Frontiers in Psychology (Aug 2021)

Adaptive Behavior as an Alternative Outcome to Intelligence Quotient in Studies of Children at Risk: A Study of Preschool-Aged Children in Flint, MI, USA

  • Shuting Zheng,
  • Kaja LeWinn,
  • Tiffany Ceja,
  • Mona Hanna-Attisha,
  • Mona Hanna-Attisha,
  • Lauren O'Connell,
  • Lauren O'Connell,
  • Somer Bishop

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12


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Intelligence quotient (IQ) is commonly measured in child development studies, while adaptive behavior is less frequently considered. Given its associations with functional outcomes in children with neurodevelopmental disabilities, adaptive behavior may be a useful outcome in general population samples, as well. This study aimed to compare social and environmental correlates of adaptive behavior vs. IQ in a sample of preschoolers exposed to the Flint water crisis (N = 184). Mother–child dyads were recruited from the community and administered a comprehensive battery to obtain information about child neurodevelopmental functioning, including direct assessment of IQ via the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence and assessment of parent-reported adaptive functioning via the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales. Multiple social environmental factors were explored as potential correlates of child outcomes (i.e., IQ and adaptive behavior), and robust correlates were identified using a data-driven approach [i.e., least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (LASSO) regression]. We then examined associations between the LASSO-selected predictors and IQ and adaptive behavior while controlling for child age, child sex, and maternal age. Children in this sample showed relative strength in adaptive behaviors, with scores in the adequate range, while average IQs fell in the low-average range. Adaptive behavior was significantly associated with maternal nurturance practices, while IQ was associated with the maternal education level. Implications for the use of adaptive behavior as an outcome measure in studies of children at an increased risk for neurodevelopmental problems are discussed.