Children with ADHD may face a number of social competency challenges; however, not all children with ADHD have poor social skills. Therefore, the aim of this study was to understand some of the positive personality factors of children with ADHD who have differing levels of social skills.
Several measures related to perceived resilience, social skills and strengths were utilised during this study. Parents of children with ADHD completed the Conners 3rd EditionTM – Parent assessment, to determine the child’s eligibility to participate in the study* (Conners 3®, 2020; Conners et al, 2008). Children with ADHD completed the Resiliency Scale for Children and Adolescents™; the Social Skills Improvement (SSIS) System Rating Scale; the Strengths Assessment Inventory-Youth (SAI-Y) Version; and the Self-perception Profile for Children (SPPC). Children with ADHD were split into two social skill groups based on their SSIS scores, the low social skills (low SS) group and high social skills (high SS) group.
The study included 64 children (male, 84%) with a confirmed diagnosis of ADHD and were aged 8–12 years (mean [standard deviation] 9.99 [1.15] years).
Resilience of children with ADHD
The high SS group had significantly higher resilience scores compared with the low SS group, F(5, 50)=6.88, p < 0.001, partial ɳ2=0.41. Additionally, the high SS group had significantly higher sense of mastery compared with the low SS group, F(1, 54) = 6.91, p < 0.01, ɳ2=0.11. The relatedness score was significantly higher in the high SS group compared with the low SS group, F(1, 54)=30.26, p < 0.001, ɳ2=0.36. Also, the high SS group had a significantly higher score on the resource subscale, compared with the low SS group, F(1, 54)=16.25, p < 0.001, ɳ2=0.23. The vulnerability score was lower in the high SS group compared with the low SS group, F(1, 54)=9.11, p < 0.001, ɳ2=0.14. There were no significant differences in the emotional reactivity subscale between the high SS group and the low SS group, F(1, 54)=1.27, p > 0.05, ɳ2=0.02.
Self-concept of children with ADHD
Social skills had an overall significant effect on self-concept scores as the high SS group had significantly higher scores compared with the low SS group, F(5,41)=3.58, p < 0.001, ɳ2=0.3. The high SS group had better behavioural conduct compared with the low SS group, F(1, 45)=12.44, p < 0.001, ɳ2=0.22. The other SPPC measures: athletic competence, global self-worth, physical appearance, scholastic competence and social acceptance were not significantly different between the low and high SS groups, p > 0.05.
Self-perceived strengths of children with ADHD
The high SS group ranked themselves as possessing significantly more prosocial attitudes compared with the low SS group, U=3.02, p < 0.01. The high SS group also ranked themselves higher in strengths with friends compared with the low SS group, U=3.78, p < 0.001. The other SAI-Y measures: goals and dreams, optimism for the future and possessing more coping skills, did not meet the significance criteria after correcting for multiple comparisons, p > 0.05.
There were several limitations to the current study. First, only children with ADHD were included in the study. Further research is required to compare differences in these personality factors between children with and without a diagnosis of ADHD. Second, only self-report measures were utilised and children with ADHD may overestimate their actual competencies and display heightened self-esteem. Third, age and gender effects were not taken into consideration. Finally, the study only utilised a median split methodology to create low and high social skills groups.
The authors concluded that the results indicated that good social skills could lead to developing or possessing strong resiliency factors as well as positive self-efficacy and personal strengths in children with ADHD. The authors suggested that the findings further support the importance of targeting social skills training in children with ADHD, given the substantial benefits of having good social skills.
Read more about positive social skills in children with ADHD here
*Inclusion criteria for children with ADHD included: a diagnosis of ADHD from a medical doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist; a t-score ≥70 on at least one scale of the Conners 3™ Rating Scale and a t-score of 65 on the second scale (Conners 3®, 2020; Conners et al, 2008); children must have resided with their parent or guardian for at least the previous five years; attended school full-time; had no indication of, or the previous diagnosis related to, gross neurological, sensory or motor impairments and demonstrated cognitive abilities that fell within the average range.
Conners KC. Conners (3rd Edition™). Multi-Health Systems 2020.
Conners CK, Pitkanen J, Rzepa SR. Conners 3rd Edition (Conners 3; Conners 2008). In: Kreutzer JS, DeLuca J, Caplan B, eds. Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology. Springer, New York, NY, 2011: 675-678.
Hai T, Climie EA. Positive child personality factors in children with ADHD. J Atten Disord 2021; Epub ahead of print.