Cognitive control processes regulate lower level processes and thereby enable self-directed behavior towards a goal, allowing us to break out of habits, make decisions and evaluate risks, plan for the future, prioritize and sequence our actions, and cope with novel situations. In other words, cognitive control is essential for successfully navigating nearly all of our daily activities. The proposed research seeks to make an innovative contribution to knowledge of the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) domain of cognitive control by: 1) examining the extent to which two distinct ways of assessing cognitive control, executive function task performance and the temperament dimension of effortful control may be interchangeable markers of the same latent construct, or separable, but related latent constructs;and 2) investigate the extent to which cognitive control, as conceptualized and assessed by multiple measures of executive function and effortful control, is broadly related to adolescent psychopathology (transdiagnostic) or relatively specific to common forms of psychopathological symptoms (depression, anxiety, ADHD). Executive function impairments are now widely acknowledged as an important aspect of psychopathology, including depression, anxiety, and ADHD, and may be important contributors to impairments in social, occupational and educational functioning. Recently, it has been proposed that such executive function deficits may be a transdiagnostic risk factor for both emotional and behavioral disorders. Likewise, the temperament dimension of effortful control has also been linked to psychopathology. However, the relation between executive function and effortful control, and which aspects of these constructs drive their associations with psychopathology, remain unclear. In addition, there has been very little research on links among executive function, effortful control, and psychopathology during adolescence. Lack of research in adolescents is an important gap in the literature because adolescence is a critical period for the development of executive function, increased importance of self-regulation, and the determination of psychopathology trajectories. The proposed study thus uses a methodologically superior latent variable approach to investigate how executive function and effortful control are related in adolescents, and how they are in turn related to the most common forms of adolescent psychopathology (depression, anxiety and ADHD). The proposed research uses a multi-method, multi-informant approach, using a battery of well-validated measures to assess executive function task performance and adolescent self and parent reported effortful control and psychopathology symptoms. Analyses will use confirmatory factors analysis and structural equation modeling to test relations between these constructs at the latent variable level. This proposal will make a significant contribution t interdisciplinary research by clarifying the core processes of this important RDoC construct and linking what is known about EF and EC, answering calls in the field for an integrative model that can better inform future translational research.
Cognitive control processes allow us to break out of habits, make decisions and evaluate risks, plan for the future, prioritize and sequence our actions, and cope with novel situations: in other words, cognitive control is essential for successfully navigating nearly all of our daily activities. Adolescents, who experience mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety and ADHD, often have difficulties with cognitive control. This study seeks to better understand how different aspects of cognitive control are related to one another during adolescence, and how each is related to mental health.