A growing body of research has shown that executive functions play an important role in effective and sensitive parenting. No studies have examined this relation in mothers with problematic substance use, who may be at particular risk given biological, psychological, and contextual risks that may undermine executive functions and increase parenting stress. The
purpose of this study was to investigate the relation between three executive functions and parenting stress. Sixty-five mothers attending substance use treatment completed tasks assessing updating, inhibition, and shifting executive functions and questionnaires assessing parenting stress, reflecting both relational and household chaos definitions of the construct. Controlling for SES and age of youngest child, lower performance on both inhibition and updating tasks was associated with increased parenting stress, when a relational definition was employed. However, no significant relations were found between executive functions and household chaos definitions of parenting stress, after depression and SES were controlled for. These preliminary results suggest a role for executive functions in parenting stress in mothers with problematic substance use, but highlight the importance of considering the type of executive function assessed and the definition of parenting stress employed. Directions for future research and clinical implications are discussed.