Testing executive function models of ADHD and its comorbid conditions: A latent variable approach



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Texas A&M University


Current theoretical models of ADHD (i.e., Disinhibition Model: Barkley, 1997; Working Memory Model: Rapport et al., 2001) conceptualize ADHD as the disorder of executive function (EF) with some variation in their emphases on particular components of the broadly-defined EF (e.g., working memory vs. inhibition) and in their postulated relationships with ADHD symptoms. Although these models provide systematic accounts of the manifestation of ADHD, they have not been extensively tested from an empirical standpoint. Moreover, despite the fact that ADHD is highly comorbid with other additional conditions such as learning and behavioral problems and EF deficits are found in individuals with these conditions as well as in those with ADHD, current EF models have not specified the developmental relationship between ADHD and its comorbid conditions. This study was: (1) to examine the extent to which two current models of ADHD are supported in a sample of 102 adults; (2) to present an ??integrated?? model by combining two current models of ADHD and linking them to recent research findings on two common comorbid conditions with ADHD (i.e., reading difficulty and substance abuse); and (3) to test and revise such an integrated model in the light of data using a latent variable analysis. Major findings provided a strong support for the Working Memory Model with a lesser degree of support for the Disinhibition Model. Preliminary evidence of working memory as the primary deficit in ADHD was also obtained in the present sample. Finally, the integrated EF model and its revised model (final model) demonstrated a very good fit to the data. These findings suggest that the integrated model provides a unified account of how EF deficits contribute to the manifestation of ADHD symptoms and comorbid conditions with ADHD. Given some limitations (e.g., sample size and scope) of the present study, current findings need to be replicated.