Exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) is linked to disruptions in typical neurodevelopment of brain structures and functioning, including changes in executive functions. Although the relationships among ACEs, executive functions, and psychopathology are well documented in pediatric samples, a systematic review is needed to examine these relationships in adulthood.
A systematic review examining the link between ACEs and executive functions among adult clinical and nonclinical samples was conducted across 33 scientific and grey literature databases. Among reviewed studies, 17 sources met review criteria, with 11 involving clinical samples and six involving nonclinical samples.
Among clinical samples, evidence suggested that ACEs increased risk for executive function difficulties among those diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and those experiencing a first episode of psychosis, however not within those diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Among nonclinical samples, executive function difficulties associated with ACEs were found among those in early and middle adulthood. Not all retrieved sources showed consistent findings, and two studies described better executive function outcomes among those who experienced childhood sexual abuse and emotional abuse.
Executive function difficulties associated with ACEs appear to persist into adulthood, though inconsistently. Future research may further explore distinct differences among specific ACEs and executive function difficulties to further inform ongoing prevention and treatment efforts.

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