Contributions of Friends’ Problem Behaviors to Friendship Quality in a Sample of Children with ADHD.

Contributions of Friends’ Problem Behaviors to Friendship Quality in a Sample of Children with ADHD.

Normand S, Miller NV, Mikami AY.

 J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2021 Jul 16:1-15.

doi: 10.1080/15374416.2021.1941056.


Commentary* by Dr. Margaret Weiss: ADHD children often have a magnetic attraction to other children either with ADHD or other difficulties. How creative to consider the contributions of the ‘friend’ to the dyadic relationship and peer relationships in ADHD.




Objective: It is often assumed that children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) experience friendship difficulties because of their own problem behaviors. However, friendships are dyadic relationships between two children. This study sought to understand the incremental contributions of friends’ problem behaviors to dyadic friendship quality in a clinically diagnosed sample of children with ADHD.


Method: One hundred and sixty-five dyads consisting of a target child with ADHD and social impairment (age 6-11; 67% male; 72% white) and a reciprocated, real-life friend were recruited. Parents and teachers rated the ADHD symptom severity, externalizing problems, and callous-unemotional (CU) traits of target children and friends. Friendship quality in the dyad was measured with: (a) questionnaires independently completed by target children, their parents, their friends, and the parents of their friends; and (b) observations of child-friend interactions.


Results: The severity of ADHD symptoms and externalizing problems (but not CU traits) in target children was associated with more negative friendship quality reported on questionnaires. Adjusting for the corresponding problem behavior in target children, each type of friends’ problem behaviors incrementally predicted less positive friendship quality (on questionnaires). Friends’ ADHD symptoms and CU traits also incrementally predicted more negative friendship quality (on questionnaires and observations).


Conclusions: Considering problem behaviors in friends of children with ADHD (in addition to those in children with ADHD) may be important for identifying dyads at risk for lower quality friendships. These findings could possibly lead to new directions when designing and evaluating treatments targeting the friendship problems of children with ADHD.


* 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.

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