Executive function and social problem-solving in maltreated and non-maltreated preschool children
Quamma, Julie Perkins
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This study examined the early relationship between executive functioning (EF) and social problem-solving (SPS) skills and their influence on behavioral adjustment by comparing the performance of maltreated and non-maltreated preschool-aged children on measures designed to assess these three areas of functioning. Individual interviews were conducted with 30 maltreated and 28 non-maltreated children ages 4-5, and classroom teachers/daycare providers rated the behavior of each child. Groups were balanced on age, ethnicity, gender, and verbal ability, but not on maternal education level and socioeconomic status, which were both higher in the non-maltreated group. Important findings from this research included the identification of a coherent factor structure for EF in preschool-aged children supported by Confirmatory Factor Analysis. Four factors were generated (i.e., Sustained Attention, Selective Attention/Organized Search, Inhibitory Control, and Planning) and the model showed a good fit to the data. Maltreated children were found to have particular deficits in Sustained Attention when compared with non-maltreated children. Relationships between EF and SPS, as defined through the social information-processing model initially developed by Dodge (1986) and recently reformulated (Crick & Dodge, 1994), were directly examined for the first time in this research. Results indicated that Sustained Attention and Inhibitory Control were strongly associated with encoding skills, while Planning was strongly associated with response generation. Both SPS and EF showed significant relationships with aspects of behavioral adjustment, particularly Attention Problems and Social Skills. Path analyses in regression were conducted to further elucidate the relationships between components of EF, particular SPS skills, and aspects of behavioral adjustment and provided initial support for the hypothesis that components of EF can indirectly affect behavioral adjustment through SPS skills.
- Psychology