Pre-existing Perceptions of ADHD Predict Children’s Sociometrics Given to Classmates with ADHD
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Considerable research documents that even young children possess stigma about mental illness, which may affect how they evaluate peers with mental health conditions. This study examined children’s pre-existing perceptions of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) behaviors as predictors of their subsequent sociometric judgments of classmates with ADHD in a 2-week summer day camp. Participants were previously unacquainted children ages 6.8–9.8 years (113 typically-developing and 24 with ADHD; 48.2% boys; 81% White). Children initially more inclined to interact with a hypothetical classmate with ADHD gave fewer “dislike” nominations to real-life classmates with ADHD at camp. Children who initially believed that ADHD symptoms were uncontrollable gave more “dislike” nominations and lower liking ratings to classmates with ADHD when those classmates displayed severe ADHD symptoms. For children who had ADHD, their attribution of uncontrollability for ADHD symptoms predicted fewer “like” nominations and more “dislike” nominations given to classmates with ADHD. Lastly, children who initially reported they would help a hypothetical classmate with ADHD gave higher liking ratings to classmates with ADHD. These results were found after statistical control of the actual level of ADHD behaviors displayed by the classmates with ADHD. In summary, other children’s pre-existing or stigmatizing perceptions of ADHD behaviors may contribute, in part, to the substantial peer rejection typically experienced by ADHD populations. Findings have implications for understanding peer problems in children with this common mental health condition.
KeywordsADHD Stigma Attributions Peer relationships Sociometrics
This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health 1R21 MH091486 to A.M. We are grateful to the families and teachers who participated in this study, and the many graduate and undergraduate research assistants who helped to collect the data, without whom this study would not exist. In particular, we express appreciation to Meg Reuland for her contributions to the hypothetical vignette measure.
J.N.: conceptualized the current study for her M.A. thesis under A.M.’s supervision, conducted the data analyses, and took the lead in writing all portions of the manuscript. A.M.: principal investigator of the main research project, collected the original dataset that was used in the current study, collaborated in the design of the study, collaborated in the writing and editing of the manuscript.
This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health 1R21 MH091486 to A.M.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Institutional Review Board for the Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed assent was obtained from all the child participants included in the study, and informed consent was obtained from their parents.
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