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ABSTRACTTheory of mind describes the ability to engage in perspective-taking, infer mental states, and predict intentions, behavior, and actions in others. Theory of mind performance is associated with foundational cognitive and socioemotional skills, including verbal ability (receptive and expressive vocabulary), executive function (inhibitory control and working memory), and emotion knowledge. In a sample of 354 children from low-income households, theory of mind and foundational skills were directly assessed before and after kindergarten. Results indicate emotion knowledge, inhibitory control, and expressive language predicted improvement in theory of mind. Expressive language also served as a moderator such that children with low expressive language failed to improve in theory of mind regardless of initial theory of mind performance.
Abstract Theory of mind describes the ability to engage in perspective-taking, understand intentions, and predict actions and emotions. Theory of mind typically achieves major developmental milestones around age of 5, coinciding with the transition to kindergarten, and is associated with a verbal ability (receptive and expressive vocabulary), executive function (inhibitory control and working memory), and emotion knowledge. Less is known about how the theory of mind operates in low-income samples, where foundational skills (i.e., verbal ability, executive function, and emotion knowledge) tend to be delayed. Applied to classrooms, the theory of mind may support the transition to kindergarten by facilitating relationships, learning-related behaviors, and socioemotional skills that require perspective-taking. In a low-income sample of 140 kindergarteners across 21 classrooms, the theory of mind was directly associated with teacher-ratings of social and emotional skills, behavioral and academic adjustment, and closeness within the teacher?child relationship, beyond the contribution of foundational skills. Moreover, verbal ability, executive function, and emotion knowledge were indirectly associated with outcomes through the theory of mind. Findings suggest the theory of mind facilitates the transition to kindergarten and is built upon a complex set of foundational skills.