Childhood attention problems mediate effects of child maltreatment on decision-making performance in emerging adulthood.

Jennifer M. Warmingham, Elizabeth D. Handley, Justin Russotti, Fred A. Rogosch, Dante Cicchetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Decision-making impairments during emerging adulthood confer risk for challenges in social and occupational roles and may increase the odds of developing health problems. Childhood maltreatment is related to maladaptation in cognitive and affective domains (e.g., executive functioning, emotion regulation) implicated in the development of decision-making capacities. This study investigates childhood maltreatment and subsequent childhood attention problems as developmental antecedents of decision making performance in emerging adulthood. At Wave 1, equal numbers of maltreated and non-maltreated children (Mage = 11.28, SD =.97; 51.5% female; mean family income: $22,530/year) were recruited to take part in a research summer camp. The current study includes a subset of participants (n = 379) from Wave 1 who completed the Cambridge Gambling Task (CGT) at Wave 2 (Mage = 19.68, SD = 1.12; 77.3% Black/African American, 11.1% White, 7.7% Hispanic, 4.0% Other race). The CGT measured decision-making performance by assessing betting behavior across trials that differed in probability of winning. ANOVA results showed that emerging adults who experienced maltreatment in childhood placed higher bets and less sensitively adjusted bets across trials varying in level of risk. Longitudinal structural equation modeling results indicated significant relationships between number of maltreatment subtypes and greater childhood inattention, controlling for IQ. In turn, greater attention problems in childhood predicted worse risk adjustment, or ability to modify betting based on the probability of winning on CGT trials. This mediated path shows one process by which maltreatment negatively affects decision making and risk taking processes in emerging adulthood. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-456
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
(National Institute on Drug Abuse), (Spunk Fund, Inc.), (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development)

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Psychological Association


  • Cambridge Gambling Task
  • attention problems
  • childhood maltreatment
  • decision making
  • risk taking

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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