Category: ADHD - Adult
Executive functioning (EF) involves cognitive abilities that allow one to organize, plan, initiate, and complete tasks in a timely manner, as well as the ability to shift attention to tasks, self-monitor, self-inhibit, and self-regulate. Deficits in EF often contribute to impairments across domains of life. In college, executive dysfunction can lead to lower grade point averages, increased likelihood of academic probation, and difficulties in interpersonal relationships. Relatedly, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is largely characterized by executive dysfunction, which is evident in both neuropsychological tests and self-report measures. In contrast, studies to-date on sluggish cognitive tempo (SCT) indicate that SCT may not primarily be a disorder of EF, though more exploration of this relationship is warranted. This is especially true in the understudied population of emerging adults. The current study adds to that sparse literature, examining self-reported EF abilities and their relation to ADHD and SCT traits in college students.
Participants were 1,534 undergraduates (64% female, 82% Caucasian, M age = 19 yrs 3 mos), recruited from psychology department research pools at four institutions in three regions of the U.S.. Measures included self-reports of ADHD, SCT (Barkley, 2011a), and EF (Barkley, 2011b) in an online battery, completion of which earned course credit. Trait-based groups were determined using age-referenced norms; cut-points for inclusion in the ADHD (n = 139), SCT (n = 46), ADHD+SCT (n = 88), and non-elevated control (NC; n = 1253) groups were the 92nd percentiles on inattention, hyperactivity-impulsivity, and SCT scales. Groups were equivalent across demographic variables; ANOVA analyses and follow-up Tukey’s tests (as warranted) were used to determine group differences on total EF and five component scales: Self-management to time, Self-organization/problem solving, Self-restraint, Self-motivation, and Self-regulation of emotions (Barkley, 2011b).
All ANOVA analyses indicated differences between groups (p < .001). Tukey’s tests generally showed the ADHD-only and SCT-only groups to be experiencing more executive dysfunction than NC, with the ADHD+SCT group evincing the most problematic EF ability. Separation between the ADHD-only and SCT-only groups was noted on Self-organization/problem solving, Self-motivation, and total EF, in a consistent pattern of NC > ADHD > SCT > ADHD+SCT with regards to EF capacities. These findings suggest that SCT traits in college students may be more linked to EF than previously thought and indicate particularly elevated risk for executive dysfunction in comorbid ADHD+SCT cases. Salient item-level and effect size data will be included in the final poster.
Anne Sorrell– Graduate Student, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina
Will Canu– Professor, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina
Hadley Brochu– Graduate Student, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina
Cynthia Hartung– Associate Professor, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming
Elizabeth Lefler– University of Northern Iowa, Iowa
Erik Willcutt– University of Colorado - Boulder, Colorado