Executive functions and social information processing in adolescents with severe behavior problems

M. van Nieuwenhuijzen, M.M. van Rest, P.J.C.M. Embregts, A. Vriens, S. Oostermeijer, I. van Bokhoven, W. Matthys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


One tradition in research for explaining aggression and antisocial behavior has focused on social information processing (SIP). Aggression and antisocial behavior have also been studied from the perspective of executive functions (EFs), the higher-order cognitive abilities that affect other cognitive processes, such as social cognitive processes. The main goal of the present study is to provide insight into the relation between EFs and SIP in adolescents with severe behavior problems. Because of the hierarchical relation between EFs and SIP, we examined EFs as predictors of SIP. We hypothesized that, first, focused attention predicts encoding and interpretation, second, inhibition predicts interpretation, response generation, evaluation, and selection, and third, working memory predicts response generation and selection. The participants consisted of 94 respondents living in residential facilities aged 12–20 years, all showing behavior problems in the clinical range according to care staff. EFs were assessed using subtests from the Amsterdam Neuropsychological Test battery. Focused attention was measured by the Flanker task, inhibition by the GoNoGo task, and working memory by the Visual Spatial Sequencing task. SIP was measured by video vignettes and a structured interview. The results indicate that positive evaluation of aggressive responses is predicted by impaired inhibition and selection of aggressive responses by a combination of impaired focused attention and inhibition. It is concluded that different components of EFs as higher-order cognitive abilities affect SIP.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-241
JournalChild Neuropsychology: A Journal on Normal and Abnormal Development in Childhood and Adolescence
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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