Rejection sensitivity, self-monitoring, and heterosocial adjustment of young men with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

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Canu, William Henry

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Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a prevalent condition originating in childhood (characterized by impairment related to hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention) and often associated with negative peer relations. Despite convincing evidence that ADHD persists beyond childhood, there is a relative lack of research on adult outcome in the social domain. Further, most of the existing research has treated ADHD as a unitary construct, ignoring possible distinctions between the major Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association (APA), 1994) ADHD-Combined and ADHD-Primarily Inattentive subtypes. Self-monitoring (SM) and rejection sensitivity (RS) are cognitive-behavioral tendencies that have been shown to impact the romantic relational adjustment of adults in non-diagnosed populations. This study examined the pattern of RS, SM, and select romantic, friendship, an self-relational outcomes in young men with ADHD-C (n = 31), ADHD-IA (n = 22), and a non-diagnosed control group (n = 24), each drawn from an ethnically diverse sample of heterosexual, community college and 4-year university students. Results from self- and partner-report measures did not detect the expected differences in RS or SM among the ADHD and control groups. However, as compared to controls, ADHD-IA participants conformed more to experimenter preferences and higher negative affect was reported by all ADHD participants in an in-vivo interaction. Specific findings regarding the effects of RS on romantic outcomes distinguished the ADHD-C and ADHD-IA subtypes, with low RS in the ADHD-IA and non-diagnosed control groups being associated with a buffering (i.e., positive) effect for relational outcomes, whereas a largely negative effect for low RS was noted among the ADHD-C participants. In addition, ADHD-C participants reported higher engagement and satisfaction in romantic relationships and friendships as compared to ADHD-IA participants, as well as earlier and broader sexual experience than both their ADHD-IA and non-diagnosed peers. This work adds to the understanding of long-term social outcomes related to ADHD, and extends the literature regarding the effects of RS to a clinical population.