IQ and Academic Achievement in Children with ADHD: the Differential Effects of Specific Cognitive Functions

  • Catrina A. Calub
  • Mark D. RapportEmail author
  • Lauren M. Friedman
  • Samuel J. Eckrich


The co-occurrence of lower full-scale intellectual abilities (FSIQ) and academic achievement deficits in children with ADHD is well established; however, the extent to which the relation reflects the influence of a general factor (g) deficiency or deficiencies in one or more specific intellectual abilities remains speculative and was the focus of the current investigation. Twenty-eight boys with ADHD-combined presentation and 26 neurotypical (NT) boys between 8 and 12 years of age were administered the WISC-IV and standardized measures of reading and math. FSIQ and achievement scores in both reading and math were significantly lower for the ADHD relative to the NT group; however, examination of WISC-IV index scores revealed that group level differences in FSIQ resulted from lower scores on two of the four specific intellectual ability indices—Working Memory (WMI) and Verbal Comprehension (VCI). Bias-corrected bootstrapped mediation analyses revealed that both WMI and VCI contributed uniquely to the ADHD-Academic Achievement relation. The contribution of WMI to ADHD-related academic underachievement reflected lower scores on the Letter-Number Sequencing (LNS) but not the Digit Span (DS) subtest. Both LNS and VCI explained ADHD-related differences in reading, whereas LNS alone explained ADHD-related differences in math. Collectively these findings suggest that strengthening deficient higher-level WM abilities, in conjunction with empirically based academic instruction, is needed to improve learning outcomes in children with ADHD.


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) Cognitive ability FSIQ WISC-IV Working memory Academic achievement 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Catrina A. Calub, Mark D. Rapport, Lauren M. Friedman, and Samuel J. Eckrich declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Experiment Participants

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.

Ethical Approval

Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved use of this information for research purposes.

Informed Consent

Informed consent and assent was obtained from all parents/legal guardians and children participating in the study, respectively.


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catrina A. Calub
    • 1
  • Mark D. Rapport
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lauren M. Friedman
    • 2
  • Samuel J. Eckrich
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of California San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA

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