Academic Motivation Deficits in Adolescents with ADHD and Associations with Academic Functioning

  • Zoe R. SmithEmail author
  • Joshua M. Langberg
  • Caroline N. Cusick
  • Cathrin D. Green
  • Stephen P. Becker


The present study evaluates differences in self-reported intrinsic and extrinsic academic motivation and amotivation between eighth-grade adolescents with (n = 162) and without (n = 140) ADHD. This study also examines associations between motivation and academic functioning with objective (i.e., grade point average, standardized reading and math scores) and cross-rater measurement (i.e., parent-reported homework performance). Multivariate analysis of variance controlling for sex, intelligence, and medication status found that adolescents with ADHD exhibited a significant motivational deficit compared to adolescents without ADHD across all areas of academic motivation, including intrinsic motivation (d = 0.49), extrinsic motivation (d = 0.43), and amotivation (d = 0.42). To examine whether motivation was differentially associated with academic impairment in the ADHD and comparison groups, a multi-group path analysis was conducted controlling for sex, intelligence, and medication status. Findings showed that motivation was differentially associated with academic impairment for adolescents with and without ADHD. For the comparison group, higher amotivation was associated with poorer homework performance and lower intrinsic motivation was associated with lower reading accuracy. In the ADHD group, higher amotivation was associated with poorer homework performance and math fluency, higher extrinsic motivation was associated with better homework performance and higher GPA, and higher intrinsic motivation was associated with higher reading accuracy. This study builds upon previous research in demonstrating that adolescents with ADHD have academic motivational deficits when compared to their peers without ADHD. Research is needed to understand the longitudinal interplay of academic motivation and academic functioning, with an eye towards developing or modifying interventions to increase academic motivation and academic success.


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder Intrinsic motivation Extrinsic motivation Amotivation Academic impairment Grades 



This study was funded by Institute of Education Sciences grant number R305A160126.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA
  2. 2.Division of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical PsychologyCincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical CenterCincinnatiUSA
  3. 3.Department of PediatricsUniversity of Cincinnati College of MedicineCincinnatiUSA

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