Heterogeneity in cognitive and socio-emotional functioning in adolescents with on-track and delayed school progression

Loren Vandenbroucke, Wouter Weeda, Nikki Lee, Dieter Baeyens, Jon Westfall, Bernd Figner, Mariëtte Huizinga*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Adolescence is characterized by considerable changes in cognitive and socio-emotional skills. There are considerable differences between adolescents with regards to the development of these skills. However, most studies examine adolescents' average functioning, without taking into account this heterogeneity. The current study applies network analysis in order to examine heterogeneity of cognitive and socio-emotional functioning in adolescents on-track or delayed in their school progression. Data was collected at two time-points for on-track (n = 320) and delayed (n = 69) adolescents (Mage = 13.30 years, SDage = 0.77). Repeated measures ANOVA showed no significant differences between the groups in cognitive and socio-emotional functioning (p's > 0.05). Network analysis revealed that executive functions play a key role in the network of cognitive, social, and emotional functioning. This is especially the case in the delayed group where executive functions are even more central, both at T1 (inhibition and shifting) and T2 (shifting). Subsequent community analysis revealed three profiles in both groups: a well-adapted and well-balanced group, a group with high levels of need for arousal and risk-taking, and a group with regulation problems. Compared to on-track adolescents, delayed adolescents showed even higher levels of risk-taking in the second profile and higher levels of executive function problems in the third profile at T1. These differences were leveled out at T2, indicating adolescents in the delayed group catch up with their peers. This study highlights the intricate balance between cognitive, social and emotional functioning in adolescents in relation to school performance and provides preliminary evidence of the importance of taking individual differences within groups into account.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1572
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberAUGUST
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2018


  • Adolescence
  • Cognitive development
  • Community analysis
  • Emotional development
  • Executive functioning
  • Graph theory
  • Network analysis
  • Social development


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