Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Psychological and Social Foundations

Major Professor

Harold Keller, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Richard Marshall, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kathy Bradley Klug, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kathleen Armstrong, Ph.D.

Keywords

utive functions, social/adaptive functioning, school age children, neuropsychological tests

Abstract

Executive functions impact everyday functioning. An individual’s ability to adapt

to and navigate their physical and social environments is largely determined by the ability

to organize oneself, to plan and to coordinate activities. Despite the wide variety of

cognitive tests that assess various aspects of executive function, there has been little work

to validate the use of these measures in predicting real world functioning (Sbordone,

Seyranian, & Ruff, 2000), particularly in children where characterization of executive

function is less specified. Evaluating the ecological validity of neuropsychological tests

has become an increasingly important topic over the past decade (Chaytor & Schmitter-

Edgecombe, 2003). Ecologically valid assessments of executive function and attentional

deficits provide insight into deficits related to the child’s everyday adaptive functioning,

which can assist in identifying targets for interventions. Although many performance

based measures and caregiver behavior checklists exist for assessing a wide range of

behaviors and adaptive functioning skills in children, comprehensive measures of

executive functions are relatively new and largely unexplored.

The purpose of this study was to investigate and to define better the relationship

between attention and corresponding behaviors that represent executive functions and

social/adaptive functioning. More specifically, this study sought to explore the correlation

between ratings of varying subcomponents of attention (e.g., selective attention, sustained

attention, and attentional control/switching), executive function behaviors, and ratings of

social/adaptive functioning. Additionally, gender considerations were examined with

aims to determine how this factor may affect the degree of relationship between the

proposed variables.



Results of multiple regression and correlational analyses revealed the ability of

child attentional performance to predict executive function and social/adaptive

functioning behaviors. As parent/caregiver and teacher ratings of executive function

behaviors increased thus noting adept skills in these areas of functioning child

performance on measures of selective attention, sustained attention, and attentional

control/shifting were also reported to improve. Future research should continue to explore

the construct validity, positive predictive power, negative predictive power, diagnostic

sensitivity and specificity of the Test of Everyday Attention for Children (TEA-Ch).

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