Phonological working memory and central executive function differ in children with typical development and dyslexia

Mary Alt, Annie Fox, Roy Levy, Tiffany P. Hogan, Nelson Cowan, Shelley Gray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The primary purpose of this study was to compare the working memory performance of monolingual English-speaking second-grade children with dyslexia (N = 82) to second-grade children with typical development (N = 167). Prior to making group comparisons, it is important to demonstrate invariance between working memory models in both groups or between-group comparisons would not be valid. Thus, we completed invariance testing using a model of working memory that had been validated for children with typical development (Gray et al., 2017) to see if it was valid for children with dyslexia. We tested three types of invariance: configural (does the model test the same constructs?), metric (are the factor loadings equivalent?), and scalar (are the item intercepts the same?). Group comparisons favoured the children with typical development across all three working memory factors. However, differences in the Focus-of-Attention/Visuospatial factor could be explained by group differences in non-verbal intelligence and language skills. In contrast, differences in the Phonological and Central Executive working memory factors remained, even after accounting for non-verbal intelligence and language. Results highlight the need for researchers and educators to attend not only to the phonological aspects of working memory in children with dyslexia, but also to central executive function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-39
Number of pages20
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • children
  • cognition
  • dyslexia
  • invariance
  • working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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