Exploring Idiographic Approaches to Children's Executive Function Performance: An Intensive Longitudinal Study

  • Dian Yu Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, Tufts University, 26 Winthrop Street, Medford, MA 02155, USA
  • Pei-Jung Yang National Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan
  • G. John Geldhof Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA
  • Corine P. Tyler Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA
  • Patricia K. Gansert Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, USA
  • Paul A. Chase Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, USA
  • Richard M. Lerner Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, USA
Keywords: idiographic, executive functions, intensive longitudinal study, person-specific approach

Abstract

Traditional variable-centered research on executive functions (EFs) often infers intraindividual development using group-based averages. Such a method masks meaningful individuality and involves the fallacy of equating group-level data with person-specific changes. We used an intensive longitudinal design to study idiographic executive function fluctuation among ten boys from Grade 4. Each of the participants completed between 33 and 43 measurement occasions (M = 38.8) across approximately three months. Data were collected remotely using a computerized short version of the Dimensional Change Card Sort task. Multi-group analyses of three participant pairs (Participants 5 and 3, 5 and 2, and 5 and 6) demonstrated that Participant 5 differed from Participants 3 and 2 in different ways but Participants 5 and 6 were similar in all comparisons. Dynamic structural equation modeling demonstrated unique individual trajectories, which were not represented by the trajectory of group-averages. Although more than half of the participants showed a negative association between EFs and inattention, two participants showed a positive association between EF and inattention. This study demonstrated meaningful person-specific trajectories of EFs, suggesting that future study should undertake the analysis of individual development before data-aggregation or generalization from aggregate statistics to individuals.

Published
2020-12-30