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The Role of Executive Function at 6 Years in the Association between Behavioral Inhibition at 5 Years and Anxiety at 7 Years

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Mark FreestonORCiD


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© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2024. Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law. EF skills play a central role in the etiology and maintenance of anxiety, but it is unclear whether they act as moderators or mediators in the relation between early behavioral inhibition (BI) and later anxiety. The current study tested two models by examining whether two executive functions (EF) skills (cognitive flexibility and working memory) assessed at age 6 acted as moderators or mediators in the relation between BI at 5 years and anxiety symptoms at 7 years. The sample consisted of 422 children from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development. We tested the moderation model, main and interaction effects using hierarchical multiple regression analyses and the mediation model with the product of coefficients test. Results showed that higher BI at 5 years predicted high anxiety at 7 years only at low levels of cognitive flexibility or working memory at 6 years. This suggests that high levels of cognitive flexibility or working memory at 6 years may act as protective factors. In contrast, neither cognitive flexibility nor working memory at age 6 acted as mediators in the association between BI at 5 years and anxiety at 7 years. Results support the hypothesis that goal-driven cognitive control processes act as moderators and promote adaptive functioning by dampening the effect of early BI on later anxiety.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Dumont E, Parent S, Castellanos-Ryan N, Jacques S, Freeston MH, Zelazo PD, Seguin JR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology

Year: 2024

Pages: Epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 08/02/2024

Acceptance date: 30/01/2024

ISSN (print): 2730-7166

ISSN (electronic): 2730-7174

Publisher: Springer Nature


DOI: 10.1007/s10802-024-01175-z


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