Executive functions and adaptive functioning in young adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Gillian M. Stavro, Mark L. Ettenhofer, Joel T. Nigg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is associated with impairments in occupational, social, and educational functioning in adults. This study examined relations of adaptive impairment to ADHD symptom domains (inattentive-disorganized and hyperactive-impulsive) and to deficits in executive functioning (EF) in 195 well-characterized adults (105 ADHD, 90 non-ADHD, between ages 18 and 37). Participants completed a battery of EF measures as well as assessments of adaptive functioning. Confirmatory factor analyses were used to validate latent factors for adaptive functioning and EF. In a measurement model, weaker EF was associated with poorer adaptive functioning (r = -.30). When multi-informant composite variables for current inattentive-disorganized and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD symptoms were included in the structural model, EF no longer predicted adaptive functioning. While both symptom composites were similarly related to EF (inattentive-disorganized r = .36; hyperactive-impulsive r =.29), inattentive-disorganized symptoms accounted for more variance in adaptive functioning (67.2% vs. 3.6%). Furthermore, for retrospectively reported childhood symptoms of ADHD, only the inattentive-disorganized symptom domain was related to EF or adaptive impairment. These results suggest that, in adults with ADHD, inattentive-disorganized symptoms may be the primary contributor to key aspects of poorer adaptive function and may be the behavioral path through which EF deficits lead to adaptive impairment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)324-334
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Achievement
  • Attention-deficit disorder with hyperactivity
  • Behavioral symptoms
  • Cognition disorders
  • Employment
  • Neuropsychological tests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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