Developmental changes in executive functions during adolescence: A study of inhibition, shifting, and working memory

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Abstract

The development of executive functions (EFs) has primarily been studied among younger children, despite research suggesting that particular aspects of EFs continue to develop throughout adolescence and into adulthood. This study investigated whether EFs continue to develop during the later stages of adolescence: three related, yet separable EF components - inhibition, shifting and working memory - were examined in a cross-sectional sample of 347 adolescents (aged 14-18 years). After adjusting for covariates, age was found to be a significant predictor of pupils’ performance on the inhibition but not the shifting or working memory tasks, suggesting different developmental trajectories for the three EF components. Controlling for non-executive processes implicated in performing the inhibition and working memory tasks had the most pronounced effect on the relationship between performance on those tasks and age. Finally, socioeconomic status was a significant predictor of performance on all tasks. Implications for research and practice are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-89
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Volume38
Issue number1
Early online date6 Oct 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

Keywords

  • adolescence
  • executive functions
  • inhibition
  • shifting
  • working memory

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