Academic Motivation Deficits in Adolescents with ADHD and Associations with Academic Functioning
Smith ZR, Langberg JM, Cusick CN, Green CD, Becker SP.
J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2019 Nov 18.
Commentary* by Dr. Margaret Weiss: Motivation is a chief complaint for patients with ADHD throughout the life cycle. This study confirms the importance of motivation as a mediator and moderator of functional impairment in these families.
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.
* Abstracts are selected for their clinical relevance by Dr. Margaret Weiss, Director of Clinical Research, Child Psychiatry, Cambridge Health Alliance, Harvard University. Her commentary reflects her own opinion. It is not approved or necessarily representative of the CADDRA board.