Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 463–475 | Cite as

Maternal Executive Functioning and Scaffolding in Families of Children with and without Parent-Reported ADHD

  • Heather Mazursky-Horowitz
  • Sharon R. Thomas
  • Kelsey E. Woods
  • Jeffrey S. Chrabaszcz
  • Kirby Deater-Deckard
  • Andrea Chronis-Tuscano


Parental scaffolding robustly predicts child developmental outcomes, including improved self-regulation and peer relationships and fewer externalizing behaviors. However, few studies have examined parental characteristics associated with a parent’s ability to scaffold. Executive functioning (EF) may be an important individual difference factor associated with maternal scaffolding that has yet to be examined empirically. Scaffolding may be particularly important for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and disruptive behavior disorder (DBD) symptoms due to their core difficulties with inattention, disorganization, EF, and self-regulation, their need for greater parental structure, and higher-than-average rates of parental EF deficits. Yet, little research has examined child ADHD in relation to parental scaffolding. This cross-sectional study examined: (1) the association between maternal EF (as measured by the Hotel Test, Barkley’s Deficits in Executive Functioning Scale, and Digit Span) and observed scaffolding, (2) the association between parent-reported child ADHD/DBD symptoms and scaffolding, and (3) the interaction between child ADHD/DBD symptoms and maternal EF in predicting scaffolding. In a sample of 84 mothers and their 5–10 year-old biological children (62% male) with and without parent-reported ADHD, we found that maternal EF, as measured by Digit Span and the Hotel Test, predicted observed maternal scaffolding. However, child ADHD/DBD symptoms did not significantly predict maternal scaffolding controlling for child age, maternal education, and maternal EF, nor did the interaction of maternal EF and parent-reported child ADHD/DBD symptoms. Working memory and task shifting may be key components of parental EF that could be targeted in interventions to improve parental scaffolding.


Parenting Scaffolding Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder Executive functioning 



This study was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (1F31HD083028-01A1).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Social and Decision SciencesCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Psychological and Brain Sciences, Tobin HallUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

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