Preschool Verbal and Nonverbal Ability Mediate the Association Between Socioeconomic Status and School Performance

Sophie von Stumm*, Kaili Rimfeld, Philip S. Dale, Robert Plomin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We compared the extent to which the long-term influence of family socioeconomic status (SES) on children's school performance from age 7 through 16 years was mediated by their preschool verbal and nonverbal ability. In 661 British children, who completed 17 researcher-administered ability tests at age 4.5 years, SES correlated more strongly with verbal than nonverbal ability (.39 vs.26). Verbal ability mediated about half of the association between SES and school performance at age 7, while nonverbal ability accounted for a third of the link. Only SES, but not verbal or nonverbal ability, was associated with changes in school performance from age 7 to 16. We found that SES-related differences in school performance are only partly transmitted through children's preschool verbal abilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-714
Number of pages10
JournalChild Development
Issue number3
Early online date23 Mar 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Mar 2020

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