Executive control and higher-order theory of mind in children at risk of ADHD



Nursery teachers assessed 234 children aged 4½ to 6½ years on the DSM-IV criteria for hyperactivity–impulsivity and attention deficit (ADHD). Using slightly lenient classification criteria 21 children scored on hyperactivity–impulsivity and/or attention deficit and were classified as ‘at risk of ADHD’. An age-matched control group showed significant relations between acquisition of an advanced theory of mind, in particular understanding second-order beliefs, and executive competence as measured by several tasks from the NEPSY. This extends findings from younger children that theory of mind development relates to executive control. The group at risk of ADHD showed impaired performance relative to the control group on several executive tasks but no impairment at all on the advanced theory of mind tasks. This speaks against the theory that later theory of mind development is a consequence of improvements in executive control. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.