Attention Functioning Among Adolescents With Multiple Learning, Attentional, Behavioral, and Emotional Difficulties

J Learn Disabil. 2016 Nov;49(6):582-596. doi: 10.1177/0022219415579125. Epub 2015 Apr 17.


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by high levels of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity; however, these symptoms can result from a variety of reasons. To obtain a comprehensive understanding of the various difficulties of individuals with ADHD, especially when co-occurrence difficulties are present, it is essential to combine neuropsychological and subjective assessment tools. In the present field study the authors investigated a group of adolescents with multiple deficits (MD) using neuropsychological and subjective measures. Teachers' ratings verified extremely high levels of symptoms of oppositional behavior, inattention, hyperactivity-impulsivity, social problems, and emotional problems in this group. As expected, MD group participants showed decreased abilities to maintain attention on task for a long period of time, focus attention and effectively inhibit adjacent distractors, and resist conflicting irrelevant information. Importantly, although significant differences in the attention measures were observed at the group level, not all MD participants displayed deviant performance. Thus, we conclude that the heterogeneous group of adolescents with MD comprises individuals with primary attention deficits as well as those with other nonattentional deficits that show equivalent behavioral symptoms. Using neuropsychological tools can be useful in differentiating between different core deficits and in guiding appropriate interventions.

Keywords: ADHD; adolescents; behavioral problems; emotional problems; learning difficulties; neuropsychological measures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / physiopathology*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*