Year of Publication


Document Type



Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Elizabeth P. Lorch

Second Advisor

Richard Milich


Children with ADHD have significant attentional problems that affect their academic performance. Because many of the typical symptoms of ADHD manifest themselves in classrooms, these attentional problems may have an impact on comprehension and its course of development. This is a significant area of interest because the academic success of a child requires being able to recall and comprehend information. Effective comprehension requires being able to understand both causal (why?) and factual (what?) questions. The purposes of this study are use the television viewing methodology and 1) to employ a longitudinal investigation and compare patterns of developmental change among children with ADHD and comparison children in attention and comprehension, 2) examine if cognitive engagement, as indexed by long looks, increases with age for each group, and 3) investigate how look lengths relate to comprehension for each group. Participants were 59 children with ADHD and 101 comparison children. Children viewed two 12-minute episodes of the Rugrats television program at time one and two episodes at time two, approximately 18-months later. Each of the children viewed the television program in one of two viewing conditions, toys-present and toys-absent. Results provide insight into the problems in attention and comprehension experienced by children with ADHD. First, the preciously observed difficulties in sustaining attention with toys-present for children with ADHD are stable across time and a wide age range. Second, as they got older children with ADHD did not exhibit the same increase in time spent in long looks as comparison children. Third, the older high IQ children with ADHD fell behind comparison children in their recall of factual information as they got older. Fourth, as they became older, high IQ children with ADHD did not show improvement in their causal recall with toys present, in contrast to comparison children. Finally, although there was some support for the hypothesis that time spent in long looks is associated with comprehension of the televised material, it did not account for group differences in recall. Several implications and directions for future research are discussed.