Executive functions in relation to task orientation in preschoolers with attention problems.
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Self-regulatory capacities are often investigated in a laboratory setting, using test batteries that measure executive functions (EF), which are believed to underlie self-regulatory capacities. However, to gain a better understanding of the (self-regulatory) problems caused by deficits in EF skills in real life situations, it may be beneficial to observe these capacities in a more naturalistic environment, like a classroom. Therefore, in the present study, it was examined how various components of EF (inhibition, working memory, and shifting) are related to classroom task orientation in preschoolers with attention problems. We hypothesized that inhibition and working memory would have the largest effect on task orientation. The sample consisted of 65 preschoolers with attention problems (aged 35-46 months). EF were measured using diagnostic tasks from a neuropsychological test battery. To observe self-regulatory capacities in the classroom, we employed the task orientation scale of the PC BOS. Only inhibition was found to be significantly (and negatively) related to task orientation and had a medium effect on task orientation. These results suggest that primarily the ability to inhibit impulses and responses to distracters is of importance in task situations in a preschool setting in preschoolers with attention problems.