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IES Grant

Title: Mediators of Social Impairment among Children with ADHD
Center: NCSER Year: 2012
Principal Investigator: Flory, Kate Awardee: University of South Carolina
Program: Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Competence      [Program Details]
Award Period: 03/1/2012 – 02/28/2015 Award Amount: $1,530,974
Type: Exploration Award Number: R324A120003

Purpose: The goal of this project was to explore the role of social cognition, social performance, and self-control on the social and academic functioning of children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children with ADHD typically exhibit behaviors such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. However, children with ADHD also typically suffer from social problems, and there has been substantial evidence that social impairment can compromise academic success. The limited success of social skills treatment programs in improving outcomes for these students may be explained by the fact that the interventions were developed without a sufficient understanding of the underlying mechanisms that account for the social impairment experienced by children with ADHD. Although not specific to children with ADHD, research has established that social cognition, social performance, and self-control challenges are mediators of social functioning. These three mediators correspond to many of the hypothesized challenges of children with ADHD. Therefore, in this project, researchers planned to study the role of these potential mediators in the social and academic functioning of children with ADHD.

Project Activities: Researchers planned to collect data to determine the role of social cognition, social performance, and self-control challenges on the social and academic functioning of children (8–10 years old) with varying degrees of ADHD symptomology. The planned data collection included individual sessions as well as a weekend social group session with other children to collect data on social performance and sociometric status measures. The researchers planned to use structural equation modeling to examine the factors that account for the relation between ADHD and social functioning and how the hypothesized mediators and social functioning may impact the academic functioning of children with ADHD.

Structured Abstract


Setting: Individual and group sessions for children will take place at university settings.

Sample: A total of 240 children ages 8–10 with ADHD symptoms will participate in this study.

Intervention: Due to the nature of this research, there is no intervention.

Research Design and Methods: This study uses a cross-sectional design with participating students completing a battery of assessments in individual sessions with the researchers. During the individual session, the child and parent will complete the diagnostic assessments, measures of other participant characteristics, social impairment rating scales, measures of social cognition, and measures of self-control deficits. Each child will also participate in a 3-hour social group session with children with whom the child is initially unfamiliar. The group session will enable the participating children to interact in the context of semi-structured activities. The group sessions will consist of ten children (parents will not attend). Groups will be homogeneous by gender and the session will be divided into three activity periods, varying in their level of structure. In the most structured period, staff will direct the group in several activities that clearly specify a goal (e.g., pretending the group is on a sinking ship and deciding which supplies to bring to a deserted island) with the staff member providing direction in each component activity involved in fulfilling the goal. In the semi-structured period, a task and goal will be defined (e.g., deciding on a group name, designing a banner), but the children will be left to manage the details of organizing and completing the task. In the unstructured period, a variety of materials (e.g., board games, craft materials) will be available, but children will be free to determine how they spend their time and with whom they interact.

Control Condition: Due to the nature of the research design, there is no control condition.

Key Measures: A variety of diagnostic and descriptive measures will be used during the individual session. To determine whether children meet diagnostic criteria for ADHD, the researchers will use teacher ratings on the Disruptive Behavior Disorders Rating Scale and parent and teacher ratings on the Impairment Rating Scale. In addition, a clinician will conduct a semi-structured interview with a parent. Children will also report on symptoms of depression (Child Depression Inventory) and anxiety (Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders). Demographic information will also be collected. Children will be directly assessed with the Wechsler Abbreviated Scales of Intelligence  to estimate cognitive abilities. Parents will report on medication and psychosocial treatments the children have received (Services Use in Children and Adolescents—Parent Interview). Measures of social cognition include the Test of Problem Solving, the television viewing methodology (examines the story comprehension abilities of participating children, with a special focus on children's understanding of the causes and consequences of social interactions portrayed in the televised stories), and story recall procedures (examines perceived importance of story events in predicting recall of these events). Social performance will be assessed via behavioral observation. Self-control is measured with the stop-signal task and peer nominations of liking. Student academic outcomes will be assessed with the Academic Competence Evaluation Scales and by examining school grades.

Data Analytic Strategy: Structural equation modeling will be used to examine the factors that account for the relation between ADHD and social functioning, as well as how the hypothesized mediators and social functioning may impact the academic functioning of children with ADHD.

Products and Publications

ERIC Citations:  Find available citations in ERIC for this award here.