Verbal Memory Abilities in Severe Childhood Psychiatric Disorders and the Influence of Attention and Executive Functions

Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2016 Dec 1;31(8):934-943. doi: 10.1093/arclin/acw020.


Despite prior adult research regarding the influence of executive functions on memory performance, there has been inconsistent prior research on the role of executive functions on memory performance in children, particularly those children with severe psychiatric disorders. A medical chart review was conducted for 76 children (ages 6-12 years) who received a neuropsychological evaluation during children's psychiatric inpatient program hospitalization. A series of hierarchical regression analyses investigated the role of attention/executive and non-executive functions in verbal memory performance (immediate recall, delayed recall, and delayed recognition). Demographic and verbal measures were entered into blocks 1 and 2 for all analyses, followed by attention and executive functions (i.e., attention span, sustained attention, verbal fluency, cognitive flexibility, inhibitory control, and planning/organization). Nearly 15% of the participants displayed memory impairment. Results of regression analyses indicated attention/executive dysfunction severity predicted overall memory performance. Attention span predicted performance on all three memory conditions. Planning/organization accounted for unique variance in immediate recall condition while inhibitory control accounted for unique variance in delayed recall condition. These results indicate that verbal memory problems frequently occur in severe childhood psychiatric disorders. Further, planning/organization deficits may influence immediate recall, while inhibitory control deficits may influence delayed recall. Alternatively, delayed recognition memory may be the most resistant to the negative influence of executive deficits on verbal memory performance in childhood psychiatric disorders.

Keywords: Assessment; Children and behavioral disorders; Executive functions; Learning and memory.