The Validity of a Frustration Paradigm to Assess the Effect of Frustration on Cognitive Control in School-Age Children

Karen E. Seymour, Keri S. Rosch, Alyssa Tiedemann, Stewart H. Mostofsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Irritability refers to a proneness for anger, and is a symptom of internalizing and externalizing psychopathology. Since irritability is associated with significant cross-sectional and longitudinal impairments, research on the behavioral and neural correlates of pediatric irritability in populations at risk for significant irritability is of paramount importance. Irritability can be assessed in the laboratory using behavioral paradigms that elicit frustration. Few behavioral frustration paradigms have been designed to measure the effects of frustration on cognitive control. Therefore, the goal of the present study was to validate a behavioral frustration paradigm for use in school-age children which addressed some of the limitations of prior research. Participants included children, ages 8–12 years, who were either typically developing (TD; n = 38) or diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; n = 67), which provided a sample of children with a range of baseline irritability. All participants completed the Frustration Go/No-Go (GNG) task, and self-reported irritability was assessed using the Affective Reactivity Index. Results showed that across participants, self-reported frustration, commission error rate, and tau all increased with the addition of frustration, with similar effect sizes in ADHD and TD groups. Further, self-reported irritability, moreso than ADHD symptoms, predicted changes in self-reported frustration during the task. Together, these results support the construct validity of the Frustration GNG task as a means of assessing the effect of frustration on cognitive control. Clinical applications and future directions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)268-282
Number of pages15
JournalBehavior Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2020


  • attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • cognitive control
  • emotion regulation
  • frustration
  • irritability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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