Perceptions of ADHD Among Diagnosed Children and Their Parents: A Systematic Review Using the Common-Sense Model of Illness Representations

Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev. 2018 Mar;21(1):57-93. doi: 10.1007/s10567-017-0245-2.


Research on children and parents' experiences of ADHD has grown in recent years, attracting attention to their subjective perception of ADHD as a disorder. Theoretical accounts of illness perception suggest that it is multi-dimensional, consisting of at least five core constructs (see the common-sense model of illness representations or CSM: Leventhal et al., in: Rachman (ed) Medical psychology, Pergamon, New York, vol 2, pp 7-30, 1980, in: Baum, Taylor, Singer (eds) Handbook of psychology and health: social psychological aspects of health, Earlbaum, Hillsdale, vol 4, pp 219-252, 1984). We suggest that the application of CSM in children/adolescents with ADHD and their parents may play an important role in understanding their coping behavior, treatment adherence, and emotional well-being. A systematic search identified 101 eligible studies that investigated the perception of ADHD among diagnosed children/adolescents and their parents. In general, these studies support the existence of the multiple facets of illness representations proposed by the CSM in both diagnosed youngsters and parents indicating substantial variability among both parents and youngsters on each of these facets. The comprehensive assessment of the representations of ADHD indicates imbalance attention to the different representations of ADHD in the literature; disproportional research attention has been paid to the perceived effectiveness of treatment (i.e., treatment control dimension) compared to other illness representations (e.g., timeline, consequence, and coherence), despite research showing their relevance to treatment adherence among other implications. The review identifies the limitation of existing relevant research, needed foci for future studies, specific testable hypotheses, and potential clinical implications of the multifaceted representations of ADHD among youngsters and carers alike.

Keywords: Adolescents; Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; Children; Common-sense model; Illness perception; Parents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity*
  • Child
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Parents*
  • Self Concept*