Assessment of Cognitive Abilities and Reading Comprehension Across School-Age Development: A Meta-Analysis

Date of Award

May 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Child and Family Studies


Donald B. Carter


Child development, Cognitive abilities, Reading comprehension

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship of specific cognitive abilities and reading comprehension across a variety of norm referenced tests that align with Cattell-Horn-Carroll (CHC) theory of cognitive abilities and integrative models of reading. Data from existing studies was analyzed by comparing the relationships of four specific cognitive abilities/processes; Comprehension-Knowledge (Gc), reading decoding, rapid automatic naming (RAN), and verbal short-term/working memory on the outcome of reading comprehension across two grade groups, 1-3 and 4-10. This synthesis of past research was conducted via meta-analysis of 67 independent samples from 50 studies conducted in the United States between 1998 and 2013 examining the correlations between the variables of interest. Meta-regression was conducted using the variable age as a predictor of effect size for both "Lower Order Processing" skills, comprised of reading decoding and RAN, and "Higher Order Processing" skills, comprised of Gc and short-term/working memory. Other potential moderating variables; socioeconomic status, educational status, and reading comprehension assessment type, were also examined. The results indicate overall large effect sizes (r = 0.55) for Gc and reading comprehension, as well as (r = 0.69) for reading decoding and reading comprehension. Results also indicate moderate effect sizes (r = 0.35) and (r = 0.41) for RAN and short-term/working memory and reading comprehension, respectively. When examining a variety of different standardized measures purporting to assess the same general constructs, partial support for integrative models of reading was found for age as a significant predictor for "Higher Order Processing skills" as increases in effect size of these processes and reading comprehension increased with age. The examination of potential moderator variables revealed that the type of response format of the reading comprehension measures was significantly different for "Lower Order Processing" skills when comparing cloze procedure and multiple-choice formats. Implications for applied practice are discussed.


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