Executive Functions In Children With ADHD Or Internalizing Symptoms
MetadataShow full item record
Children with disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, or depression often struggle academically and face poorer life outcomes. Impaired cognition in children with disorders could be the result of deficits in executive functions (EFs). EFs are attentional processes that coordinate and control other cognitive processes, and support goal directed behaviors. Large behavioral studies have reported four main factors of EF: inhibitory control, switching, working memory, and updating. Literature is mixed as to whether ADHD and internalizing disorders such as anxiety or depression are related to consistent EF difficulties. The strongest evidence is that ADHD may be linked with inhibitory control and working memory deficits, while anxiety and depression may be linked with switching and working memory deficits. This study examined the relationships between three tests of EF ability and symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity/impulsivity, and internalizing problems in children, using continuous measures of symptom burdens and EF abilities. Response times on the switching task related most strongly to disorder symptom burdens, with faster responses correlated with lower parent rated ADHD symptom burdens and higher self-rated internalizing symptom burdens. However, these scores were not significantly different based on presence or absence of a diagnosis. Our results indicate that continuous measures of symptom burdens across a large sample of children were more sensitive than diagnostic information in identifying relationships between EF abilities and symptoms of ADHD and internalizing disorders. Results are discussed in the context of diagnosis, EF variability, and child-parent scoring consistency.