Article

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 149-161

First online:

ADHD and Working Memory: The Impact of Central Executive Deficits and Exceeding Storage/Rehearsal Capacity on Observed Inattentive Behavior

  • Michael J. KoflerAffiliated withChildren’s Learning Clinic-IV, Department of Psychology, University of Central Florida
  • , Mark D. RapportAffiliated withChildren’s Learning Clinic-IV, Department of Psychology, University of Central Florida Email author 
  • , Jennifer BoldenAffiliated withChildren’s Learning Clinic-IV, Department of Psychology, University of Central Florida
  • , Dustin E. SarverAffiliated withChildren’s Learning Clinic-IV, Department of Psychology, University of Central Florida
  • , Joseph S. RaikerAffiliated withChildren’s Learning Clinic-IV, Department of Psychology, University of Central Florida

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Abstract

Inattentive behavior is considered a core and pervasive feature of ADHD; however, an alternative model challenges this premise and hypothesizes a functional relationship between working memory deficits and inattentive behavior. The current study investigated whether inattentive behavior in children with ADHD is functionally related to the domain-general central executive and/or subsidiary storage/rehearsal components of working memory. Objective observations of children’s attentive behavior by independent observers were conducted while children with ADHD (n = 15) and typically developing children (n = 14) completed counterbalanced tasks that differentially manipulated central executive, phonological storage/rehearsal, and visuospatial storage/rehearsal demands. Results of latent variable and effect size confidence interval analyses revealed two conditions that completely accounted for the attentive behavior deficits in children with ADHD: (a) placing demands on central executive processing, the effect of which is evident under even low cognitive loads, and (b) exceeding storage/rehearsal capacity, which has similar effects on children with ADHD and typically developing children but occurs at lower cognitive loads for children with ADHD.

Keywords

ADHD Working memory Attention Central executive