Negative life events predict performance on an executive function task in young adults with developmental disabilities

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BackgroundRecent research with typically developing children indicates that chronic stress can be detrimental to the development of executive function. This study extends this work to individuals with developmental disabilities and examines the longitudinal relationship between an indicator of chronic stress, negative life events, and performance on a task of executive function within a group of 30 individuals with early identified developmental disabilities.MethodsMultilevel modelling was used to analyse the relationship between cumulative negative life events and response time on a Flanker task.ResultsAs hypothesized, individuals who had experienced more cumulative negative life events in their families demonstrated longer response time, an indicator of less efficient executive function.ConclusionsThe association between cumulative negative life events and executive function for children with developmental disabilities suggests the prominent role of the environment for development in this domain. These findings also suggest the importance of providing services, resources, and interventions that will help families adaptively cope with stressful circumstances.

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