To characterize the psychiatric, psychosocial, and cognitive functioning of female adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in comparison with female controls and males with ADHD. Female controls were also compared with male controls to verify gender differences in a nonclinical sample.
One hundred seven adolescents from Southern Ontario aged 13 to 16 were included: 24 females with ADHD, 35 males with ADHD, 28 control females, and 20 control males. All were assessed with semistructured interviews, questionnaires, and tests of achievement and intellectual functioning.
After controlling for parental education and estimated Full Scale IQ, females with ADHD were more impaired than control females in depression, anxiety, distress, teacher relationships, stress, attributional styles, and locus of control and on all cognitive and achievement measures. Females with ADHD were more impaired than males with ADHD in self-reported anxiety, distress, depression, locus of control, and vocabulary scores. These group differences were confirmed by higher ratings by parents and teachers in symptoms of psychopathology. Males with ADHD were more impaired in processing speed. Some gender differences (locus of control and vocabulary scores) were eliminated when controlling for ADHD severity. The absence of any differences between male and female controls indicates gender differences were specific to the clinical groups.
Females with ADHD are at high risk for more psychological impairment than both males with ADHD and control females. The identified psychosocial problems point to areas for intervention.