Executive functions among youth with Down Syndrome and co-existing neurobehavioural disorders

A. E. Pritchard, S. Kalback, M. Mccurdy, G. T. Capone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Executive function (EF) deficits are a recognised component of the cognitive phenotype of youth with Down Syndrome (DS). Recent research in this area emphasises the use of behaviour ratings, such as the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functions-Preschool Version (BRIEF-P), to capture the real-world applications of executive functions. To account for the intellectual functioning of youth with DS, this measure is used out of age range; however, its psychometric properties when used in this fashion are unknown. The goals of this study are to evaluate psychometric characteristics of the BRIEF-P among youth with DS and to examine the pattern of EF strengths/weaknesses in children with DS and co-occurring psychiatric conditions. Method: A total of 188 clinically referred youth with DS, ages 3-13 were rated by their caregivers using the BRIEF-P. These youth were evaluated by a clinician with expertise in DS and were characterised as having no co-occurring behavioural disorder (Typical DS group), co-occurring Autism Spectrum Disorder (DS+ASD) or co-occurring Disruptive Behaviour Disorder (DS+DBD). Results: An exploratory factor analysis of item-level BRIEF-P data from clinically referred youth with DS supported the theoretically derived three-factor structure originally proposed for the BRIEF-P (Emergent Metacognition, Flexibility and Inhibitory Self-Control); however, the item composition of each factor varied somewhat in comparison to the original structure of the measure. Group comparisons indicate that, while youth with typical DS evidence fewer executive function difficulties across all domains, youth with DS+ASD show the greatest weaknesses in Emergent Metacognition, and youth with DS+DBD show significant difficulties in both Emergent Metacognition and Inhibition. Conclusions: These findings offer preliminary support for use of the BRIEF-P with clinically referred youth with Down Syndrome. Some scoring modifications may be necessary if the theoretically derived index scores are to be used with this population. BRIEF-P scores may offer an empirical basis for differentiating DS youth with varying behavioural profiles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1130-1141
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Intellectual Disability Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • ADHD
  • Autism
  • Behavioral phenotyppes
  • Down syndrome
  • Intellectual disability
  • Mental health
  • Psychiatric disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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