Childhood rituals and executive functions


Correspondence should be addressed to Tony Charman, Behavioural and Brain Sciences Unit, UCL Institute of Child Health, London, WC1N 1EH, UK (e-mail:


Repetitive and ritualistic behaviours (RRBs) are a feature of both typical and atypical development. While the cognitive correlates of these behaviours have been investigated in some neurodevelopmental conditions these links remain largely unexplored in typical development. The current study examined the relationship between RRBs and executive functions (EF) in a sample of typically developing children aged between 37 and 107 months. Results showed that cognitive flexibility, and not response inhibition or generativity, was most strongly associated with the frequency of RRBs in this sample. In younger children (<67.5 months) cognitive flexibility was significantly associated with ‘Repetitive Behaviours’ but in older children (>67.5 months) cognitive flexibility was associated with both ‘Just Right’ and ‘Repetitive Behaviour’, suggesting that the association between EF and RRBs may become stronger with age in typically developing children.