Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often struggle socially and academically. According to teacher reports, their behavior and performance in the classroom falls well below that of their peers. But when a child with ADHD is asked to rate their behavior or academic and social performance, they often inflate the results. There is abundant research demonstrating that ADHD children have distorted self-perceptions that exceed those of teachers and parents. This could be one reason why children with ADHD do not respond well to treatment that aims to change their behaviors. If these children truly see themselves as achieving or exceeding teachers’ expectations, to them, there is no need to alter their actual failing academic or behavior patterns. This can be quite frustrating to clinicians, teachers and parents. However, some existing research has suggested that offering incentives to children might sway them to make changes, regardless of their bias.
In order to explore this further, Betsy Hoza of the Department of Psychology at the University of Vermont conducted an experiment involving 178 children with ADHD and 86 healthy children, ranging in age from 7 to 12 years. She evaluated the children using the Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC) before and after they were offered monetary incentives to match their teachers’ assessments of their academic, social, and behavioral competence. Prior to the incentive, the ADHD children reported competence levels that were positively skewed compared to those of their teachers. However, after the monetary incentives, the children reduced their competence ratings in both academic and behavioral domains. But there were no decreases in how the children perceived their level of social competence, regardless of incentive. Hoza said, “This study demonstrates that levels of bias in self-perceptions of children with ADHD can be reduced to a limited degree if children are motivated to reduce such bias.” She added, “Nonetheless, even when motivated to do so, children with ADHD were not able to completely eliminate the bias in their self-perceptions.” Because of this, Hoza believes clinical efforts to increase self-perceptions in children with ADHD are not merely futile, but could further prevent their willingness to change their behaviors. She believes that the biased self-perceptions of children with ADHD are a result of self-preservation coping mechanisms and should be explored further in future research.
Hoza, B., Vaughn, A., Waschbusch, D. A., Murray-Close, D., McCabe, G. (2012, February 13). Can Children With ADHD Be Motivated to Reduce Bias in Self-Reports of Competence? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027299
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