Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 27, Issue 8, pp 2430–2440 | Cite as

Executive Function and Emotional, Behavioral, and Social Competence Problems in Children with Epilepsy

  • Sarah A. Healy
  • Nancie Im-Bolter
  • Janet Olds
Original Paper


Many researchers have reported elevated rates of emotional, behavioral, and social competence problems (EBSP) in children with epilepsy. Although executive function has been found to be associated with EBSP in children with typical development, almost no research has looked at the individual components of executive function as potential predictors of EBSP in children with epilepsy. This is surprising given the deficits in executive function in children with epilepsy. We investigated EBSP and executive function in 42 children with epilepsy, aged 6.0 to 18.1 years and found, as expected, that EBSP were associated with executive function in these children even after epilepsy-related variables, such as seizure type, were accounted for. However, different components of executive function were related to different emotional, behavioral, and social competence problems in these children. Shifting of mental sets was a significant predictor of emotional, behavioral, and social competence problems whereas inhibition was a significant predictor of behavioral problems. This suggests that different executive function profiles in children with epilepsy may place them at-risk for developing different types of emotional, behavioral, and social competence problems. These results may help researchers and clinicians develop new techniques to identify and treat emotional, behavioral, and social competence problems in children with epilepsy.


Executive function Epilepsy Emotional and behavioral problems Social competence 



Aspects of this study were presented at the 2016 annual meeting of the Canadian Society for Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and at the 2016 annual meeting of the Canadian Psychological Association in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. This paper is based on S. Healy’s Master’s thesis submitted to the Department of Psychology, Trent University.

Author Contributions

S.H. and N.I.B. designed and executed the study, analyzed the data, and wrote the paper. J.O. collaborated with the design and editing of the paper.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

Ethical approval for this study was obtained from both the Trent and CHEO Research Ethics Board. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committees, the American Psychological Association, 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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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Life and Health Sciences BuildingTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada
  2. 2.Children’s Hospital of Eastern OntarioOttawaCanada

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