To ADHD play an important role in preventing

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          To locate
the most relevant literature, searches were conducted using databases of Web of
Science, Google Scholar, PsycINFO and Science Direct. Search terms included
“executive function” “executive dysfunction” “emotion regulation” “emotion
dysregulation” and “ADHD”. Results identified 3 main executive functions;
Working Memory, Inhibition, and Cognitive Flexibility. Studies included were
those with an ADHD sample, a focus on either children or adolescents, and those
which studied an aspect of EF and emotion within their research aims. Exclusion
criteria included failure to consider the ADHD population, research focussing
on adults, and failure to consider both EF and emotion together. A total of 9
studies were obtained for review, 3 concerning working memory, another 3 on
inhibition, and a further 3 regarding cognitive flexibility. These studies are
discussed in turn.


emotions can often be challenging in ADHD, though the ability to do so is
important for individual and social development (Kappas, 2013). A clear and
universal definition of what emotion regulation means is yet to emerge, though
Gross’s (1998) definition provides a detailed yet concise explanation necessary
for understanding in this review. Gross (1998) defines emotion regulation (ER)
as a process by which individuals are influential in determining what emotions
they experience, when they experience them, and how they express these
emotions. Emotion regulatory processes can be either automatic or controlled, and
conscious or unconscious (Gross, 1998, p. 275).
          Emotion dysregulation occurs
when managing emotional states proves difficult, and goal-directed behaviours
are affected. Emotion dysregulation means that emotion-regulatory processes
have impaired an individual’s ability to select, attend to, and control
emotional stimuli presented to them (Gross, 1998). Gratz and Roemer (2004) note
how emotion regulation is concerned with modulation of emotions as opposed to
the elimination of emotions, and the ability to modulate emotions successfully
is reliant upon intact EF. It is often implied that executive function deficits
characteristic of ADHD play an important role in preventing the successful
modulation and control of emotions, thus linking to emotion dysregulation.

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function (EF) refers to a set of cognitive processes which underlie flexible
and goal directed behaviour, and core examples of executive functions include
working memory, inhibition and cognitive flexibility (Garon, Bryson &
Smith, 2008). These functions allow an individual to plan, reason, and problem
solve and are essentially important in cognitive, social and academic
development (Collins & Koechlin,
2012). In ADHD, it has been suggested that the executive functioning system
necessary to develop these skills is significantly disrupted (Diamond, 2013),
and therefore individuals with ADHD may be less able to control and process
stimuli or information presented to them.
          Executive function deficits, often
referred to as executive dysfunction, have consistently been documented in ADHD
and are prominent within its neuropsychology (Wodka et al., 2008) with ADHD
groups demonstrating significantly worse performance on cognitive and EF measures
in relation to typically developing controls (Pennington & Ozonoff, 1996;
Seidman, Biederman, Monuteaux, Weber, & Faraone, 2000). The deficits
present in components of EF such as inhibition and working memory are also
present in relation to the self-regulation of emotion, meaning that individuals
with ADHD may demonstrate difficulties controlling their emotional reactions
(Diamond, 2013).


          ADHD is a
neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by inattentive, impulsive, and
hyperactive behaviours, with an estimated prevalence of approximately 5% of
children (Polancyzk, de Lima, Horta, Bierderman & Rohde, 2007). Despite
this prevalence, factors such as gender and age mean that this figure can vary,
with more males than females affected, and a proportion of individuals
reporting ADHD remission in adulthood (Ramtekkar, Reiersen, Todorov & Todd,
          The impulsivity, inattention
and hyperactivity present in ADHD often results in behaviours which are maladaptive
and may not fit accordingly with an individual’s development and age (Rappley,
2005). Symptoms of ADHD are always displayed from childhood, and diagnosis is
based on symptomatology using diagnostic classification systems, such as DSM-V
and ICD-10. These diagnoses include three subtypes; predominant
hyperactive/impulsive, predominant inattentive, and combined
hyperactive/impulsive and inattentive. Whilst ADHD is often thought as a
disorder of cognition and behaviour, emotional problems also emerge as a
significant impairment (Barkley, 2006).


The current review will examine in depth the role of
executive functions upon emotion dysregulation in young people diagnosed with
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Emotional problems have
consistently been recognised as an associated feature of ADHD, though the cause
of emotional outbursts characteristic of the disorder remains unclear (Shaw,
Stringaris, Nigg & Leibenluft, 2014). After providing an initial
explanation of ADHD, executive function and emotion dysregulation, the main
body of this review will consider the role individual executive functions have
upon emotion dysregulation in ADHD.
          Firstly, the effect of working
memory on emotion regulation in ADHD be considered, before discussing the role
of inhibition and its effect upon emotion regulatory abilities. Following this,
cognitive flexibility will also be considered in its association with ADHD and
emotion regulation. The final section of this review will highlight and
summarise key similarities and differences evident from the literature, and the
credibility of executive functions as an explanation for emotion dysregulation
in ADHD will be contemplated.

Categories: Emotions


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