The development of inhibitory control in adolescence and prospective relations with delinquency

Whitney D. Fosco, Larry W. Hawk, Craig R. Colder, Samuel N. Meisel, Liliana J. Lengua

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Introduction: Despite the central role of inhibitory control in models of adolescent development, few studies have examined the longitudinal development of inhibitory control within adolescence and its prospective association with maladaptive outcomes. The current study evaluated: 1) growth in inhibitory control from early- to middle-adolescence, and 2) the relation between inhibitory control and later delinquency. Methods: Participants included 387 parent-child dyads (11–13 years old at Wave 1; 55% female; USA). Across three annual assessments, teens completed the Stop Signal Task (SST), and parents completed the Inhibitory Control subscale of the Early Adolescent Temperament Questionnaire-Revised. Teens self-reported their delinquent behaviors in early (Mage = 12.1) and middle adolescence (Mage = 14.1) and emerging adulthood (Mage = 18.2). Results: Latent growth curve models indicated that SST performance improved curvilinearly from early to middle adolescence (ages 11–15), with growth slowing around middle adolescence. However, no growth in parent-reported inhibitory control was observed. Lower task-based and parent-reported inhibitory control in early adolescence predicted greater increases in delinquency from middle adolescence to emerging adulthood. However, rate of growth in task-based inhibitory control was unrelated to later delinquency. Conclusions: This longitudinal study provides a novel examination of the development of inhibitory control across early and middle adolescence. Results suggest that the degree to which inhibitory control confers risk for later delinquency may be captured in early adolescence, consistent with neurodevelopmental accounts of delinquency risk. Differences across assessment tools also highlight the need for careful measurement considerations in future work, as task-based measures may be better suited to capture within-person changes over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-47
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Adolescence
StatePublished - Oct 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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