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Assessment of executive function in preschool-aged children.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Dartmouth Medical School, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH 03756-0001, USA. peter.k.isquith@Dartmouth.edu

Abstract

Assessment of the overarching self-regulatory mechanisms, or executive functions, in any age group is challenging, in part due to the complexity of this domain, in part due to their dynamic essence, and in part due to the inextricable links between these central processes and the associated domain-specific processes, such as language, motor function, and attention, over which they preside. While much progress has been made in clinical assessment approaches for measuring executive functions in adults and to some extent in adolescents and school-aged children, the toolkit for the preschool evaluator remains sparse. The past decade, however, has seen a substantial increase in attention to executive functions in very young children from a developmental neuropsychological perspective. With this has come a necessity for better, more specific, and more internally valid performance measures, many of which are now described in the experimental literature. Few such tasks, however, have adequately demonstrated psychometric properties for clinical application. We present two performance tasks designed to tap selective aspects of executive function in preschoolers that are emerging from the experimental laboratory and hold promise of appropriate reliability and validity for the clinical laboratory. Performance tests alone, however, are insufficient to develop a comprehensive picture of a child's executive functioning. Thus, we present a rating scale of preschoolers' executive function in the everyday context, and advocate a model of executive function assessment that incorporates both controlled performance tasks that target specific aspects of executive function and parent/teacher ratings that target more global aspects of self-regulation in the everyday context.

(c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

PMID:
16161093
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3648805
Free PMC Article
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