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Child Neuropsychol. 2016;22(3):292-317. doi: 10.1080/09297049.2014.994484. Epub 2015 Jan 8.

Executive function and psychosocial adjustment in healthy children and adolescents: A latent variable modelling investigation.

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a Center for Neuropsychology, Department of Psychiatry , Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School , Boston , MA , USA.


The objective of this study was to establish latent executive function (EF) and psychosocial adjustment factor structure, to examine associations between EF and psychosocial adjustment, and to explore potential development differences in EF-psychosocial adjustment associations in healthy children and adolescents. Using data from the multisite National Institutes of Health (NIH) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) Study of Normal Brain Development, the current investigation examined latent associations between theoretically and empirically derived EF factors and emotional and behavioral adjustment measures in a large, nationally representative sample of children and adolescents (7-18 years old; N = 352). Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was the primary method of data analysis. CFA results revealed that, in the whole sample, the proposed five-factor model (Working Memory, Shifting, Verbal Fluency, Externalizing, and Internalizing) provided a close fit to the data, χ(2)(66) = 114.48, p < .001; RMSEA = .046; NNFI = .973; CFI = .980. Significant negative associations were demonstrated between Externalizing and both Working Memory and Verbal Fluency (p < .01) factors. A series of increasingly restrictive tests led to the rejection of the hypothesis of invariance, thereby precluding formal statistical examination of age-related differences in latent EF-psychosocial adjustment associations. Findings indicate that childhood EF skills are best conceptualized as a constellation of interconnected yet distinguishable cognitive self-regulatory skills. Individual differences in certain domains of EF track meaningfully and in expected directions with emotional and behavioral adjustment indices. Externalizing behaviors, in particular, are associated with latent Working Memory and Verbal Fluency factors.


Executive function; Externalizing; Internalizing; Latent variable modelling; Shifting; Verbal fluency; Working memory

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