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ADHD in Children Health Center

ADHD Is Often Overlooked in Girls

Girls May Have a Less Disruptive but Just as Serious Type
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Oct. 1, 2002 -- A new study suggests attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is too often overlooked in girls because they may have a less disruptive type. Boys diagnosed with ADHD outnumber girls three to one.

Inattentive-type ADHD "is marked less by disruptive, impulsive behavior and more by disorganized, unfocused performance," says lead researcher Stephen Hinshaw, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. That behavior "isn't as likely to be recognized or cause as much concern to teachers."

Most research on ADHD has involved boys. And the few studies that included girls showed mixed results. This new research included one of the largest samples ever studied of preadolescent girls with ADHD.

Researchers monitored a racially and socioeconomically diverse group of 228 girls who attended carefully structured, six-week camps over three consecutive summers. Among the girls, 93 had been diagnosed with the combined type (both inattentive and hyperactive) of ADHD, and 47 had the inattentive type. They were compared with 88 other girls.

Any girls who normally took medication for ADHD didn't take it during the camps.

During classroom, art, drama, and outdoor activities, researchers observed the girls' "executive functions," skills such as goal setting, organization, planning, decision making, and long- and short-term memory. These are key tools in diagnosing ADHD and are "crucial to long-term academic, social, and occupational success," Hinshaw says.

Girls with the inattentive type of ADHD performed differently than those with the combined type in only two of 10 skills. According to the study, this shows there is little evidence that girls with both ADHD types have different executive function skills. In other words, disruptive and less disruptive girls with ADHD have the same problems; they're just exhibited differently.

Hinshaw says he hopes the results of his findings "will bring attention to this group of girls that have been ignored."

The research is published in the October issue of the Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology.

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