Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


First Advisor

Kathleen Moritz Rudasill

Second Advisor

Caron A.C. Clark

Date of this Version



Pérez-González, S. (2017). Examining the relationships between prenatal tobacco exposure, temperament, and cognitive ability in early childhood (Unpublished thesis). University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Educational Psychology, Under the Supervision of Professors Kathleen Moritz Rudasill and Caron A.C. Clark, Lincoln, Nebraska: December, 2017.

Copyright (c) 2017 Sam Pérez-González


Prenatal tobacco exposure (PTE) has been extensively researched and consistently associated with outcomes indicative of self-regulation deficits (e.g., ADHD, behavioral problems, and impaired cognitive function). Self-regulation is a multifaceted construct critical to children’s successful behavioral, emotional, and academic adjustment and involves the integration of a cognitive component (executive function) and a temperamental component (effortful control). Previous research suggests temperament may be a pathway through which PTE affects children’s future behavior and cognitive outcomes, but such studies have been limited to infancy and have not included measures of executive function. Thus, the current study had three aims: a) to examine clusters of temperament in a sample of PTE and unexposed children, b) to test whether PTE predicted these profiles, and c) to compare cluster performance across measures of cognitive ability and working memory. Participants were 250 (M age = 60.90 months) who completed the follow-up phase of a longitudinal study. Results from hierarchical and K-means clustering analyses of parent temperament ratings identified three distinct clusters with different self-regulation patterns: unregulated, average, and regulated. A univariate nominal regression analysis showed that children with PTE were over 2 times more likely to be classified in average or unregulated clusters than the regulated clusters and males were over 3 times more likely to be classified as such. Lastly, an ANOVA with multiple group comparisons showed all three clusters differed significantly from each other in cognitive ability and working memory. Performance followed the same pattern as cluster self-regulation scores: children in the unregulated cluster showed the lowest performance followed by those in the average cluster. Children in the regulated cluster showed the highest levels of cognitive performance. These findings suggest children with PTE, particularly boys, are at risk for poorer self-regulation at this critical age of transition to schooling, which could have implications for their school functioning and social adjustment.

Advisors: Kathleen Moritz Rudasill and Caron A.C. Clark