By Anita M. Schimizzi, Ph.D.

As with any childhood disorder, we want to know what can protect the child from long-term negative outcomes.  When it comes to ADHD, studies demonstrate all sorts of long-term problems that we would rather prevent, such as delinquency, depression, and anxiety. 

As I mentioned in a recent editorial, data from the Multimodal Treatment Study of ADHD (MTA) revealed some surprising results about long-term outcomes for children with ADHD.  Among the results include a finding that what we typically do to treat ADHD (medication and/or psychosocial treatment) does not significantly improve peer problems.  And long-term peer difficulties can lead to a host of externalizing and internalizing problems that can last into the adult years.

A recent study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology looked at two different areas of peer relationships in children with ADHD: peer rejection and friendship.  The authors predicted that children with ADHD that were rejected by peers and did not have friends would suffer poorer outcomes in adolescence.  They further predicted that having friends would help lessen the impact of peer rejection and thereby lead to better outcomes.  Their results revealed a surprising finding: friendships did not have the protective impact that they thought they would find.  Peer rejection was the big dog in negative outcomes, period.

Mrug and colleagues used MTA data to look at peer rejection and friendship in about 300 children with ADHD that were in 1st to 4th grade and received treatment for 14 months.  They then studied follow-up data 24 months and six and eight years later.  They took a look at things like ADHD symptoms, delinquency, alcohol use, cigarette smoking, marijuana use, depression, anxiety, and global impairment (defined as impairment across emotional, behavioral, interpersonal and task-related functioning).

The findings revealed that rejected youth…

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