University of Leicester
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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder : theory of mind and social functioning

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posted on 2014-12-15, 10:46 authored by Katy. Norman
There is scant research into the social deficits of children with ADHD. Research suggests that the social disability of children with autism results from a specific impairment in theory of mind (ToM). The present study investigates ToM and social functioning in children with ADHD using a group comparison design. Thirty-seven boys aged 7-12 years and their parents participated in the study. Seventeen of the boys were recruited from a child development centre where they had received a diagnosis of ADHD. A further twenty boys, recruited from a local primary school, constituted a 'typically developing' control group. Each child participant was administered a battery of ToM measures including first and second order false belief paradigms, and the Strange Stories measure. Additionally, children's verbal and nonverbal ability was assessed. Each parent underwent a semi structured interview to assess their child's level of socialization and communication skills using the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales. Parents also completed the Social Behaviour Questionnaire, a specially developed measure to investigate frequency of observed social behaviours that require a well functioning ToM. Results suggested that children with ADHD were as likely to pass simple first and second order false belief tasks, as control children. However, on a more complex and ecologically valid measures of, ADHD children demonstrated impairments in contrast to the control children. Furthermore, parents rated ADHD children as being less able in their everyday socialization and communication skills and exhibiting fewer instances of social behaviour indicative of a well functioning ToM, than did parents of control children. Results were discussed in relation to ToM deficits in other clinical samples. The findings offer diverse applications to theoretical and clinical perspectives. Methodological limitations were reviewed with suggestions for improvements and further research.


Date of award


Author affiliation

Clinical Psychology

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • DClinPsy



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