Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 151–165

Measurement of Impulsivity: Construct Coherence, Longitudinal Stability, and Relationship with Externalizing Problems in Middle Childhood and Adolescence


  • Sheryl L. Olson
    • University of Michigan
  • Elizabeth M. Schilling
    • Indiana University
  • John E. Bates
    • Indiana University

DOI: 10.1023/A:1021915615677

Cite this article as:
Olson, S.L., Schilling, E.M. & Bates, J.E. J Abnorm Child Psychol (1999) 27: 151. doi:10.1023/A:1021915615677


This study focused on the assessment of impulsivity in nonreferred school-aged children. Children had been participants since infancy in the Bloomington Longitudinal Study. Individual differences in impulsivity were assessed in the laboratory when children were 6 (44 boys, 36 girls) and 8 (50 boys, 39 girls) years of age. Impulsivity constructs derived from these assessments were related to parent and teacher ratings of externalizing problems across the school-age period (ages 7–10) and to parent and self-ratings of these outcomes across adolescence (ages 14–17). Consistent with prior research, individual measures of impulsivity factor-analyzed into subdimensions reflecting children's executive control capabilities, delay of gratification, and ability or willingness to sustain attention and compliance during work tasks. Children's performance on the main interactive task index, inhibitory control, showed a signficant level of stability between ages 6 and 8. During the school-age years, children who performed impulsively on the laboratory measures were perceived by mothers and by teachers as more impulsive, inattentive, and overactive than others, affirming the external validity of the impulsivity constructs. Finally, impulsive behavior in the laboratory at ages 6 and 8 predicted maternal and self-ratings of externalizing problem behavior across adolescence, supporting the longterm predictive value of the laboratory-derived impulsivity measures.

Impulsivitychildrenexternalizing problemsdevelopment

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1999