Evidence for problems in executive functioning (EF) in children with oppositional defiant disorder/conduct disorder (ODD/CD) is mixed and the impact stress may have on EF is understudied. Working memory, sustained attention, inhibition and cognitive flexibility of boys with ODD/CD (n = 65) and non-clinical controls (n = 32) were examined under typical and stressful test conditions. Boys with ODD/CD showed impaired working memory under typical testing conditions, and impairments in working memory and sustained attention under stressful conditions. In contrast to controls, performance on sustained attention, cognitive flexibility and inhibition was less influenced by stress in boys with ODD/CD. These results suggest that boys with ODD/CD show impairments in adaptation to the environment whereas typically developing boys show adaptive changes in EF.
Keywords: Aggression; Conduct disorder; Executive functioning; Oppositional defiant disorder; Stress.