Perception of Caregiving During Childhood is Related to Later Executive Functions and Antisocial Behavior in At-Risk Boys

Anna Harwood-Gross, Bar Lambez, Ruth Feldman, Yuri Rassovsky

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Executive functions are considered essential for effective navigation in the social world. Parental responsiveness is a critical ingredient for normative social development and, as such, may be connected with the development of executive functions. Disruption of this development may, in turn, lead to maladaptive and antisocial behaviors. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the nature of the connections among perceived patterns of caregiving experienced in childhood, executive functions, and antisocial behaviors in at-risk adolescents. Seventy-one adolescent boys were recruited from two high-schools for adolescents who were not deemed suitable for regular schooling due to behavioral and emotional issues. Executive functions were tested using a computer-administered neuropsychological battery (CANTAB), and maternal parenting experiences and antisocial behaviors were assessed using retrospective and current questionnaires. Structural equation modeling (SEM) approach was employed to examine whether executive functions mediated the relationship between children's perceived patterns of maternal care and subsequent development of antisocial behaviors. Although maternal care had a significant direct effect on executive function (standardized coefficient =.49, p =.03) and antisocial behavior (standardized coefficient =.53, p =.05), SEM demonstrated no mediating relationships among these variables. Instead, maternal care predicted unique variance in both executive functions (standardized coefficient =.61, p =.02) and antisocial behavior (standardized coefficient =.51, p =.05). This study suggests a link between the experience of childhood caregiving and adolescent executive functions and delinquency and highlights the importance of early parenting interventions to aid executive function development. Such early interventions could potentially enhance long-term pro-social behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article number37
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
StatePublished - 6 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the two schools who hosted our study and Adin Kanefsky, Michal Dobner, and Udi Vaknin who assisted with data collection.

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Ministry of Science, Technology & Space, Israel (Grant #3-13631 to YR and RF). This study was carried in the course of the PhD research conducted by AHG at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel. AH-G is a recipient of the Presidential Scholarship Award from Bar-Ilan University.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2020 Harwood-Gross, Lambez, Feldman and Rassovsky.


  • adolescence
  • antisocial behavior
  • attachment
  • executive function
  • mothering


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