Gestational Smoking and Hypertension as Predictors of Working Memory Functioning in Childhood Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition affecting between 5 and 8% of all children and adolescents, characterized by impairing levels of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Existing cognitive models of ADHD have placed working memory (WM) deficits at the core of ADHD and suggest that primary WM deficits may also underlie the additional deficits associated with the condition. Although not all children with ADHD show WM deficits, those with such deficits have been found to have worse functional outcomes when compared to their diagnosed peers with typical WM functioning. Even so, contributors to the variability of impaired WM functioning seen within this population remain unknown. In the present study, we examined the association between two known prenatal and perinatal risk factors for impaired cognitive functioning – gestational smoking and hypertension – in three independent samples of children and adolescents with ADHD (samples varied with respect to sample size and WM measurement procedures). Contrary to hypotheses and existing literature, presence of high blood pressure during pregnancy was unexpectedly found to be a positive predictor of offspring WM capacity in one of three samples (a sample of all girls with ADHD). Implications and considerations for future research are discussed.

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