Executive functioning shows differential maturation from early to late adolescence. Longitudinal findings from a TRAILS study
Objective. Maturation of executive functioning (EF) is topical, especially in relation to adolescence, yet longitudinal research covering early and late adolescence is lacking. This, however, is a prerequisite for drawing conclusions on normal cognitive development, and understanding deviant maturation. The aim of this study is to longitudinally investigate 6 subcomponents of EF in early (mean age 11) and late adolescence (mean age 19) and to investigate the influence of sex and socioeconomic status (SES). Method. We used data of the TRacking Adolescents' Individual Lives Survey (TRAILS). A number of 2,217 participants carried out tasks of the Amsterdam Neuropsychological Tasks (ANT), measuring Focused Attention, Inhibition, Sustained Attention, Speed of Processing, Working Memory, and Shift Attention. Results. Linear growth model with individual varying times of observation showed significant slopes for all 6 measures. Sex differences were found for the majority of the measures, where boys showed more maturation. Maturation was influenced by SES for Sustained Attention and Inhibition. Conclusion. Results show that significant maturation takes place for all the measured subcomponents over adolescence. Overall, girls show better baseline performance and smaller maturational rates, suggesting more mature skills in early adolescence. Maturation is only influenced by SES for Sustained Attention and Inhibition. Findings underline that for making statements about EF maturation in adolescence, it is essential to look at subcomponents. Furthermore, sex differences are an important factor when investing (ab)normal maturation of EF.
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