In the present meta-analysis all available evidence regarding the efficacy of different behavioral interventions for children's executive function skills were synthesized. After a systematic search we included experimental studies aiming to enhance children's (up to 12 years of age) executive functioning with neurodevelopmental tests as outcome measures. The results of 100 independent effect sizes in 90 studies including data of 8,925 children confirmed that it is possible to foster these skills in childhood (Diamond & Lee, 2011). We did not find convincing evidence, however, for the benefits to remain on follow-up assessment. Different approaches were effective for typically and nontypically developing samples. For nontypically developing children (including children with neurodevelopmental disorders or behavior problems) acquiring new strategies of self-regulation including biofeedback-enhanced relaxation and strategy teaching programs were the most effective. For typically developing children we found evidence for the moderate beneficial effects of mindfulness practices. Although small to moderate effects of explicit training with tasks loading on executive function skills in the form of computerized and noncomputer training were found, these effects were consistently weaker for nontypically developing children who might actually be more in need of such training. Thus, atypically developing children seem to profit more from acquiring new strategies of self-regulation as compared with practice with executive function tasks. We propose that explicit training does not seem to be meaningful as the approaches that implicitly foster executive functions are similarly or more effective, and these activities are more enjoyable and can be more easily embedded in children's everyday activities.
- executive functions