Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) reliably predicts social dysfunction, ranging from poor social competence and elevated peer rejection to inadequate social skills. Yet, the factors mediating predictions of social problems from childhood ADHD are not well understood. In the present study, we investigated social functioning in 186 (69 % male) 6 to 10 year-old (M = 7.88, SD = 1.17) children with (n = 98) and without (n = 87) ADHD who were followed prospectively for two years. We implemented a well-validated measure of social problems as well as a novel social decision-making task assessing dynamic response to changing affective cues at the two-year follow-up. According to separate parent and teacher report, baseline ADHD symptoms positively predicted social problems at the two-year follow-up; individual differences on the social decision-making task mediated this association. This finding was replicated when ADHD dimensions (i.e., inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity) were separately examined. These findings suggest that the deficient use of affective cues to effectively guide behavior may partially underlie poor social functioning among children with ADHD. If replicated, these preliminary findings suggest that social skills interventions that target interpretation of affective cues to aid in social decision-making behavior may improve social outcomes negatively affected by early ADHD symptoms.
Keywords: ADHD; Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; Decision-making; Social functioning; Social problems.