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Childhood and adolescent resiliency, regulation, and executive functioning in relation to adolescent problems and competence in a high-risk sample



This study first examined the respective relations of resiliency and reactive control with executive functioning. It then examined the relationship of these different domains to the development of academic and social outcomes, and to the emergence of internalizing and externalizing problem behavior in adolescence. Resiliency and reactive control were assessed from preschool to adolescence in a high-risk sample of boys and girls (n = 498) and then linked to component operations of neuropsychological executive functioning (i.e., response inhibition, interference control, fluency, working memory/set-shifting, planning, and alertness), assessed in early and late adolescence. Consistent, linear relations were found between resiliency and executive functions (average r = .17). A curvilinear relationship was observed between reactive control and resiliency, such that resiliency was weaker when reactive control was either very high or very low. In multivariate, multilevel models, executive functions contributed to academic competence, whereas resiliency and interference control jointly predicted social competence. Low resiliency, low reactive control, and poor response inhibition uniquely and additively predicted internalizing problem behavior, whereas low reactive control and poor response inhibition uniquely predicted externalizing problem behavior. Results are discussed in relation to recent trait models of regulation and the scaffolded development of competence and problems in childhood and adolescence.This work was supported by NIAAA Grant R01-AA12217 to Robert Zucker and Joel Nigg, NIAAA Grant R37-AA07065 to Robert Zucker and Hiram Fitzgerald, and NIMH Grant R01-MH59105 to Joel Nigg. We are indebted to the families and staff who made the study possible.


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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Michelle M. Martel, Department of Psychology, Psychology Building, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1116; E-mail:


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