ADHD News & Research

Independent Study Confirms Validity of Popular Executive Functioning Rating Scale

A review of the Barkley Deficits of Executive Functioning Scale upheld the 70-item questionnaire’s accuracy in evaluating executive function deficits and ADHD in children and adolescents. It also gives credence to the medical opinion that executive dysfunction goes hand-in-hand with ADHD.

September 16, 2019

A recent study in the Journal of Attention Disorders1 has confirmed the validity of a well-known executive functioning rating scale commonly used, in part, to diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) in children and adolescents.

The Barkley Deficits of Executive Functioning Scale – Children and Adolescents (#CommissionsEarned) (BDEFS-CA), a tool created by Russell Barkley, Ph.D., in 2012, was examined by researchers who found that the evaluation is effective in measuring executive function deficits, and an “excellent” screening device for ADHD. The researchers noted that the study, which involved 100 Canadian children between the ages of 8 and 14 with and without ADHD, was prompted by the lack of an independent review of the scale since its release. Dr. Barkley is a member of ADDitude’s ADHD Medical Review Panel.

To arrive at their findings, the researchers tested three core areas of the BDEFS-CA evaluation: the validity of its questions; how it measured up to existing, well-established tools; and how well it identified children with and without an ADHD diagnoses. Participants, for example, were given a test that closely resembles the BDEFS-CA. The evaluation itself, additionally, was compared to the Conners Comprehensive Behavior Rating Scales. A significant, positive correlation was found between the two evaluations.

Researchers said the results of their study also work to bolster a largely accepted yet controversial notion in the scientific community — that executive dysfunction is at the root of ADHD.

“The BDEFS-CA is effective as a screener for ADHD despite containing no explicit items regarding observable ADHD behaviors, showing that EF [executive function] scores alone differentiate children with and without ADHD,” part of the study reads.

The findings, furthermore, should be used to signal a shift in how ADHD is assessed and diagnosed, the researchers said.

“Clients would be better served by clinicians conceptualizing ADHD as a disorder of underdeveloped EF skills as opposed to solely being defined by symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity.” They added: “Conceptualizing ADHD as a disorder of EF may shift the common understanding of ADHD from being primarily a behavioral phenomenon to one that is neuropsychological in nature.”

View Article Sources

1 O’Brien, A. M., Kivisto, L. R., Deasley, S., & Casey, J. E. Executive Functioning Rating Scale as a Screening Tool for ADHD: Independent Validation of the BDEFS-CA. Journal of Attention Disorders. (2019)

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