = -.34, p < .001) and with backward digit span (Rho = -.37, p < .001). The comparison analysis indicated significant differences between 5- and 6-year-olds in sustained attention measures (t(98) = 3.08, SEM = 5.41, p < .01), literal comprehension (t(98) = 4.05, SEM = 0.59, p < .001), and inferences (U = 750.50, z = 3.50, p < .001), but not in forward digit span (t(98) = 1.43, SEM = 0.34, p = .16) and backward digit span (U = 1043.50, z = 1.49, p = .14). A model of interrelation was proposed with age as independent variable, comprehension as dependent variable, and working memory and sustained attention as mediating variables, being comprehension, a latent factor formed by literal comprehension and inferences, and working memory another latent factor formed by forward digits and backward digits span. The path analysis showed a good fit of the data to the model (c2(5) = 1.93, p = .86; AGFI = .97, CFI = .99, TLI = .99, RMSEA = .00). The analysis showed that 6-year-olds perform better than 5-year-olds in literal and inferential information, and in sustained attention, but not in working memory. The correlation analyses, on the other hand, indicated that comprehension measures are associated to working memory and sustained attention scores and the path analysis indicated that both working memory and sustained attention play a role in comprehension. This suggests that, in 5 and 6-year-olds, age has an effect on the comprehension of general information and the ability to generate inferences, but this effect is mediated, in part, by the child's ability to sustain attention on the narration and to temporarily store the information received while listening to it.

Palabras clave : Comprehension; Narratives; Children; Working memory; Sustained attention..

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