Executive control and dimensions of problem behaviors in preschool children

Kimberly Andrews Espy, Tiffany D. Sheffield, Sandra A. Wiebe, Caron A.C. Clark, Matthew J. Moehr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


Background: Despite the widespread recognition of the importance of executive control (EC) in externalizing psychopathology, the relation between EC and problem behavior has not been well characterized, particularly in typically developing preschoolers. Method: Using the sample, battery of laboratory tasks, and latent variable modeling methods described in Wiebe, Espy, and Charak (2008), systematic latent dimensions of parent-rated problem behavior, measured by integrating scales from developmental and clinical traditions, were determined empirically, and then were related to EC. Results: Substantial relations between EC and problem behaviors were revealed by extracting the common variance of interest and eliminating extraneous variance, which were robust to estimated child intelligence and differed somewhat in preschool boys and girls. Conclusion: Preschool EC measured by laboratory tasks appears to tap abilities that strongly and robustly support broad control processes enabling behavioral regulation across cognitive and emotional domains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-46
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Executive function
  • behavior problems
  • disruptive behavior
  • pre-school children
  • psychometrics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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