Unpacking the Unique Relationship Between Set for Variability and Word Reading Development: Examining Word and Child-Level Predictors of Performance

Ashley A. Edwards*, Laura M. Steacy, Noam Siegelman, Valeria M. Rigobon, Devin M. Kearns, Jay G. Rueckl, Donald L. Compton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Set for variability (SfV) is an oral language task that requires an individual to disambiguate the mismatch between the decoded form of an irregular word and its actual lexical pronunciation. For example, in the task, the word wasp is pronounced to rhyme with clasp (i.e. /wæsp/), and the individual must recognize the actual pronunciation of the word to be /wɒsp/. SfV has been shown to be a significant predictor of both item-specific and general word reading variance above and beyond that associated with phonemic awareness skill, letter-sound knowledge, and vocabulary skill. However, very little is known about the child characteristics and word features that affect SfV item performance. In this study, we explored whether word features and child characteristics that involve phonology only are adequate to explain item-level variance in SfV performance or whether including predictors that involve the connection between phonology and orthography explains additional variance. To accomplish this, we administered the SfV task (N = 75 items) to a sample of grade 2–5 children (N = 489), along with a battery of reading, reading related, and language measures. Results suggest that variance in SfV performance is uniquely accounted for by measures tapping phonological skill along with those capturing knowledge of phonology to orthography associations, but more so in children with better decoding skill.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1242-1256
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Educational Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by Grant P20HD091013 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development). Statements do not reflect the position or policy of these agencies, and no official endorsement by them should be inferred

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021. American Psychological Association


  • Development
  • Set for variability
  • Word reading


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