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Cognitive performance in children and adolescents with psychopathology traits: A cross-sectional multicohort study in the general population
Development and Psychopathology  (IF4.151),  Pub Date : 2022-03-07, DOI: 10.1017/s0954579422000165
Elisabet Blok, Isabel K. Schuurmans, Anne J. Tijburg, Manon Hillegers, Maria E. Koopman-Verhoeff, Ryan L. Muetzel, Henning Tiemeier, Tonya White

Psychopathology and cognitive development are closely related. Assessing the relationship between multiple domains of psychopathology and cognitive performance can elucidate which cognitive tasks are related to specific domains of psychopathology. This can help build theory and improve clinical decision-making in the future. In this study, we included 13,841 children and adolescents drawn from two large population-based samples (Generation R and ABCD studies). We assessed the cross-sectional relationship between three psychopathology domains (internalizing, externalizing, dysregulation profile (DP)) and four cognitive domains (vocabulary, fluid reasoning, working memory, and processing speed) and the full-scale intelligence quotient. Lastly, differential associations between symptoms of psychopathology and cognitive performance by sex were assessed. Results indicated that internalizing symptoms were related to worse performance in working memory and processing speed, but better performance in the verbal domain. Externalizing and DP symptoms were related to poorer global cognitive performance. Notably, those in the DP subgroup had a 5.0 point lower IQ than those without behavioral problems. Cognitive performance was more heavily affected in boys than in girls given comparable levels of psychopathology. Taken together, we provide evidence for globally worse cognitive performance in children and adolescents with externalizing and DP symptoms, with those in the DP subgroup being most heavily affected.