Date Presented 04/02/2022
A descriptive correlation study examined relationships among temperament effortful control, executive function, and sensory processing behavior. Outcomes from three standardized questionnaires regarding children between ages 7 year, 0 months, and 10 years, 11 months, indicated that statistically significant associations between typical sensory responses were related to abilities for executive function and effortful control, whereas sensory reactivity was related to decreased abilities for executive function and effortful control.
Primary Author and Speaker: Rachel Diamant
PURPOSE: Identification of factors that influence behavioral self-regulation in children are critical components in intervention planning and positive behavioral outcomes. Developmental psychology has identified temperament and executive function as critical factors in behavioral styles, self-regulation, and social-emotional development. Occupational therapy has identified sensory processing behaviors as factors in behavioral self-regulation and emotional development. Understanding the relationships between sensory processing behavior styles, temperament effortful control, and executive function may identify supportive strategies that promote development of self-regulation, successful activity engagement and problem-solving. The purpose of study was to determine whether relationships exist between sensory processing behaviors, executive function, and the temperament characteristic of effortful control in school-aged children.
DESIGN: A non-experimental, descriptive, correlation study design was utilized. Participants included 19 parents/primary caregivers of healthy school-aged children between 7.0-10.11 years. Recruitment involved the use of flyers at a university and a university-sponsored social media site.
METHOD: Participants completed three standardized questionnaires. Executive function in relation to everyday activities and situations was assessed by the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function, a parent-report standardized questionnaire for children between 5.0-18.0 years. The temperament characteristic of effortful control was measured by the Temperament in Middle Childhood Questionnaire, a parent-report standardized questionnaire that reflects behavior of children between 7.0-10.11 years in relation to everyday situations. Sensory Profile-2, a parent-report standardized questionnaire for children between 3.0-14.11 years, was used to assess the style of behavior responses or reactivity to sensory experiences in routine everyday activities. Descriptive statistics and Spearman’s R correlation were used to analyze relationships between main categories and sub-scales of effortful control, executive function, and sensory-processing behavior patterns.
RESULTS: Data analysis revealed many statistically significant (p = .05), positive and negative correlations between constructs. Examples include, but not limited to, negative correlation between sensory seeking behavior and effortful control (r = -.504); positive correlation between executive function for behavioral regulation and sensory seeking (r = .538) and sensory sensitivity (r = .537); positive correlation between sensory sensitivity and executive function for emotional regulation (r = .534) and executive regulation (r = .533); positive correlation between executive function for behavioral inhibition and auditory sensory processing (r = .589) and conduct (r = .506), and executive function for emotional control and social-emotional sensory processing (r = .683); negative correlation between auditory sensory processing and inhibitory control (r = -.545) and perceptual sensitivity (r = -.673). Only positive correlations were found between sensory processing and executive function.
CONCLUSION: Findings indicate that typical responses to sensory experiences were related to appropriate abilities for executive function and effortful control; whereas, increased sensory reactivity was related to decreased abilities for executive function and effortful control along with an increased expression of impulsivity, reduced attention, and decreased on-task behavior.
IMPACT STATEMENT: Outcomes support OT practice by illustrating the need to address sensory responsiveness and reactivity within the context to aid in the support of behavior management for effortful control and executive function.
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