February 19, 2022

Exploring how adult ADHD affects romantic relationships

While romantic relationships can bring contentment and stability to adults with psychological disorders, conflict in such relationships adds incremental risk for developing depressive, anxiety, and substance use disorders. Moreover, persons with ADHD are more prone to such conflict than those without ADHD.

ADHD symptoms are negatively associated with satisfaction in dating relationships. One study found that female college students, blind to ADHD status, were less interested in male students with ADHD-Inattentive presentation than peers without ADHD. Another study found that college students who self-reported significant inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms also reported lower romantic relationship satisfaction than students not reporting such symptoms. A third study likewise found an inverse association between college student-reported inattentive symptoms and romantic relationship satisfaction, although it found no such association for self-reported hyperactive/impulsive symptoms.

This in turn has behavioral implications. One study found that college students with clinically elevated symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity/impulsivity, or both, reported higher levels of hostile conflict behavior with their partners than students without clinically elevated symptoms. Another study placed young couples through conflict resolutions. Couples in which one partner had ADHD demonstrated more negative and less positive conflict resolution behavior, and reported lower relational satisfaction, than couples in which neither partner had an ADHD diagnosis.

Worse yet, ADHD is a risk factor for dating violence. Two studies found that young adult males diagnosed with ADHD as children self-reported engaging in more frequent verbal and physical intimate partner violence than did their normally developing peers. Two more studies reported that men and women diagnosed with ADHD as children were at greater risk of becoming victims of such violence.

Adults with ADHD are also more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. On average, they initiate sexual intercourse between one and two years earlier. They tend to have more partners and to make less frequent use of contraception than non-ADHD peers. As a result, adults with ADHD are also more likely to have unplanned pregnancies and to acquire sexually transmitted diseases.

Given these findings, it is hardly surprising that adults with ADHD report lower marital satisfaction than their normally developing peers. One study reported that 24 out of every 25 spouses of adults with ADHD felt their partner's symptoms interfered with their functioning in one or more domains, including general household organization/time management, child-rearing, and communication. Most studies have found that extramarital affairs, separation, and divorce are more frequent among couples in which one partner has ADHD.

ADHD is known to be highly heritable. That introduces further challenges. One study found that parents of children with ADHD are twice as likely to divorce by the time their child is eight years older than parents of children without ADHD. Another study found that disruptive child behavior is linked to parents arguing among themselves. This pattern was especially pronounced with parents who themselves had elevated ADHD symptoms. However, another study found that when both parents had ADHD symptoms, they were less likely to argue than when only one parent had such symptoms, or when neither did.

The authors note that there have been few longitudinal studies of the relationship to the behavior of adults with ADHD and that these are badly needed. This would help to understand how alcohol consumption relates to the development of relationship problems, for example.

Second, they point out that little is known about which subpopulations in the large population of adults with ADHD may be especially at risk for romantic relationship problems. Gender and history of maltreatment do not appear to be significant influences, but there is some evidence that alcohol and drug abuse may be a factor, as well as underachievement in adolescence. Moreover, the literature to date has focused on heterosexual Caucasian couples. There is a need for research with larger, more heterogeneous, population samples, and in particular with racial/ethnic minorities and LGBTQ+ adults.

Third, they suggest a need for further research on mediators between ADHD and romantic relationship problems. There are reasons to suspect a key role for emotion dysregulation and deficits in inhibitory controls. But studies to date have relied on self-reporting, which introduces respondent bias. Future studies should obtain ratings of ADHD and relationship functioning from other informants. There is also a need for studies focusing not just on younger adults, but also on older ones. Another critical need is for clinical trials testing the effectiveness of different interventions aiming to improve romantic relationship functioning.

The authors conclude, "Given that success in romantic relationships is considered by many to be a major developmental task and that ADHD persists for many affected individuals into adulthood, research on romantic adjustment of affected adults is surprisingly limited. The majority of existent published research points, however, to a robust association between ADHD and negative outcomes such as lower satisfaction in relationships, maladaptive conflict resolution styles, higher rates of relational dissolution, and behavioral issues such as unsafe sex and IPV."

Brian T. Wymbs, Will H. Canu, Gina M. Sacchetti, Loren M. Ranson, "Adult ADHD and romantic relationships: What we know and what we can do to help", Journal of Maritaland Family Therapy(2021),https://doi.org/10.1111/jmft.12475.

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Understanding Attention to Social Images in Children with ADHD and Autism

NEWS TUESDAY: Understanding Attention to Social Images in Children with ADHD and Autism

In the field of mental health, professionals often use a variety of tools to diagnose and understand neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). One such tool is the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), which is specifically designed to help diagnose autism. However, the ADOS wasn't originally intended for children who have both autism and ADHD, though this comorbidity is not uncommon.

