Trajectories of Executive Functions and ADHD Symptoms in Preschoolers and the Role of Negative Parental Discipline

Eva Kühl, Sanne B. Geeraerts, Maja Deković, Kim Schoemaker, Tessa Bunte, Kimberly A. Espy, Walter Matthys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the present study, we investigated whether the longitudinal growth trajectories of executive functions (EF) and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms are related. In addition, we investigated whether negative discipline moderated these longitudinal relations. The sample consisted of predominantly clinically referred preschoolers (N = 248, age 42–66 months at Time 1; 79.0% boys). Assessment occurred three times: at baseline, at 9 months, and at 18 months. EF was assessed with five EF tasks. ADHD symptoms (Child Behavior Checklist 1.5–5) were reported by parents. Groups of medium to high and low negative discipline were based on mother- and father-reports (Parenting Practices Inventory). Growth curve models showed that EF generally increased and ADHD symptoms generally decreased over time. Parallel process models showed that there was no relation between the change in EF and the change in ADHD symptoms over time, suggesting no co-development. However, higher EF at baseline was related to lower ADHD symptoms at baseline. This was irrespective of whether children were exposed to high or low negative discipline. Overall, the results suggest that, while EF and ADHD symptoms are related, they develop independently across the preschool years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)555-573
Number of pages19
JournalDevelopmental Neuropsychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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