Effects of Positive Feedback on the Social Interactions of Boys with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Test of the Self-Protective Hypothesis


Tested the hypothesis that inflated self-assessments offered by children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) serve a self-protective function. This was accomplished by examining the effects of positive feedback on self-perceptions and social interactions of boys with ADHD and comparison boys. Boys with ADHD and comparison boys, 8 to 11 years old, were paired in 60 dyads and interacted in two unstructured cooperative tasks. Following the first interaction, 1 boy in half of the dyads received positive feedback, supposedly from his partner, concerning his performance. Results indicated that following the first interaction, but prior to feedback, boys with ADHD had an overly positive view of how much their partner liked them. However, following the second interaction, boys with ADHD who received positive feedback actually showed a significant decrease in their self-perceptions, whereas comparison boys who received feedback showed an increase. These results are seen as supportive of the self-protective hypothesis that children with ADHD offer inflated self-perceptions to counter feelings of inadequacy. When presented with positive feedback, they are able to relax this defensive posture and offer more realistic self-assessments.

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This article was available online November 24, 2009.

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