A recent study aimed to explore how children with ADHD, autism, or both, pay attention to social images, such as faces. The study focused on using eye-tracking technology to measure where children direct their gaze when viewing pictures, and how long they look at certain parts of the image. This is important because differences in visual attention can provide insights into the nature of these disorders.

The researchers included 84 children in their study, categorized into four groups: those with ASD, those with ADHD, those with both ASD and ADHD, and neurotypical (NT) children without these conditions. During the study, children were shown social scenes from the ADOS, and their eye movements were recorded. The ADOS assessment was administered afterward. To ensure that the results were not influenced by medications, children who were on stimulant medications for ADHD were asked to pause their medication temporarily.

The results of the study showed that children with ASD, whether they also had ADHD or not, tended to spend less time looking at faces compared to children with just ADHD or NT children. The severity of autism symptoms, measured by the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ), was associated with reduced attention to faces. Interestingly, ADHD symptom severity, measured by Conners' Rating Scales (CRS-3), did not correlate with how children looked at faces.

These findings suggest that measuring visual attention might be a valuable addition to the assessment process for ASD, especially in cases where ADHD is also present. The study indicates that if a child with ADHD shows reduced attention to faces, it might point to additional challenges related to autism. The researchers noted that more studies with larger groups of children are needed to confirm these findings, but the results are promising. They hope that such measures could eventually enhance diagnostic processes and help in managing the complexities of cases involving comorbidity of ADHD and ASD.

This research opens up the possibility of using eye-tracking as a supplementary diagnostic tool in the assessment of autism, providing a more nuanced understanding of how attentional differences in social settings are linked to ASD and ADHD.

May 14, 2024

NEW STUDY: RASopathies Influences on Neuroanatomical Variation in Children

NEW STUDY: RASopathies Influences on Neuroanatomical Variation in Children

This study investigates how certain genetic disorders, called RASopathies, affect the structure of the brain in children. RASopathies are conditions caused by mutations in a specific signaling pathway in the body. Two common RASopathies are Noonan syndrome (NS) and neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), both of which are linked to a higher risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The researchers analyzed brain scans of children with RASopathies (91 participants) and compared them to typically developing children (74 participants). They focused on three aspects of brain structure: surface area (SA), cortical thickness (CT), and subcortical volumes.

The results showed that children with RASopathies had both similarities and differences in their brain structure compared to typically developing children. They had increased SA in certain areas of the brain, like the precentral gyrus, but decreased SA in other regions, such as the occipital regions. Additionally, they had thinner CT in the precentral gyrus. However, the effects on subcortical volumes varied between the two RASopathies: children with NS had decreased volumes in certain structures like the striatum and thalamus, while children with NF1 had increased volumes in areas like the hippocampus, amygdala, and thalamus.

Overall, this study highlights how RASopathies can impact the development of the brain in children. The shared effects on SA and CT suggest a common influence of RASopathies on brain development, which could be important for developing targeted treatments in the future.

In summary, understanding how these genetic disorders affect the brain's structure can help researchers and healthcare professionals develop better treatments for affected children.

April 30, 2024

News Tuesday: Integrating Cognition and Eye Movement

Integrating Cognitive Factors and Eye Movement Data in Reading Predictive Models for Children with Dyslexia and ADHD-I

In a recent study, researchers delved into the complex interplay of cognitive processes and eye movements in children with dyslexia and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Their findings shed light on predictive models for reading outcomes in these children compared to typical readers.

The study involved 59 children: 19 typical readers, 21 with ADHD, and 19 with developmental dyslexia (DD), all in the 4th grade and around 9 years old on average. Each group underwent thorough neuropsychological and linguistic assessments to understand their psycholinguistic profiles.

During the study, participants engaged in a silent reading task where the text underwent lexical manipulation. Researchers then analyzed eye movement data alongside cognitive factors like memory, attention, and visual processes.

Using multinomial logistic regression, the researchers evaluated predictive models based on three key measures: a linguistic model focusing on phonological awareness, rapid naming, and reading fluency; a cognitive neuropsychological model incorporating memory, attention, and visual processes; and an additive model combining lexical word properties with eye-tracking data, specifically examining word frequency and length effects.

By integrating eye movement data with cognitive factors, the researchers enhanced their ability to predict the development of dyslexia or ADHD, in comparison to typically developing readers. This approach significantly improved the accuracy of predicting reading outcomes in children with learning disabilities.

These findings have profound implications for understanding and addressing reading challenges in children. By considering both cognitive processes and eye movement patterns, educators and clinicians can develop more effective interventions tailored to the specific needs of children with dyslexia and ADHD.

April 30, 2024