Publication Details

Marceau, E., Kelly, P. & Solowij, N. (2018). The relationship between executive functions and emotion regulation in females attending therapeutic community treatment for substance use disorder. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 182 58-66.


© 2017 Elsevier B.V. Background Difficulties in emotion regulation influence the development of substance use disorder (SUD), its severity, course, treatment outcomes, and relapse. Impaired executive functions (EFs) are common in SUD populations and may relate to emotion dysregulation. The current study tested whether performance on three basic EF tasks (‘working memory’, ‘inhibition’, and ‘task-switching’) and/or inventory-based assessment of EF were related to difficulties in emotion regulation in females attending residential SUD therapeutic community treatment. Methods Cross-sectional design in which participants (N = 50, all female) completed a questionnaire battery including the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS) and Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function – Adult Version (BRIEF-A) was used. Participants also completed neuropsychological assessment of EF including the Working Memory Index (WMI; Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale), and measures of inhibition and task-switching (Color-Word Interference Test; Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System). Results Executive dysfunction, as assessed by the Global Executive Composite (GEC; BRIEF-A), and personality disorder indicators (Standardised Assessment of Personality – Abbreviated Scale; SAPAS) were positively correlated with DERS scores. Sequential hierarchical regression indicated that task-switching, GEC, and SAPAS scores statistically predicted DERS scores, while working memory and inhibition did not. Mediation analysis indicated that there was a significant indirect effect of GEC scores and task-switching performance on DERS scores, through SAPAS scores. Conclusions Impairment of EF, particularly task-switching, is related to difficulties in emotion regulation in a female sample attending residential SUD treatment. Cognitive training interventions that improve task-switching performance may be beneficial in promoting effective emotion regulation and improved SUD treatment outcomes.

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