Executive Control and Adolescent Health: Toward A Conceptual Framework

Timothy D. Nelson, Jennifer Mize Nelson, W. Alex Mason, Cara C. Tomaso, Chelsea B. Kozikowski, Kimberly Andrews Espy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Executive control is a set of cognitive abilities that may impact a variety of adolescent health behaviors and outcomes; however, research on executive control as a contributor to the physical health of youth is relatively limited. Therefore, the current article explores the possible role of executive control in adolescent health by reviewing relevant literature and proposing a conceptual framework to guide future research in this area. The development of executive control from preschool through adolescence is described, with particular attention to executive control in the unique health context of adolescence. A new conceptual model is proposed, focusing on how executive control may play a critical role in supporting health in adolescence and beyond through the mechanisms of attentional, behavioral, and emotional control. Literature exploring associations between youth executive control and key health behaviors (including diet, physical activity, sleep and substance use) is reviewed. Researchers and clinicians are encouraged to consider executive control as an important cross-cutting contributor to health during adolescence and beyond and to incorporate this construct into longitudinal studies of health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-43
Number of pages13
JournalAdolescent Research Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 15 2019


  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Executive control
  • Health
  • Health behaviors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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