Task persistence in kindergarten children: Disentangling age from schooling effects

Oeri, Niamh; Roebers, Claudia M. (2021). Task persistence in kindergarten children: Disentangling age from schooling effects. British journal of developmental psychology, 39(1), pp. 217-230. Wiley-Blackwell 10.1111/bjdp.12358

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Task persistence has been studied across different fields within developmental research.
As per definition, persistence is the ability to solve a task while ignoring distractors and
enduring the uncertainty how to achieve a goal (McCall, 1995). The majority of empirical
work has focused on the relationship between persistence and different child outcomes.
Research has shown that persistence is related not only to school readiness (Berhenke,
Miller, Brown, Seifer, & Dickstein, 2011) and academic skills (Andersson & Bergman,
2011; Berhenke et al., 2011; Mokrova, O’Brien, Calkins, Leerkes,&Marcovitch, 2013), but
also to social skills such as social competence and popularity (Eisenberg et al., 1997).
Overall, less work has been devoted to factors that possibly shape persistence
development. Although the ability to persist increases with age, it remains unknown
how environmental changes (such a formal school enrolment) affect persistence. Thus,
the aim of the present study was to disentangle environmental effects from age effects
with a cut-off research design.
With task persistence usually being measured by the length of time a child persists with
a task, longitudinal research has shown that persistence develops in infancy and shows
further progression throughout childhood (McDermott, Rikoon, & Fantuzzo, 2014;
Mokrova et al., 2013; Wang, Algina, Snyder, Cox, & Family Life Project Key Investigators,
2017). Research on factors shaping persistent behaviour can be grouped into two general
categories. Firstly, research on internal factors has shown that persistence is a stable
individual quality, influenced by internal factors such as temperament and cognitive
functions (Banerjee &Tamis-LeMonda, 2007; McCall, 1995). The second category focuses
on external factors affecting persistence development. Parenting qualities, such as
scaffolding and emotional supportive reinforcement are related to improvement in task
persistence (e.g., Lunkenheimer, Panlilio, Lobo, Olson, & Hamby, 2019; Mokrova,
O’Brien, Calkins, Leerkes, & Marcovitch, 2012; Prendergast & MacPhee, 2018). However,
external influences are not limited to parenting qualities as such. Rather, experimental
work has shown that children are more persistent if they can observe an adult model
persisting with a task (Leonard, Lee, & Schulz, 2017). Furthermore, data from an
observational study revealed that parental language affects persistence, too. Especially,
the use of praise language predicted persistence in the presence as well as in the absence
of the parent (Lucca, Horton, & Sommerville, 2019). Furthermore, not only parents but
also teachers can foster a child’s persistence. Research has shown that through teaching
behaviours such as, proximity, verbal reinforcement, and the promotion of task
procedures, preschoolers tend to persist longer in a task (Krantz & Scarth, 1979).
In the scheme of things, there is a large concentration on active adult behaviours
shaping persistence development during infancy, toddlerhood, and preschool years (e.g.,
Banerjee & Tamis-LeMonda, 2007; Krantz & Scarth, 1979; Lucca et al., 2019). Research on
environmental factors other than active adult behaviour is relatively scarce. School entry is
marked by a profound change in a child’s life. From 1 day to the next, there is a
tremendous increase in structured routines and expected independence (Rimm-Kaufman
& Pianta, 2000; Shiner, 1998). However, it remains largely unknown whether such a
change in environment affects persistence development too.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Developmental Psychology
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology

UniBE Contributor:

Oeri, Niamh Salome and Roebers, Claudia


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology








Irène Semling-Kirchmeier

Date Deposited:

24 Nov 2020 17:04

Last Modified:

09 Feb 2021 01:32

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:






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