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Follow-Up Study Reveals Executive Function Impairment in Girls with ADHD

 

The research on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is abundant and varied. An emerging area of research for ADHD involves exploring how executive function is impaired in female clients. Although more attention has been given to ADHD in girls in recent years, few studies have revealed evidence of longitudinal effects of ADHD in this population. To address this void, Meghan Miller of the Department of Psychology at the University of California recently published data from a study that followed the trajectory of executive function impairment in a sample of 140 female ADHD clients and 88 female controls.

The participants were all in their late teens, and had been followed for over a decade. Miller assessed the girls for various executive functions including organization, attention, planning, working memory, response regulation, and set shifting. She found that the girls with impaired executive function in early childhood exhibited deficiencies in academic and professional performance in their late teens and early adulthood. Miller also discovered that the girls who had experienced remission from ADHD symptoms during the 10-year period scored equally poorly on executive function tasks as the girls who had persistent symptoms. This suggests that the presence of ADHD in early childhood can impact executive functioning throughout adolescence with and without the maintenance of symptom severity.

Adolescence is a time of significant emotional and physiological change for females. The current diagnostic guidelines for ADHD do not take into consideration how these shifts affect the expression of ADHD symptoms as children progress into young adulthood. Symptoms of ADHD such as impulsivity and hyperactivity may be manifested differently through executive function impairment as children mature. Miller believes that adjusting and refining diagnostic criteria for young adults with ADHD could reveal new results that more accurately depict symptom prevalence and severity. Miller added, “A continued focus on examining large samples of females with ADHD, as well as comparisons between males and females with ADHD, may help to clarify questions concerning potentially distinct neuropsychological profiles.”

Reference:
Miller, M., Ho, J., Hinshaw, S P. (2012). Executive functions in girls with ADHD followed prospectively into young adulthood. Neuropsychology 26.3, 278-287.

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Comments
  • nancy July 3rd, 2012 at 4:01 PM #1

    important to understand how a disorder develops and makes transitions with the passage in time..forms an important link to knowin it’s course of development and that of possible treatment too.

  • langdon July 4th, 2012 at 4:27 AM #2

    When you think about this for only one moment it makes so much sense that when the executive functioning role is imapired that these would be children more likely to have to face ADHD in the future. Manybe all of this is always tied in together, that there is some glitch in the brain which leads to this executive functioning breakdown in those who have ADHD, and that this would be in girls as well as boys. That lack of organization and abilito set self limits are such a hallmark of these kids with ADHD, so this is a good one to look even more closely at to determine if recognizing this trait early in someone would be enough to stop the progression of the illness.

  • anna July 4th, 2012 at 5:48 AM #3

    I am so glad to see that more testing is finally being done looking at girls with adhd and not just boys.
    many parents of girls with adhd feel sometimes like they have hit a wall because so much of the research has always focused on males
    this has to make them feel good that researchers are finally acknowledging that this is a disorder that affects their girls too and that could give them hope fr help that they haven’t had the chance to work with before now

  • Grey July 5th, 2012 at 4:18 AM #4

    Having been diagnosed with ADHD as a child, I completely agree that it manifests itself differently in me now that I have gotten older than it did when I was a child. When I was younger I was off the walls, could not focus on any one thing at home or in the classroom and my schoolwork really did suffer. With medication that did help get some of that under control, but as an adult I have tried to manage a little more of it on my own instead of having to rely on that medication forever. It is hard because there are days that I feel so scattered that I can’t get anything accomplished. My brain is going a hundred miles per hour and I can’t get it to slow down without some very serious effort.

  • Calvin July 5th, 2012 at 8:56 AM #5

    @nancy:Definitely.And it becomes so much more important to observe the developments because the period under consideration here is a very sensitive one and adolescence is when there is just so many situations and challenges for these young people. Imagine how difficult this period becomes when there is a disorder involved.

  • APRIL p July 5th, 2012 at 11:46 AM #6

    This goes to show that the long term effects of ADHD are just as harsh as are the ones that would be viewed as more short term in nature. Even after a period of remission there is still something very critical in executive functioning that is missing for many who have suffered from this, and this gives them a serious disadvantage as they try to move forward in their professional as well as their personal lives. Even after they have gotten many of the symptoms under control and they have learned the ways to manage this, there are still so many ways that they are affected and hurt by the lasting ramifications of ADHD.

  • Sue Garrard July 6th, 2012 at 2:03 AM #7

    My son is ADD. He is 17 years old. He uses medication for school and for when he plays cricket matches. He also needs it for studying at home. He still struggles with executive function. I try to step back and allow him to function on his own, but I still have to help him organise himself.

  • gwen July 6th, 2012 at 4:24 AM #8

    If there were more teachers who recognized this lack in students with adhd, then they could do a much better job fostering a sense of achievement and success in these students just by addressing some of these issues.

    These are kids who will not naturally ge good organizers or whizzes with their time management skills. So the teachers have to provide them with ways that they can integrate these key components of success into their school performance.

    I think that if the teachers take more of the initiative with this then you will find parents who are more involved in their student’s success and learning, as well as students who now care about how well they are performing too.

    I am not passing the buck, but the teachers in these situations must become a focal point, and take charge of the situations even when they may not want to.

  • Iris July 7th, 2012 at 8:09 AM #9

    And of course the earlier that parents and students receive an accurate diagnosis then the better the chance that there will be appropriate intervention as well as better and more effective treatment. And just like with anything else, the earlier that you get the right diagnosis then the greater the possibility becomes that you can overcome and meet the challenges that ADHD could present.

  • guthrie g July 9th, 2012 at 4:08 AM #10

    I know that as a parent I breathed a sigh of relief when we got the diagnosis (finally!) that our daughter has ADHD. It was not so much that we were relieved that she had it but rather that we finally could put a name to what she had and was experiencing. For many of us, we have found that without the label then it was harder to get her the disability services that she was entitled to in school. She does not use this as a crutch to rely on all the time, but just as a way of keeping the playing field a little more even between she and her classmates.

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