Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 777–788 | Cite as

Attention Problems as a Mediator of the Relation between Executive Function and Social Problems in a Child and Adolescent Outpatient Sample

  • Dane C. Hilton
  • Matthew A. Jarrett
  • Kristina L. McDonald
  • Thomas H. Ollendick


Social functioning is critical for the successful navigation of everyday life for children, adolescents, and adults. Recent theories have postulated a neuropsychological basis for social functioning with particularly strong links with the executive functioning (EF) system. The current study examined attention problems as a mediator between EF (e.g., working memory, planning, and response inhibition) and social functioning in a child and adolescent outpatient sample. Participants were 218 children ages 6–16 (M = 10.23; SD = 2.52; 68.8 % males) who were referred to an outpatient clinic for psychoeducational assessment. Bias-corrected bootstrapping mediation analyses were used to examine the hypothesized models. The effects of working memory and planning (but not response inhibition) on social problems were mediated by attention problems in both teacher- and mother-reported models. These findings also held up in cross-source models (e.g., mother-reported attention problems as a mediator in a model predicting teacher-reported social problems). These findings have implications for dimensional models of social functioning and conceptual models for specific clinical populations (e.g., attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder).


Executive functioning Social functioning Attention problems Working memory Planning 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


This study was not funded by any outside source or agency.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dane C. Hilton
    • 1
  • Matthew A. Jarrett
    • 1
  • Kristina L. McDonald
    • 1
  • Thomas H. Ollendick
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe University of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA

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