Executive functioning in children: a comparison of hospitalised ODD and ODD/ADHD children and normal controls

Authors

  • Stephanie H.M. Van Goozen,

    1. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University Medical Centre Utrecht, The Netherlands
    2. Rudolf Magnus Institute for Neurosciences, The Netherlands
    3. Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, UK
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  • Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis,

    1. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University Medical Centre Utrecht, The Netherlands
    2. Rudolf Magnus Institute for Neurosciences, The Netherlands
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  • Heddeke Snoek,

    1. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University Medical Centre Utrecht, The Netherlands
    2. Rudolf Magnus Institute for Neurosciences, The Netherlands
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  • Walter Matthys,

    1. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University Medical Centre Utrecht, The Netherlands
    2. Rudolf Magnus Institute for Neurosciences, The Netherlands
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  • Hanna Swaab-Barneveld,

    1. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University Medical Centre Utrecht, The Netherlands
    2. Rudolf Magnus Institute for Neurosciences, The Netherlands
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  • Herman Van Engeland

    1. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University Medical Centre Utrecht, The Netherlands
    2. Rudolf Magnus Institute for Neurosciences, The Netherlands
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Stephanie H.M. van Goozen, Developmental Psychiatry Section, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, 18b Trumpington Road, Cambridge CB2 2AH, UK; Email: shmv2@cam.ac.uk

Abstract

Background:  Deficits in executive functioning are supposed to have a predisposing influence on impulsive or aggressive behaviour. We tested the hypothesis that oppositional-defiant disorder (ODD) children with or without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have problems in executive functioning.

Method:  Seventy-seven 7- to 12-year-old children (15 ODD, 26 ODD/ADHD, and 36 normal controls), all with normal IQ, completed 7 neuropsychological measures of executive functioning, assessing the abilities of set shifting, planning, working memory, inhibition/attention, and impulsivity. Some of these tasks involved the possibility of monetary rewards with a view to testing the prediction of a specific motivational inhibitory deficit.

Results:  We found no evidence of deficits in working memory, planning, inhibition, or impulsivity. However, the ODD/ADHD group was worse than the normal control (NC) group in set shifting, and both the ODD and ODD/ADHD groups performed worse on a response perseveration task. Moreover, on the basis of one variable derived from a motivational inhibition task, 77% of the children could be correctly classified as ODD or NC.

Conclusions:  The findings do not support the hypothesis that ODD and ODD/ADHD children have a deficit in executive inhibitory control; rather, they emphasise that they have problems in regulating their behaviour under motivational inhibitory conditions.

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