Abstract

More and more frequently the presence of executive function deficits appears in the research literature in conjunction with disabilities that affect children. Research has been most directed at the extent to which executive function deficits may be implicated in specific disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); however, deficits in executive function have been found to be typical of developmental disorders in general. The focus of this paper is to examine the extent to which one frequently used measure of executive function, the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), demonstrates sensitivity and specificity for the identification of those executive function deficits associated with ADHD as well as its use with other developmental disorders through meta-analytic methods. Evidence of sensitivity of the WCST to dysfunction of the central nervous system is reviewed. Effect sizes calculated for all studies compared groups of children on differing variables of the WCST. The results of this meta-analysis suggest that across all of the studies, individuals with ADHD fairly consistently exhibit poorer performance as compared to individuals without clinical diagnoses on the WCST as measured by Percent Correct, Number of Categories, Total Errors, and Perseverative Errors. Notably, other various clinical groups performed more poorly than the ADHD groups in a number of studies. Thus, while impaired performance on the WCST may be indicative of an underlying neurological disorder, most likely related to frontal lobe function, poor performance is not sufficient for a diagnosis of ADHD. Implications for further research are presented.