Prospective relations between kindergarteners' executive function skills and their externalizing and internalizing behaviors

Kirsten A Quistberg, Ulrich Mueller
Clinical Neuropsychologist 2019 April 12, : 1-18

OBJECTIVE: Executive function difficulties have been identified as a transdiagnostic mechanism for the development of psychological disorders; however little is known about the relations between executive function and internalizing and externalizing behavior patterns, especially in young children. To address this gap in the literature, the current study examined the reciprocal relations between internalizing and externalizing behaviors and two component processes of executive function, inhibition, and working memory.

METHOD: Sixty-nine five- and six-year old children were included in the current study. Maladaptive behaviors were measured using the Social Skills Rating Scale (SSRS). Inhibition was assessed using commission errors in the Preschool Continuous Performance Task (P-CPT), and working memory was measured using the Boxes task.

RESULTS: Results demonstrated a significant reciprocal relationship between externalizing behavior and inhibitory control (commission errors on the P-CPT), as well as between working memory and internalizing behaviors.

CONCLUSION: The results have important implications for the development of early intervention programs. Suggestions for future research and limitations of the current work are discussed.

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