Executive functions in school-aged children: Potential efficacy of tasks in discriminating clinical groups

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The performance of three groups of children on a battery of executive function tasks was investigated. A double dissociation paradigm was used, including six executive function tasks (Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, Matching Familiar Figures Test, visual search, verbal fluency, Tower of Hanoi, and mazes) and two vocabulary tasks (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised and the Boston Naming Test). Executive function was defined as goal-directed behavior including strategic planning, impulse control, organized search, and flexibility of thought and action. One hundred and fifteen children, aged 6.0 to 12.11 years, participated in the study (36 children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, 34 children with developmental language disorder, and 45 nondisabled children). Four main results were found: (a) groups differed on three of the executive function tasks, (b) groups differed on both of the nonexecutive function tasks, (c) the relationship between age and performance was linear, and (d) discriminant function analysis revealed 77% of the cases were correctly classified. Implications of the results for the development of executive functions and the construct validity of executive function tasks are discussed. © 1994, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Developmental Neuropsychology