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J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2001 Jun;29(3):215-28.

The ecological validity of delay aversion and response inhibition as measures of impulsivity in AD/HD: a supplement to the NIMH multimodal treatment study of AD/HD.

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Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Schneider Children's Hospital, Long Island Jewish Medical Center, New Hyde Park, New York, USA.


Impulsivity is a primary symptom of the combined type of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). The Stop Signal Paradigm is premised upon a primary deficit in inhibitory control in AD/HD, whereas the Delay Aversion Hypothesis, by contrast, conceptualizes impulsivity in AD/HD, not as an inability to inhibit a response, but rather as a choice to avoid delay. This study compared the ecological validity of the Stop Signal Task (SST) and Choice-Delay Task (C-DT) measure of delay aversion, with respect to their relative utility in discriminating AD/HD children from normal control participants, and their correlations with classroom observations and with ratings of impulsivity and other core AD/HD symptoms on the Conners and SNAP-IV checklists. The tasks exhibited modest discriminant validity when used individually and excellent discriminant validity when used in combination. The C-DT correlated with teacher ratings of impulsivity, hyperactivity, and conduct problems, and with observations of gross motor activity, physical aggression, and an AD/HD composite score. The SST correlated with the observations only. These results suggest that delay aversion is associated with a broad range of AD/HD characteristics whereas inhibitory failure seems to tap a more discrete dimension of executive control.

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