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.”
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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