Gender Differences in Objective and Subjective Measures of ADHD Among Clinic-Referred Children

Front Hum Neurosci. 2019 Dec 13;13:441. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2019.00441. eCollection 2019.


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), one of the most prevalent childhood disorders today, is generally more likely to be diagnosed and treated in boys than in girls. However, gender differences in ADHD are currently poorly understood, partly because previous research included only a limited proportion of girls and relied mainly on subjective measures of ADHD, which are highly vulnerable to reporter's bias. To further examine gender differences in ADHD and to address some of the shortcomings of previous studies, this study examined gender differences in subjective and objective measures of ADHD among clinic-referred children with ADHD. Participants were 204 children aged 6-17 years-old with ADHD (129 boys, 75 girls). A retrospective analysis was conducted using records of a clinical database. Obtained data included parent and teacher forms of the Conners ADHD rating scales, Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), Teacher's Report Form (TRF), and child's continuous performance test (CPT) scores. Results showed that according to parents' and teachers' reports of ADHD-related symptoms (Conners ADHD rating scales), girls had more inattention problems than boys, but no differences were identified in the level of hyperactivity and impulsivity symptoms. CPT data, however, revealed higher impulsivity among boys. We did not find gender differences in the level of distractibility during CPT performance. Specifically, the effects of distractors type (visual environmental stimuli, auditory stimuli, or a combination of them) and distractors load (one or two distracting stimuli at a time) on CPT performance did not differ between boys and girls with ADHD. These findings suggest that gender effects on ADHD symptoms may differ between subjective and objective measures. Understanding gender differences in ADHD may lead to improved identification of girls with the disorder, helping to reduce the gender gap in diagnosis and treatment.

Keywords: ADHD; CPT; attention; distractibility; gender; impulsivity.