Internalising symptoms and verbal working memory in school‐age children: A processing efficiency analysis

Alexandra M. Opris, Lavinia Cheie, Cristina M. Trifan, Laura Visu‐Petra
Published Online:
05 Oct 2018
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 54 Issue 6

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The current study investigated differential contributions of internalising symptoms (state anxiety, trait anxiety, depression) to school‐age children's verbal short‐term (STM) and working memory (WM) span accuracy and efficiency (microanalysis of response times). Children's (N = 125, Mage = 11.44 years) STM/WM was assessed with simple/complex span tasks. Our analyses revealed that: (a) children with high levels of state anxiety displayed reduced simple span accuracy (on Word span) and poorer efficiency on both simple (preparatory intervals, interword pauses) and complex span (preparatory intervals) response time segments; (b) trait anxiety was a negative predictor of children's complex span accuracy, as well as their efficiency on both simple (word durations) and complex span (interword pauses) response time measures; (3) depressive symptoms predicted longer simple span interword pauses. Findings indicate that while all internalising symptoms were predictive of children's poorer memory search efficiency, especially during the “silent”, executive intervals (interword pauses), anxiety symptoms were specifically predictive of children's impaired span accuracy and other efficiency indicators (preparatory intervals, word durations). The study highlights the differential contributions of state, trait anxiety, and depressive symptoms to STM/WM in children, emphasising the need to measure both accuracy and efficiency to assess the role that such symptoms play in children's performance.

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